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Zen and the Art of Business Building

Jun 24, 2008
I make no claims of being a Zen master or, even, of knowing a lot about this branch of Buddhism. Yet, the lessons I've learned about business building so far seem to be remarkably compatible with my basic understanding of Zen philosophy -- particularly the idea of "turning the eye inward".

In the past, I constantly sought external answers about how to build a business. And while I learned and applied some very valuable information, I ended up feeling overwhelmed, stressed and, sometimes, out of alignment with the recommended tactics. After all, I was exclusively listening to business experts tell me what I must do and how to do it.

However, one day, within this maze of management and marketing theory and tactics, I experienced an awakening. This led me to look inside for spontaneous inspiration and to assess if the information I was receiving from external sources was true for me and consistent with my business vision and values.

Tuning into your own guidance is the most important habit you'll develop as you build your business. It's the hallmark of inspired business planning and underpins every step of the process. You'll find it especially helpful for the fourth step: to determine the action steps associated with your business intentions, objectives and targets.

Accessing Your Own Guidance

One of my favourite Zen stories is "The Cup of Tea". A professor visited a Zen master to inquire about Zen. The Zen master poured his guest a cup of tea until the cup was overflowing. The professor protested, "Enough -- no more can go into the cup!" "Like this cup, you're full of your own opinions and speculations" replied the Zen master, "How can I show you Zen if you don't first empty your cup?"

With all the information you've been absorbing about how to build your business, you may find yourself in the same position as the professor. You may have a lot of information inside that has come to you from other people's experiences with business building. But to determine what tactics are the "right" ones for you, you may need to empty your cup first.

In Zen Buddhism, seated meditation or "zazen" is a discipline practitioners use to calm the body and mind and experience insight. How can you quieten your body/mind and tap into your own wisdom and guidance? What practice or practices will help you to do this?

Discerning the Action Steps of Your Business Plan

There's nothing inherently wrong with learning business principles and techniques from other people. In fact, as the chief executive officer and manager of your business, you may need to learn some new skills to help you operate your business successfully. However, your own inner wisdom will guide and inspire you in applying these principles and determining which business building tactics are right for you.

If you've completed the first three steps of inspired business planning, you've built the foundation of your business plan. In the first step, you articulated the higher purpose of your business; in step two, you set business intentions for the key areas of your business; and in step three, you established objectives and targets for each business intention. For step four, the action steps of your plan will emerge from the objectives and targets you've identified.

Building on the objectives/targets you've set for each key business area, allow these questions to stimulate your inner guidance to discern your right action steps:

Business Management and Administration

What steps can I take to create planning, financial and administrative systems that work well for my business?

Business Support

What steps can I take to get the support I need to grow my business?

Relationship Building With Your Target Market

What steps can I take to build a relationship with my target market in five different ways?

Service and Product Development

What steps can I take to develop services and products that meet my target market's needs?


What steps can I take to market these services and products in five different ways that feel authentic and heart-centered?

Financial Well-Being

What steps can I take to allow financial flow in my business?

Consider using mind mapping when you answer these questions to engage both your left and right brain. And don't worry if you only come up with one or two action steps for each category. If you begin with the next step that's clear to you right now, your inspiration will guide you to subsequent steps over time. In the words of Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, just "smile, breathe and go slowly".

Copyright 2008 Mary C. Davis
About the Author
Entrepreneur, Coach and Prosperity Guide Mary C. Davis helps spiritually-oriented wellness professionals build prosperous, fulfilling businesses. Get tips on how to build your wellness business, with ease and joy, by subscribing to her FREE e-zine The Prosperous Healer at http://www.anamturas.com
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