Updated: Jun 7
In this series of posts, we have considered how tapping into our head, heart, and gut (a.k.a. our centers of intelligence) can help us find more balance in our lives. We have a dominant center and often overutilize it to the neglect of the other two centers. This explains the phenomenon of "getting stuck in our heads" or "feeling sick to our stomach with anxiety." When we intentionally tune into all three centers, though, we find natural ways to alleviate stress and find more balance in our lives.
These three centers also offer valuable insights to help us in making better decisions. Many of us have our preferred decision making strategies, perhaps in line with our dominant center. Thinking/ Head dominant types (enneagram types 5,6,7) may gravitate toward lists and research. Feeling/ Heart center types (enneagram types 2,3,4) may be led by their emotional response to the decision or opportunity. Intuition/ Gut center types (enneagram types 8,9,1) may often trust their instincts over data or emotions.
However, when we take time to work through a decision using all three centers of intelligence, we tune into clues we may have otherwise missed.
When you are facing a decision, take time to consider it through the lens of all three triads. Give some intentional reflection time to considering each center:
·What is your heart telling you? What do you want? What emotions does each option elicit in you – excitement, joy, fear, anxiety, or some combination? Is fear driving your decision or hope? Try to unpack those emotions to understand what is driving them and what clues they may have to offer you.
What is your mind telling you? As you think through it, what are the benefits or trade-offs of moving in each direction? What is the impact on yourself and others? What risks are involved? What could go wrong? What information do you need to make an informed decision? What is incomplete or unknown?
What is your gut telling you? Are you instinctually moving toward or away from the decision? What is stirring in your body? Do you notice increased stress or tension as you carry the decision or consider different options? What is your instinctual response based on, e.g. prior experience, established trust, prior betrayal or failure? When have your instincts been wrong before? Are they likely to be wrong this time?
At this point, you should have valuable insights into the decision in front of you and have a more complete picture as you make your decision.
Is your head, heart, gut in sync with each other? Are they all pointing in the same direction? If so, that is valuable clarity to enable you to move forward with confidence in your decision.
If not, what clues are each providing to you? What tensions exist? What do you need to do to address those clues? Try not to silence them; we want to lean into the insights they have to offer.
When your head, heart, and gut are not lined up about a decision. Try not to just silence them. Instead lean into the insights they have to offer.
Here are several examples of finding balance and making better decisions using our head, heart, and gut:
A client was wrestling with a decision she was making about whether or not to continue a dating relationship. As she worked through these questions, both her gut and her head were leading her to break off the relationship. However, her heart was still involved and wanted to hold out hope it would work out. If she just silenced her heart and moved forward with her head & gut, she may have had unanswered questions or potential regret later on. Going a bit deeper into conversation with her about her feelings, though, she realized that it was more about her desire for a relationship and her need for intimacy more so than it was her connection or affection for the specific guy she was dating. That clarity made it easier for her to make a decision and gave her confidence that she was making the right decision for her.
Another client was job-searching and considering different types of jobs than she had held previously. She began applying for several positions that fit with her experience and qualifications. On paper, one seemed like the better option, with more pay and benefits, more in line with the work that she had done previously. However, as she began working through the decision, she realized that she was more instinctually drawn to the other position even though she wasn't sure why. During the interview process, she again got a different sense about the positions. As she began gently exploring what was drawing her in this direction, she saw the opportunity for greater autonomy and creativity in her work, and more flexible working arrangements even though it was less pay. Her excitement over the possibilities began to outweigh the anxiety of stepping into something new. These insights helped her weigh the decision differently than she otherwise would have and helped her make the better decision for her and her family.
An Opportunity to Reflect
Reflect on a recent decision you made. What role did your head, heart, and gut play in your decision-making process? If you had a do-over, would you do anything differently?
What decisions do you struggle the most with? How can tuning into your head, heart, and gut help with those?
An Opportunity to Grow
Practice working through some decisions using the questions above and tuning into your head, heart, and gut.
The Next Right Thing podcast, by Emily P. Freeman is a valuable resource for discernment and decision-making.