Practical analysis for investment professionals
23 January 2017

Meditation Tips for Investment Professionals: How to Begin

Meditation provides investors with many benefits. Below are meditation tips from the newly released Meditation Guide for Investment Professionals, the full version of which is available online for CFA Institute members.

Why Meditation Is Important to Investors

Meditation is a mind practice that helps develop two skills that are critical for investors:

  • Metacognition: The awareness of awareness itself.
  • Top-Down Control: Choosing what to think and when to think it.

Why do we need these skills? Because as investors we must see the world for what it is, not what we prefer it to be. Metacognition is seeing the world for what it is. Avoiding bias, preference, and prejudice means controlling our responses to the world’s stimuli.

Why Meditation Can Be Daunting

If you dive into meditation, you’ll be immersed in a flood of information on the subject. Why? Because many meditation traditions have their roots in practices that are thousands of years old. Hence, there is nomenclature, documentation, mainstream methods, doubts about those mainstream methods, and all of the other trappings of an intellectual pursuit with a rich history. It’s all great information, but it can be daunting for the beginner.

Meditation Tips

  • Practice: As with anything in life, there is no substitute for routine practice. Most regular meditators recommend practicing daily for more than 10 minutes at a time. Some suggest that you meditate twice each day, once in the morning and once before bed. But the choice is yours. Isn’t that easy?
  • Be Patient: Because meditation aims to help you control how and what you think, beginners often feel frustrated when they can’t “do it right.” According to comprehensive research, 57.5% of people have difficulty concentrating and 89% say that their thoughts stray even when there aren’t any distractions. This should give comfort on two fronts:
    • You are not alone: Many people find the demands of meditation difficult.
    • Meditation is a powerful antidote to a wandering mind.

    So, give yourself a break and acknowledge that the right way to meditate is regularly and patiently.

  • Get Comfortable: Physical discomfort is a distraction that can dilute the potency of your meditation. So make sure you’re comfortable. Many believe you should only meditate in a dogmatic meditation posture. Other long-time meditators recommend you sit in a soft chair or on a sofa. Still others suggest you lay down — just be careful not to fall asleep. Some traditional meditation activities have a “moving” equivalent, so you can meditate while walking, swimming, running, or biking.
  • Quiet Spaces Help: Fewer distractions make for better and easier meditation. So practice in a quiet place where claims on your attention are minimal. Turn off your smartphone and the speakers on your laptop, forget about your e-mail inbox, and find somewhere where you won’t be interrupted.
  • Don’t Fixate on Goals: Much of meditation is about loosening our mental attachment to daily distractions so that we can recover our capacity to choose how and what we think and restore our awareness. Introducing goals into a meditation practice defeats the purpose of “letting go.” No one is keeping score, just you. This can be difficult since so much of what we do today is goal-oriented or is considered meaningless without measurable results. You’ll progress faster as a meditator if you leave the goals behind. Your meditation experience will be rich and varied — sometimes fun and sometimes challenging. Each of these outcomes is valid. At the end of your meditation, accept that your experience was just that, an experience, and not a success or failure by virtue of some artificial criteria.
  • Get Help: Qualified instruction can improve your meditation. But finding a good teacher in the meditation style that you prefer isn’t always easy. A referral from a friend or colleague is a great place to start. As meditation gains greater acceptance as a discipline, many practices are developing global standards, and there are now certified teachers in various methods — mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), for example.
  • Keep a Record: Often practitioners reach important realizations and come up with new ideas while meditating. Take the time to record these insights. They may contain lessons that will help you control your thoughts and improve your general awareness of mental processes.

After years of research into the science that supports meditation, I believe meditation is a beneficial practice. In the coming months, I will describe the major meditation types. Next month, I will explore open-monitoring meditation, or mindfulness.

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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.

Image credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Kaligraf

About the Author(s)
Jason Voss, CFA

Jason Voss, CFA, is a content director at CFA Institute, where he tirelessly focuses on improving the ability of investors to better serve end clients. He is the author of the Foreword Reviews Business Book of the Year Finalist, The Intuitive Investor. Jason also ran a successful blog titled What My Intuition Tells Me Now. Previously, Voss was a portfolio manager at Davis Selected Advisers, L.P., where he co-managed the Davis Appreciation and Income Fund. He holds a BA in economics and an MBA in finance and accounting from the University of Colorado.

Ethics Statement

My statement of ethics is very simple, really: I treat others as I would like to be treated. In my opinion, all systems of ethics distill to this simple statement. If you believe I have deviated from this standard, I would love to hear from you: jason.voss@cfainstitute.org

10 thoughts on “Meditation Tips for Investment Professionals: How to Begin”

  1. Carl Erikson says:

    Very nice article Jason. Well done. Paying attention is essential for a successful life. Paying close attention to financial deals without getting emotionally involved is a tried and true method for success. Meditation and mindfulness are all about paying attention without emotional involvement. So it is logical that these practices would be beneficial to anyone involved in finance, investment or even household budgeting as well as when making major purchases.
    As a psychotherapist, I have worked with many business clients over the years and have taught all of them mindfulness meditation. I have found that the practice of mindfulness meditation makes them more open and able to innovate far better than before they began their mindfulness practices. Every client who meditates also becomes a far better negotiator as well as a convincing spokesperson.
    We all know that it is essential to be calm and objective during a negotiation. Being able to ‘read the room’ is also a powerful skill. Meditation will enhance these skills. Practicing meditation on a regular basis before you need these skills is essential though. You cannot become effective at meditation by just thinking about doing it.
    Often it is helpful to have some guidance or a teacher when beginning to do meditation. When a teacher is not available or possible I highly recommend the guided meditation training downloads by Jon Shore at http://www.meditation-download.com to most of my clients since they are very effective.
    One can argue all day about the effectiveness of meditation or mindfulness or one can try it and see for oneself. I usually recommend the second option.

    1. Hello Carl,

      Thank you for your extended and thoughtful comment. I agree with each statement you shared. Thank you, as well, for sharing several meditation resources.

      With smiles,

      Jason

  2. Clement Gavi says:

    ‘Why do we need these skills? Because as investors we must see the world for what it is, not what we prefer it to be.’

    Thus, it is beyond investors as it they are skills require for any leadership position as the leader is one who do not see things as how they should be but who situates them in its mind as they are, in their singularity and in the course of their complex evolution.

    1. Hello Clement,

      Thank you for taking the time to respond to the article. I am uncertain what you are trying to communicate here and want to ensure that I respond to your intended meaning. I think it may be due to several typos in your comment. For example, “…it is beyond investors as it they are skiils require for any leadership position…” and similarly, “…them in its mind as they are…”

      If what you are communicating is that these skills are universal and not unique to investors, I would agree with you that these are universally important aptitudes. But that would include investors, not exclude them. If, on the other hand, you are saying that it is the job of successful investors to have a contrarian view of things, then I have a quibble. While I agree that it is true that to earn alpha you have to do things that no one else is doing, and by definition. I disagree that means that you disagree always. Instead, what it means is that if you see the world for what it is, that when the consensus view is incorrect then it makes sense to be contrarian. But contrarianism risks being another failed absolutist philosophy. This is the problem with ‘value’ as a strategy when the market is fairly valued. Instead, in these moments you recognize that the correct course of action is not cash, but to be long the market.

      Yours, in service,

      Jason

      Yours, in service,

      Jason

  3. Ken akoundi says:

    I would also recommend “Sit Like a Buddha: A Pocket Guide to Meditation” Paperback – November 4, 2014

    The only comment I would make that investing is about the future. Meditation is about the present. thinking (Forecasting) vs not thinking (simply being). Not sure how to reconcile.

    1. Hello Ken,

      Thank you for your comment Ken, and the recommendation, too.

      In my opinion, being in the present moment is one of many meditation practices, and is designed to re-discipline its practitioners to be one with the moment because most of us are ruminating about the past, or anticipating a future. However, there is nothing wrong with journeying forward or backward in the timeline so long as there is conscious ability and power to choose that state. In other words, the practice is meant to restore conscious awareness and choice only.

      Yours, in service,

      Jason

      1. ken akoundi says:

        Well said.
        I guess it is all connected in one place (the brain).

        Another thoughtful friend of mine had this:
        http://www.focus262.com/blog/2017/01/when-hormones-control-investment-decisions/

        Besides meditating, I am working on a tech related view for Long Term Investors. Not sure if of interest. My last article was in December.
        http://www.institutionalinvestor.com/blogarticle/3649329/why-are-asset-rich-investors-so-technology-poor/investors-registered-investment-advisers.html#/.WHVVWrYrJBx

        Looking forward to a continued dialogue.

  4. L Navazio says:

    Your article was interesting. It sure would be nice if the guide you are speaking of were made available to CFA candidates.

    1. Hello,

      I am happy that you found the article interesting, and thank you for sharing your preference that the Guide be made public for candidates, too. Much of the content that is contained within is already featured, or featured in forthcoming article that I author here on The Enterprising Investor. Stay tuned, and best wishes for success on your exams.

      Yours, in service,

      Jason

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