Leigh Winters M.A./M.S. knows a thing or two about spirituality and entrepreneurialism. A former fellow at Columbia University’s Spirituality Mind Body Institute (where she researched contemplative practices like yoga, mindfulness meditation, and bio-behavioral health) this meditation coach, clinical psychologist, and neuroscientist-slash-aromatherapist also works as an instructor at Columbia Business School’s Venture for All program teaching entrepreneurship across the globe. And, as if that’s not enough, she’s also a natural beauty expert and Editor-in-Chief for her holistic lifestyle blog, Wise + Well.
“Spending time steeped in deep thought and action about developing your own venture is key to success,” says Winters. “I believe that many of the best entrepreneurs have done much of the inner work that’s then reflected in the outward accomplishments of their workers and company.”
Spiritual entrepreneurship is a relatively new field and Columbia is the first Ivy League school to offer a graduate Masters program exploring multiple paradigms (neuroscience, spiritual psychology, innovative and ancient healing practices, inspired creativity and the arts, visionary education, and social entrepreneurship) in service of the creation of a society rooted in spiritual values.
“I work with students to develop a clear brand mission and voice that helps them recognize that collaboration can lead to thriving business and creative partnerships,” Winters explains. “In an increasingly interconnected world in which many social ventures strive to tackle large problems like homelessness and climate change, a collective impact with shared objectives in mind makes all the difference.”
To date, students everywhere from China to Bali and California to New York City have participated in online courses tackling issues like inner development for more meaningful outer implementation and change, spiritual leadership development for self-actualization, and collaborative thinking geared towards an emerging generation of service oriented leaders.
“When we first started the classes we mandated that students participate in Instagram challenges like 31 Days of Gratitude to establish a habit of cultivating gratitude for all that they already had, and a Reverse Bucket List Challenge to reflect on the many amazing accomplishments they had already achieved,” says Winters. “These self-reflective activities fostered both a greater sense of compassion and ability in our students.”
Because spiritual and mindful entrepreneurs and ventures are always looking to give back, much time is also spent exploring different business models to demonstrate various ways of simultaneously doing business and making a difference. “My students want to know how to launch a sustainable business that pays the rent and also contributes to the local community or greater good,” she says. “Every student I teach is selfless. They have an inherent desire to give back and make a difference in the world. They are compassionate and willing to put their needs below that of others who seek their guidance and healing.”
“I feel honored to mentor and share in the learning journeys of those who are changing the world through their selflessness,” she continues. “It’s safe to say that selfless entrepreneurship and mindful venture creation are here to stay.”
Here are Leigh Winters’ top six tips for the spiritual entrepreneur:
1 | Challenge self limiting beliefs —
Self-limiting beliefs are labels that we apply to ourselves that hinder us from tapping into our full potential. No one is immune to self-limiting beliefs because they are a result of the internal dialogue constantly running through our minds, i.e., I’m not smart enough, pretty enough, worthy enough. The key to letting go of these self-imposed limitations is to acknowledge them, get clear about the root of where they came from, and adopt a new empowering belief to replace it.
2 | Dive into shadow work —
The human instinct is to engage in what is called psychological projection. When we project, we fail to own up to our undesirable shadow qualities and start to recognize all that’s buried within us in others. The shadow is the psychological term for everything we can’t (or refuse to) acknowledge in ourselves. As we integrate the shadow into our conscious awareness, we get one step closer to truly embodying our authentic self.
3 | Reflect to learn —
Reflection is a necessary part of the learning process that often gets left out. When we finish a project, we think it’s over and done with — but critical learning really comes from the aftermath. Part of being human is striving to understand the meaning of our experience. Journaling is a wonderful way to engage in reflective learning. Keep a running log of your thoughts and catalog your experiences.
4 | Break up with your complexity bias —
It’s a scientific fact that humans prefer complexity over simplicity, but oftentimes simple ideas are the best ideas. Most entrepreneurial geniuses rise to prominence not from elucidating complexities, but rather capitalizing on overlooked simplicities. When starting a business, ask yourself, “What is essential?” “What is nonessential?”
5 | Risk to achieve more —
No risk equals no reward… but be calculated and meticulous in understanding the potential risks and benefits of anything you look to do. Mindfulness comes into play when analyzing risks — whether it’s market research or forecast analyzing or tapping into gut and intuition — make sure it feels right and aligns with you. You have to do the homework. I call it spiritual risk accounting.
6 | Give back —
Why do you do what you do? For many mindful entrepreneurs, giving back is a result of years of inner work and the realization that our contributions are part of something much larger than just our individual self or successes. Giving back can be defined in many different ways — it can be as grand as championing philanthropic causes or something as micro as working with a family member to heal a strained relationship.
Rachel Marlowe is a writer, editor, and brand consultant based in Los Angeles covering wellness, beauty, fashion, and travel. She has been published in Vogue, W, and The Times of London. You can find her on Instagram at @rmmer.