Recently someone said to me that emotions were not appropriate at work—that they just got in the way—and that therefore it was best to just not feel. In that moment, an immediate and deep sadness washed over me, not just for this woman, but for us as a society if that is truly where we are. I understood what she meant. Feelings and emotions can have a huge impact on how we engage with others and our work. When we get caught in survival mode in any area of our lives, we may not be able to see any other option than to shut down our feelings and “just do what we have to do” in order to get through the situation. Yet is that really serving us?
The more we shut down our feelings, the more disconnected we become from ourselves and from life, and the more we fear going anywhere close to the heart. We think we are protecting ourselves—if we don’t feel, then there is no conflict, no pain, right? No emotions get in the way. We can make the tough decisions, push through to get the results we want, and not have to notice the consequences on others. Without even realizing it, disconnection becomes our habit. One simple choice to bury feelings in order to get through a situation easily leads to another, and then to another. A survival pattern is established, and we set up a pattern of shutting down our feelings – a pattern of disconnecting from our hearts.
The irony is, of course, that we then fear the very part of us that could actually give us a true sense of clarity, authentic power, and strength. The heart brings all of the parts of us together into wholeness. The heart is our access point to our greatest wisdom. Yet too often instead of going straight to our wholeness in order to navigate challenges, we shut down or bypass the heart and look for a way to just get through whatever may be going on.
Although our hearts know differently, we operate on the premise that this practice will keep our relationships clean, avoid messy interactions, and protect us from painful emotions. What we don’t recognize is that, as a result, we actually become weaker and less effective because we have lost touch with our own wholeness. We lose access to our authentic power and strength.
Whether as individuals or as businesses or governments, our authentic power comes from our wholeness and openness, not from our protection. Closing ourselves off from our hearts and keeping the various aspects of our lives or businesses in little compartments comes with enormous cost. By nature, we are designed to live in wholeness and in interdependent relationships with the world around us. Keeping up the protection and continually burying our feelings takes an enormous toll. It robs us of energy we need for creation and manifestation. It robs us of healthy relationships. Every decision and action becomes tainted by our need for protection. We lose the “whole-picture” awareness and perspective of the heart.
Although things are slowly changing, often in business they call anything that might relate to heart awareness the “soft skills,” and speak of these soft skills as something to be tolerated at best. Yet what if it is only by living and leading from our own wholeness – from the wisdom of our hearts – that we will reach our greatest potential? What if the “soft skills” were actually some of our most essential “power” skills? Power with others rather than power over others. Power to be co-creative and innovative. Power to imagine something beyond what we already know. Power to connect the dots and build relationships. Power to transform challenges into opportunities.
It is through the heart that we recognize our oneness with all that is. When we live in exile from the heart, we lose a sense of our interdependent relationship with the world around us. When we are in exile from the heart, we can easily deny that other people’s circumstances have anything to do with our own, that other countries’ challenges are of any concern to us, that environmental degradation is actually self-degradation. Yet living in exile from the heart, we make choices and decisions that result in ecosystems being destroyed to support our personal and cultural habits and dependencies, peoples being taken advantage of for economic gain, wars based on greed and the pursuit of power. Living in exile from the heart can only create a world where, in the end, everyone loses.
At this time in history, we cannot afford to live in exile from the heart, whether as individuals, corporations, or nations. We cannot afford to not live in wholeness. Time is of the essence. We are in crisis in the world on many levels. And crisis is a huge calling card for opportunity. Ending the exile at the corporate or national level begins with each of us standing fully in our personal wholeness every day.
Coming back to the heart is as simple as asking your heart how it feels about something – what guidance it has for you – and then being willing to listen and act accordingly. It’s about going to your heart first, and then expanding the energy of your heart to embrace your intellect or rational mind. Both have a role to play. We have the intellect and rational mind part down. As a culture, we know how to do that. Now it’s time to recognize and engage the heart. Intellect brings knowledge. Heart brings wisdom.
The heart is the starting point. Claiming our wholeness alone will not make everything right in the world. However, the more we are willing to feel and embrace the power of the heart in both our personal and professional relationships, projects, and negotiations, the more we can access entirely new levels of clarity and understanding about where to go, who to be, and what to do. The wise heart will show us the way. Then it is up to us to follow through with the action being asked for.
P.S. If you would like to explore leading from wholeness more fully, you might find Chapter 4 of my latest book, Create A World That Works, helpful. The book is available through our website store as well as in bookstores everywhere, on amazon.com, and as a digital book for Kindle, iBooks, or other e-readers.
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