Life: The Heart and the Brain
I’m streaky. I have a breakthrough, talk about it incessantly, move on to another breakthrough, and so the cycle continues. I’m not really an expert on anything. I’m good at, I think, taking esoteric concepts, synthesizing them, and redistributing them in bite-size morsels for all to enjoy and apply — especially myself. At least, that’s what I think I do well. You can decide for yourself.
“Follow your heart.” “You’ve just got to connect to your heart.” “Your heart knows the answers.” “Breathe into your heart.”
“Get out of your head.” “You think too much.” “You are all ideas, no action.”
It would seem we have two forces at play here: and one is good, one not so good. And I think, largely, once we fully understand this, this ends up being true. But it’s all gibberish until we understand the relationship. So let’s do that.
Let’s first square up our vernacular. I’m going to use “heart” to describe our core; our essence. It is our spirit; the Spirit of God within us, if you are a Christian. If not, you can say that your heart is simply truth, or the connecting point of the universe to our individual being.
The “brain,” on the other hand, is our flesh. The ego. The part of us that does our processing — and is only focused on self-preservation.
Please note that you can actually feel the difference between these two points. To illustrate, take the deepest love you can think of: your children, your parents, your pets, whatever. Consider what they mean to you. How you’d feel if they weren’t here. Note that you actually feel that sensation in your chest.
Next, consider a fear: You hate your job; you are embarrassed about your current state in life; how will you pay your bills next month; etc. Make it real. You may have even distracted yourself from my essay…but note that your brain feels like it is swirling in circles as you try to catch up and create answers for this particular pain you are in the midst of.
Can you feel that dissonance to which I am trying to direct you?
Let’s try to better understand this phenomenon so we can 1) control it and 2) use it to heal ourselves and 3) use it to bless those around us.
First: and this is the most important point: The heart wins. It is our Center. The brain only serves as a tool for the heart. Nothing more.
Let’s play this out in real time.
You hate your job, you are miserable, and you want to quit.
Heart: “AHHHH!! This is NOT our path! We have so much more to give the world! This job is a blanket smothering our fire! Change! Now! Don’t wait another day!”
Brain: “But what will I do? I need to pay for Thatcher’s gymnastics lessons and for 100 gigs of data. Shut up, Heart! If we don’t have fancy cars our neighbors will think we are broke. Plus, college for Thatcher and Brexling!! College is SOOO important! I’ll keep the job…for now.”
And so it goes. In our culture, the brain wins. We value logic and reason over all, and we make fun of people that are heart-leading.
This is backwards…but just a little backwards. Let me explain.
I’m not telling you to become the hippy millennial kid that is always saying, “This just FEELS SO RIGHT!” as they make their millionth horrible decision in a row. For clarity, let’s wrap this in numbers: That person is probably 90% heart, 10% brain. On the other hand, culturally, our “Zone of Respect” is for people that operate in the ‘70% brain, 30% heart” range. That man makes a darn-fine leader, will raise great children, will give you a solid 60 hours a week in mid-management, and will be an elder in his church some day.
…And ultimately fail because he is still brain-controlled.
No, the optimal place to fall is at “51% heart, 49% brain.” You are probably asking, “But Jon, how is this quantifiable?”
Here’s how: The rule is this: The Heart wins. And then the HEART uses the BRAIN as a tool. The Heart creates the direction, and the Brain creates the strategy.
Back to our earlier illustration, here is how this looks:
Heart: “That’s it. We are quitting the job. Brain, make this happen.”
Brain: “Got it. I know my place. It is to execute on solutions for direction that Heart has created. But I’m still concerned that if we don’t…”
Heart: “BRAIN! Enough! The direction has been decided. There will be hiccups, yes. Figure it out. Pivot. That is what you are good at. I will tell you where this ship is going, you create the plan to get us there.”
Brain: “Got it! Okay. We are quitting. Thatcher’s gymnastics may be put on hold…or maybe, we can save some money over at XYZ. Yes! That can work!”
Heart: “Great! Keep it up, Brain. The direction won’t change, so just keep pivoting until we ultimately get to where I’m telling you to go.”
And this is how this symbiotic relationship works.
Any time you are thinking of easier ways, justifying anything, or thinking of throwing in the towel, just know that this is your Brain working. And that isn’t his job. SO SHUT IT DOWN.
Step back, breathe, and connect back to your heart. What is IT saying?
And that is your truth. That is your unfailing compass which always will provide the perfect direction, always, if you just have the faith to follow it.