When Phil Nuernberger started teaching meditation in the 1970s, many people didn’t even know what it was. Today, meditation is widely recognized and accepted as a sophisticated tool to help practitioners concentrate on the things that matter to them and shut out useless distractions, according to Mr. Nuernberger, founder of Strategic Intelligence Skills, which teaches professional- and personal-development techniques at dozens of large companies.
“These are very simple techniques and are immediately effective,” said Mr. Nuernberger, whose clients include JPMorgan Chase Co., Raymond James Financial Inc. and Scotiabank.
People who meditate feel more alert and focused during the day, and sleep better at night, he said.
Financial advisers are accustomed to looking outward, maybe at new marketing techniques or the latest software, for ways to build and improve their practices.
They might be able to make a bigger difference by looking inward, and improving the ways in which they tend to themselves, said advisers whose lives and business changed for the better when they began meditating, exercising, and eating and sleeping better.
Simple changes can have a surprising impact, according to those who pay attention to their inner fitness.
Jeffrey Gitterman has meditated since he was 13, and he compares it to going to the gym to work out: You begin to see benefits quickly, but it takes time to get optimul results.
“Most people spend their lives being reactive, spending most of their time living in the past or future,” said Mr. Gitterman, who is chief executive of Gitterman and Associates Wealth Management LLC and Beyond Success Consulting LLC, which coaches other advisers.
“Meditation teaches you to pay attention to the moment,” he said.
Mr. Gitterman credits meditation with helping him build a successful practice.
“What most people want is to feel heard,” he said. “Meditation helps you cultivate the kind of silence that allows other people to feel heard.”
About six years ago, meditation aficionado David Patchen, a regional director at Raymond James Financial Services Inc., persuaded his company to add a session on meditation to its national adviser conference. It was an uphill battle.
“The idea of teaching advisers to meditate was controversial in the home office at first,” Mr. Patchen said. “But when you have an upset client in the office, being able to stay calm and resist any emotional urge is valuable.”
The sessions quickly became a hot ticket. Each meeting ended with a crowded room full of advisers lying flat on the floor, practicing meditation techniques.
Over the years, the conference has added more health- and wellness-oriented sessions as advisers look for more ways to boost performance as they age, Mr. Patchen said.
A popular session at Raymond James’ conference last month was led by exercise and nutrition expert Chris Johnson. He warned the audience that people in their mid-50s, the average age of an adviser, are at risk if they don’t begin to pay attention to their bodies and minds.
“If you don’t take care of yourself, fitness starts to fall off the cliff at about age 56,” Mr. Johnson said.
For those who haven’t paid much attention to their inner selves, he recommends an incremental approach: Commit to going on just one walk or participate in some other new activity each week.
It is destructive to set unrealistic plans and then be unable to keep up with them, Mr. Johnson said.
“You need to do this for yourself and your clients,” he said.
James B. Maas, a sleep expert and retired Cornell University psychology professor, led a session on the latest research into the best sleep habits for optimal performance.
Performance declines rapidly when adults sleep just one hour less than the optimal eight hours each night, he said.
Most people report getting about seven hours of sleep a night, but they routinely overestimate the amount they get by an hour, which means that many are getting by on six hours or so.
Mr. Maas recommends keeping a consistent bedtime, and said that avoiding caffeine and alcohol after late afternoon will help.
Exercising in the late afternoon or early evening is much better than early morning workouts, which can be stressful on older bodies, he said.
Surfing the Internet at night contributes to insomnia because the light spectrum from computer monitors and iPads simulates daylight, Mr. Maas said.
He recommends turning off the electronics by the early evening or buying special glasses that block that part of the spectrum.
Clients will notice the changes.
Many of Mr. Gitterman’s clients come to meetings stressed and rushed, and his focused and relaxed demeanor helps them relax, he said.
Clients look forward to their meetings because they are productive.
“When that person feels that way after a financial planning appointment, they want to do business with you,” Mr. Gitterman said.
SHIFT THE FREIGHT
Mr. Nuernberger suggests reading about meditation in order to understand the elements of the practice.
Mr. Gitterman thinks that people can get started gradually by taking 15 minutes or so each day to pay attention to what is going on in their own minds.
One recommendation for first-time meditators is to visualize a freight train moving down a track.
When each thought or distraction comes to mind, mentally place it on one of the train cars and let it go by, Mr. Gitterman said.
“You start to see the folly of being on a roller coaster where you have no control of random thoughts,” he said. “You can learn to control which ones you pay attention to.”
Article source: http://www.investmentnews.com/article/20120603/REG/306039971