Have you ever had someone tell you that you should trust your gut?
Have you been told to lead less with your heart and more with your head? This can be a challenging concept to grasp especially if we care deeply about our work.
Let me be the first person to admit to you, I believe in intuition (my gut feeling). In addition, I also believe in following your heart. The heart wants what the heart wants. It feels good when you get what you need and are loved. I also believe in reasoning and shedding perspective on various situations. The logic part of my brain says that all things need to be considered. So, in a nutshell, before making any big decision, the head, heart and gut to need to align. If all three are not in harmony, the results may not yield the potential success or impact.
In order to understand how the head, heart and gut work together, there are some basic concepts we need to explore. First and foremost, our brain is the central processing unit, it tells the rest of our body what to do. It is our main control center, like OSX is to a mac or Windows Operating System is to windows. It is constantly processing all the information coming through our sensory system. When information is received, it is then filtered by each of the domains; the head, heart and gut. Then, each domain sends their own interpretation of the event.
This is the rational part of equation where our brain begins to think and process. With every situation we encounter, we are automatically assessing what is in front of us; people, events, things, etc. We are analyzing and processing information against our database of information and experiences that we have gained in life. Our brain is scanning for patterns it recognizes and is taking perspective. The brain is also searching for what this all means by listening to language, metaphors and semantics. Let me give you a quick exercise that will help with understanding this concept.
The limbic system controls our basic emotional processing. It receives information from our senses and relays emotional signals of joy, love, happiness, peace, grief, anger, rage, etc., to our heart and body. These emotions are so strong! Experiences processed in this system have a huge impact on our emotional attachment to memories. This can then impact our actions further down the road when recalling these moments. When we are able to understand our own emotions and the emotions of those around us, it can give us the ability to relate and connect. What affects our connection are the values that are engrained in who we are as a person; love, family, peace, friendliness, balance, leisure time, self-discipline, and leadership. When we lead with our heart, our values deeply affect our why we make the decisions we do, how we manage the decisions and what actions we take to execute the decisions. The heart wants what the heart wants, the “why” in this equation typically is the driver to making this choice.
Gut is described as our intuition. It is our will or self-preservation. When we are asked to make a decision, often times, we are told to go with our gut. This choice is often connected to our morals, past experiences, and personal values. Our gut is often referred to as our “Core Identity,” according to Neuroscience and the Three Brains of Leadership. Let me give you an example. I was recently asked to take a personality assessment to determine how I communicate with people. I was instructed to read through the questions and “go with my gut” in how I answer those questions. The facilitator said specifically, “don’t over think it, go with your first response after you read the question.” What they were asking of me was to make choices based on my personal leaning and intuition.
When we set out to lead ourselves and to make good choices in life, there will always be many factors to consider. To make the best decision possible, it’s important to have an understanding of what the alignment of head, heart and gut means to you. This means learning more about who you are (values and beliefs), how you think and process (head and heart) and the wisdom you bring to your decision (where you pull from to make these choices). By combining all three, you are accessing each domain, in order to give your decision, the quality and assurance it needs to deliver the best outcome.
Everyone tells me to trust my intuition (gut). That’s true, but it’s only one third of the equation. You must also listen to the facts (head) and consider how you feel (heart) to make the best possible decision. Robin Bush