The Secret Weapon of CEOs and Basketball Pros to Get in the Zone

Michael Jordan did it, and so can you to get in the zone.

ByABC News
February 18, 2015, 12:10 PM

— -- Basketball legend Michael Jordan’s weapon of choice early in his career was his slam dunk, but he also had a secret weapon in his arsenal: meditation.

George Mumford was Jordan’s meditation coach, and he said practicing mindfulness helped Jordan and his other clients -- including Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant -- get in the zone.

"If you really look at the elite athletes, you will find they have this ability to be in a moment and actually slow things down," Mumford told ABC News. "Mindful meditation helps them do that."

Meditation is a practice that’s more than 1,000 years old and involves pausing to focus on breathing and relaxation.

Off the basketball court, experts say meditation is becoming more common in the corporate board room as well.

Bill George, former CEO of medical device company Medtronic, said he used to meditate in secret behind a closed office door. Now a fellow at Harvard Business School, he meditates 20 minutes, twice a day with the door wide open.

Meditation "was the best thing that ever happened to me, in terms of staying grounded," he told ABC News. "It has helped me become a much better leader."

Leading companies such as Google, Aetna and General Mills have meditation programs for their employees. George teaches a Harvard course on leadership and requires students to do a reflective practice, in which they quiet down and either meditate or answer introspective questions in a journal.

“To be a successful leader you need to be authentic, grounded, and you need to be mindful," George said.

Meditation helps in the business world by helping people “get out of [their] own way," said Dr. Judson Brewer, a professor of medicine and psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

"Suddenly, you are in the zone," he said.

When a basketball player is caught thinking about the shot they just missed, they are more likely to miss the shot in the next moment, Brewer said. Meditation techniques help people train their minds to stay in the present without getting caught up thinking about other stressors.

"Don't believe me, just try it a little bit and see if it is actually helpful for you," Brewer said.

Want to try mediation out for the first time? Dr. Jamie Zimmerman can walk you through a relaxation response meditation in the video below.