Why great leaders think less and feel more.
We are all inherently connected to our sentient, feeling and emotional self though not all of us know how to fully engage with our emotions and our heart, and understand how useful and critical they are to our general physical mental and spiritual wellbeing. This plays out in every aspect of our work and life.
Know your emotions.
The benefits of being more aware of our feelings and knowing how and when to engage with them is often widely discussed in the media especially as the world is waking up to the need for more emotional intelligence at work and in life generally. Compassion, empathy, gratitude and kindness all stem from the heart centre and manifest as feelings. We are all aware of expressing joy, happiness, love and even sorrow but how engaging with those feelings helps us solve problems and sustain positive patterns and behavior instead of using our ‘logic brain’ is often neglected especially in business. The biggest mistake that we can make is trying to separate our work and personal life and the tools that we use to manage both.
Imagine your brain as a computer, perhaps a new Apple desktop, you never switch it off but it is just running constantly with a screensaver, always processing and ready to respond to your request in a nano second.
You don't need to think for very solution
The point is that you do not need to activate your mind for each task or activity that is in front of you but that is not how we have been taught. Our parents, society, media, employers, and throughout our education we have been led to believe that our only real asset is our brain and how we use that will determine the success of our lives.
In my training as a lawyer it was never once suggested to me that I should feel for an answer or solve a problem using my sentient self, my feelings and emotions. In fact the opposite was true it is probably not surprising that many people feel that lawyers are cold and inhuman in that they show no emotion at all. In fairness to them it is not true but it is the perception, they are humans just as much as the next person but they have been trained to detach from those tools at work.
Sure you need your thinking brain for certain tasks such as when you need to analyse, strategise, design, create and problem solve but the key is you don’t need it for everything. Ask yourself how often you use your thinking brain during sex and if you are then I doubt you are having much fun. You are tapping in to heightened senses and pleasure by activating neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, immersing yourself in feelings and emotions and just letting go and being one with those experiences – no thought required. As with meditation and sex thoughts will just trash your experience and the ability to be truly present in the moment.
Being in your body and feeling your heart more
So why you may well ask is it so important that we get out of our heads and into our bodies, get more in touch with our emotions and feelings when all along we have been programmed and pre-conditioned to believe that emotions are fluffy, show weakness and vulnerability.
If you want to live your highest possible life, to learn, to explore, be curious and make better decisions then being able to feel is essential. As humans we are in constant dialogue with ourselves our thinking brain is always active and rationalizing, casting negative and positive thoughts. It is this thinking brain that creates our habit patterns and behavior and wires our default settings.
The logic brain
The more time you spend in your head, as I call it your ‘logic brain’, the less time you have to appreciate what is around you, you are more governed by your egoic sense of self, not driven by your heart and sentient self. Your heart ultimately knows exactly what you want or need, your mind though can either support that or manipulate it to create a story that supports a way of thinking that you believe is best for you but you are conning yourself out of what you actually know, and that is based in your heart.
Your happiness is governed by the state of your thinking mind – how much time you choose to spend there and how much you decide to let your heart answer for you.
Mindfulness and happiness
This is not really a novel concept, we can trace back developing awareness and mindfulness more than 5,000 years with the development of yoga. Then we have Buddhism and their own strands of meditation developed 2,500 years ago. Modern day heart based leaders such as Robin Sharma, Deepak Chopra and Eckhart Tolle all extol the virtues of being more in tune with our sentient selves. These people are neither mystics nor gurus, Robin Sharma is an ex trial lawyer and Deepak Chopra is a practicing doctor.
My cancer and stress
For me as an ex lawyer and entrepreneur I was always in my head, analyzing, thinking and strategizing, working through every problem and creating stories to support whatever thought I had. I was an expert at manipulating my thoughts and stories to suit whatever purpose I had, whatever event I created. Then I was given a fluke diagnosis of cancer, prostate cancer at 42, yes that is very young and as a man that really affects your mental health as well. I had been under fairly severe stress for a while but that was of my own making. I can happily say that I beat it without any Western treatment but it took years of working on myself in every aspect of my life – becoming heart based and self-aware was the key.
Being heart vased
The curious thing is when I went to see Chinese healers and shamans around the world they all asked me why I was there. You see to them my illness was not a physical one in their world but a mental one and once I got to grips with that and they explained the connection I realized that being ‘a king in my head’ was the cause of my own illness. So now I can actually exist at times without any thoughts at all, and though that may be hard to understand it enables me to truly appreciate what is around me, to feel for solutions or just observe without any judgement.
That is what I mean by saying let your mind just be like a computer processing in the background but you don’t need to use it all the time. In fact the more you use it the more opportunity you have to create negative thoughts and the less space you have to connect to your heart and to your emotions. Being heart based helps you to nourish your soul. I can hear a few saying oh please enough of that, well fine you don’t have to read on but for those who really want to connect with their purpose in life and to truly appreciate what is around you to make better decisions then this practice will really open your eyes to a higher and more supportive state.
Using positive language to support yourself
Tapping into your sentient emotional self also enables you to use more supportive affirming language which you need in order to live a life you love. Phrases such as “I am excited to do this”, “I love helping”, “this is a great experience”, “I feel fantastic when I do this” come far more naturally to you. Tapping into your instinct and intuition provides a safer environment for you as well with emotional knowledge and phrases such as – “this does not make me feel good”, or “I feel uncomfortable”, “something does not feel right”.
The trick is when you are living in a sentient feeling state that you allow that state to persist to solve problems that otherwise you would allow your logic brain to do for you.
Easing head heart conflict
We have this constant conflict and dialogue with ourselves - this internal battle which we are trying to reconcile, our heart always knows the truth but we then try to use our mind to convince ourselves that our heart is wrong because we falsely believe that we want something else based on past experiences ie avoiding confrontation, avoiding the pain of facing the reality, dismissing fears quickly, having a perfect job or sex with a stranger, so we can move forwards but all that happens is we walk ourselves down a less supportive path.
The real damage is that we are now programming our minds to behave in this way to ignore our feelings and we reinforce that behaviour every time we do this so that it becomes a default pattern and then in moments of clarity we wonder how we have managed to get there and keep repeating the same mistakes, and that we have become less creative and less inventive.
I always find examples are best and this work story demonstrates how we dialogue between our logic brain and sentient self.
Giving yourself a chance
“Imagine you have an interview for your dream job, with a start up you love, you have heard great things about the people, great money, beautiful office and really cool product. So you turn up for the interview and you are really excited. During the interview one of the panel and your future boss says “you have great skills but you know I don’t really need all of them and you will just be doing what I think you should do”
That crushes you and you don’t feel so great. When you walked through the interview door it felt really good, you were inspired and your mood was 9/10 but now something feels off. If you wrote down your mood now it would be 4/10.
The thing is this is exactly why you are leaving your current job because they are not investing in you.
Listen to the alarm bells
So your heart is saying out loud and clear that this does just not feel right and it will not be a supportive place for me. But your logic brain has already been fed so much information by you that you really want this job, it is a really impressive company, it will be great on your cv, you can get a bigger apartment, your relationships will get better at home. You can even create a story that supports the theory that maybe it will get better, you can keep our head down and survive. The more information that you feed to your thinking mind and sustain that default behavior the more you will trash the relevance of your feelings.
If you are more used to living in your thinking brain the chances are you will overrule you feelings, your emotions, your red flag and take the job. Then you are cementing an already self-sabotaging pattern which becomes harder, but always possible, to break. In twelve months time your relationships at home will invariably be much worse and now you have to go through the whole process again or change and whatever path you take they will both involve more pain.
So you have to ask yourself why would you keep putting yourself in an environment that does not support you. When you try and feel the answer to that it will come quite naturally once you have taught yourself how but when you ‘think’ about it you can make up whatever story you want to support that habit.
Finding your voice
For me the key to being able to express ourselves freely and authentically, to live your highest life and to achieve the life you love is that we have to connect to our feelings, emotions and heart.
The reason why great leaders think less and feel more is that they recognize when to use their logic mind and when to find solutions using their instinct, intuition and heart. They have a clear understanding of how and when engage with all of their human elements to create the most successful outcome and they do so naturally.
This article was originally written by Ed Andrew for the life coaching platform Life You Love and is published there.
Ed Andrew is an ex lawyer, serial entrepreneur and founder of the career and life training business The Human Consultancy.