By Brian Gast
YPO Certified Forum Facilitator
Neuroscientists have discovered the source of wisdom. Not only are our brains regenerative and plastic, we actually have three of them. We have a brain located in our head, our heart and our gut.
The area around our heart is loaded with neurology that connects us to our environment, determines our sense of aliveness and expands our access to our intuition. Our digestive tract, and in particular our small intestine, contains more neurons then our head.
To tap into your intuition, make better decisions and manage your relationships more effectively, here is how to use the brains you may not even know you had:
Tip #1: Determine if you are a head, heart or gut type
We each have a bias to use one brain center more than the other two. Some people are more head types, others heart types and still others are gut types. Over-reliance on one brain or underdevelopment of any of the brains makes us one-dimensional thinkers, limits our potential and leads to poor decision-making capacity. You might be surprised how much you use your gut brain.
One of my past clients is a very effective CEO partly because he is an amazingly fluid communicator, and a great thinker and speaker on his feet. Without notes, he can speak to groups of five or 500 for hours and clearly assess a complex situation. He leads from the gut. His clear insights just flow out of him. He rarely knows what he’s going to say before he says it. People trust him because he filters nothing—he is transparent.
Tip #2: Shift your perspective
Just knowing you have three brains is a huge start. We are neurologically and culturally conditioned to think that all of our intelligence can be measured with an IQ test. Our culture relies to much on people with high IQs and GPAs and those with degrees from elite schools who can do complex math problems in their heads. We distrust those who we judge rely too much on their intuition or feelings.
You will become wiser when you begin to view the head, heart and gut intelligences operating as equally important, interrelated software programs versus three separate modes. This perspective allows you greater access to the full gifts of your creativity, insight and judgment.
Stop believing that the head brain is the captain of your intelligence ship. Science shows that it’s actually the gut brain that is best equipped to make an initial evaluation of a situation and then direct the heart and head brains what to do next. The head brain is more of an analyzer and processor of information rather than the generator of original ideas or a portal to deeper knowing.
Tip #3: Do not be ruled by one brain
Some leaders get “stuck in their head.” Words come out of their mouths but with no emotion, empathy or connection to those around them. They are brilliant at analysis, memory, pattern recognition and teasing out what’s most important. Yet without access to their heart intelligence, they miss the emotional queues of their audience and even themselves. These executives often derail in their careers due to their limited listening skills and inability to read the political tea leaves in their organization. The head brain will only take you so far.
Yet being ruled by one’s heart brain has pitfalls as well. Low level use of our heart brain leads to emotional reactivity. There is such thing as trusting our emotions too much. Emotions such as fear, hurt and anger are often reactions to a flawed interpretation of what’s going on around us. A high EQ means we know we are the cause of our emotional reactivity. Effective use of our heart brain results in conscious emotional expression, ineffective use results in blaming others for how we feel.
Tip #4: Exercise your least-developed drain
As you notice each brain at work you will begin to recognize each one’s unique personality. If you want to gain insight or clarity from your gut brain, slow down, go for a walk and take your mind off the decision. Visualize the physical location of your gut brain (just below your naval) and imagine that it’s the center of your nervous system. Address any gastrointestinal track disturbances. Until you get those healed you will not be able to access that part of your intelligence.
Develop and ear for the subtle messages your heart brain is sending you by paying attention to your emotions, in particular grief and shame. Remember that sorrow is a part of life, not something to repress. Remind yourself that shame is built on a set of false beliefs about your worthiness. How much do you allow yourself to feel sad? What are the ways you try to avoid it? If you find yourself often angry, look beneath that for unacknowledged hurt, fear and grief.
People do not need more of the quick answers and problem-solving that comes from your head. They need that deep wisdom that comes from your gut and the compassion that comes from your heart.