“Trust your instinct to the end, though you can render no reason.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I often explain to people who ask about my 3-intelligence approach to coaching that we have three brains for a reason. Each is dedicated to a different “job” when it comes to making decisions and taking action and in keeping us safe and allowing us to have the many experiences we are meant to in life.
If we were only to attend to the data and details being gathered by one, then there would be 2/3 of the universally available information left on the table. I don’t know about you, but for me, having as much vital feedback from my inner and outer world as I can allows me to make better decisions and take more effective action that leads to more of the results that I want. It allows me to be more of an intentional leader and less of an accidental one.
Up to this point in history, the way we have been conditioned to consider the concept of “intelligence” is, well, antiquated. We think of the brain in our head as the king of the castle and the only real, legitimate intelligence that we have. We also have been led to believe that intentionally using instinct, intuition and how we feel to guide us in life is irresponsible and risky. Additionally, we tend to expect these other intelligences to work the same way that logic does. This is where we have been most misguided. The information provided by our heart and gut brains comes to us in a different manner than the ideas and thoughts we experience from our cephalic (head) brain.
With important life decisions, and I see this a lot in business, I often hear clients ask, “Can I truly trust my gut to make the best decision?” and “Won’t following my heart mislead me?” This perspective is proof that instinct, intuition and listening to how we feel are deeply misunderstood when it comes to the power these intelligences have to inform and guide us. Our very capacity to comprehend and experience the breadth and depth of our circumstances, as well as make choices from a more comprehensive perspective, is precisely why we have three brains to begin with.
It is important to know how each of our brains functions, so that we can best utilize and trust them to the role they were designed to play. Ideally, when it comes to working through information in order to make decisions, the head brain is most valuable for its creative capacity: reflection, comprehensive thinking and problem-solving abilities. However, except for forward-thinking initiatives and emergency-induced shifts, most companies are quick to resist change. Instead, they choose to consider and make decisions from the head brain that are focused on reason and driven by tested and proven facts from the past, that are often not aligned with what is needed for current demands and to meet the needs of the future. As we know, what is needed often is something new, which the head brain can only be useful finding if it is allowed to operate in its more expansive and creative capacity.
As much as the “ducks in a row” way of living life seems orderly and safe, our existence does not truly operate in the space where everything lines up and fits neatly into boxes. In reality, life is less black and white and more the shades between, yet we often approach decision-making as if the lines were clearly drawn. The world around us, in all ways, is both complex and uncertain. The conditioned manner in which we have learned to gather information and make decisions has put great emphasis on reason and logic. This has created a huge disadvantage and has left us at a loss, especially in the recent years of high change and instability. When it comes to knowing effectively how to move beyond what has been, which is becoming more and more defunct by the day, we need to know how to access other areas of intelligence within us in order to access the opportunities, options and answers that will support forward growth, improvement and evolution.
For this reason, it is crucial to know how our decision-making process works. Our mental capacity and the power it has are mostly unconscious to us. It is, however, available to those who have learned how to obtain and integrate the information accessed by all three brains.
Our heart brain is the seat of our WHY and connects us with our true motivations and purpose. It’s meant to take the lead on the emotional impact of values and our connection with others. It is the source of our passion and compassion. The intelligence associated with this brain is our emotional intelligence. It focuses on our ability to genuinely connect and build trust and rapport within our human relationships (with others and with ourselves). Without this, we aren’t motivated to stick around, learn and grow through engagements or work through to a conclusive solution. We simply bolt, taking our habits and beliefs with us, only to repeat them again and again. We can see in building culture and attracting and retaining good talent, it is essential for leaders to tap into their emotional intelligence when making decisions. EQ in leadership allows for the capacity to understand, manage, and utilize emotions to effectively connect with others and make emotionally intelligent decisions to move things towards positive outcomes.
Our gut brain is designed to focus on our sense of self, on self-preservation, and on our physicality. When we apply this to our business or organization, it is all about building effective systems, sustainability and remaining relevant in the market. The gut brain is the seat of self-trust and courage. The intelligences associated with this brain are those of instinct and intuition. Our gut brain provides the instinctive ability to cut through the vagueness of what is unknown to our head and heart brains to find certainty in what we intuit. It moves us outside the box of conditioned norms to do what we sense is right.
Some of the world’s greatest leaders have learned to trust their hunches and followed their instincts, even when what they sensed flew in the face of what appeared to be the most rational and realistic solution. This ability to override the heavily conditioned values of the head brain and the traditional way in which we have been taught to make decisions is the very thing, much of the time, that has great leaders standing out from the rest.
Intuition, instinct and the ability to translate our feelings can help us weed through complex situations to find the critical points that would have otherwise evaded our logical mind.
In all honesty, understanding and doing this well is crucial to business and leadership. Those who learn to access the power of all three of their brains have a competitive advantage when navigating challenging and uncertain times.
So, the question is, why is it that organizations take the time to evaluate executives on their ability to manage others, communicate clearly and effectively, make complex decisions and be more emotionally intelligent, but when it comes to training to the criteria by which leaders are assessed, there is no curriculum covering how to tap into the vital information provided by one’s feelings and how to increase one’s instinctual intelligence and intuition? Why is it that courses on building intuitive and predictive skills are not commonly offered in business schools?
It is clear that, especially here in the U.S., as a culture, we are still not comfortable with relying on what is not founded in science and what cannot be physically proven and demonstrated.
Even though there are plenty of accounts and research that show there are successful business leaders out there who rely on their instincts, intuition and how they feel when making important decisions, due to the challenge in conceptualizing, teaching and measuring the exact influence of feelings, instincts and intuition, we are still far behind the eight ball in properly preparing and training leaders on how to access these vital intelligences. When we look at the hard facts, the truth is, to share an intuitive point of view or to defend it in the data-driven environment of business requires self-confidence and courage.
It takes no more than looking at all of the issues we are experiencing in the current world of leadership and business to see the cost of not leaning into integrating the information we are actively receiving at all times from all three of our brains. As we consider this, we can begin to see that, perhaps, building self-confidence and courage are also necessary areas of training in today’s business and leadership curriculum.