‘Listen to your heart’ is terrible advice unless you know what you’re talking about, and most people don’t. But there’s a hidden truth to it that’s one of the keys to making good decisions in life….
Listen to your heart is a particularly useless piece of advice.
It’s up there with ‘relax’ and ‘just let it go’ and ‘live your truth, cosmic butterfly’.
“You look like someone who could use a bex and a good lie down” is a piece of advice. “Relax” is just a command into some kind of state space without any guidance about how to get there.
Same goes with ‘listen to you heart’.
And what do we mean by it? We definitely don’t mean ‘tune into the biological muscle that’s pumping blood around your body’. It is rare to find anyone who checks in with their organs before making important decisions.
What should I wear today?
Just listen to your liver.
Should I pursue a positive or negative cashflow strategy?
Take the time to tune into your lymphatic system, and you will be given an answer.
And even though we don’t really know what it means, it’s probably the single most common piece of advice ever given.
But unless you’re really clear on what ‘listening to your heart’ means, it can be a terrible piece of advice, and can result in truly terrible decisions.
Why? Because most people get the first stage right, but get no further than that.
What most people hear when they hear ‘listen to your heart’ is advice that they should get out of their head. They’ve been intellectualising it for too long, got all cerebral about it, and they’re going to make a bad decision because they’ve disconnected from their feelings.
And so the advice tells them they should stop ‘thinking’ about it, and start ‘feeling’ about it.
That’s good advice, right?
No. Not at all. It’s wholesale terrible advice if you don’t get clear on what ‘feeling’ means.
Human civilisation and all its achievements are built on a foundation of critical thought – the ability to plan, strategise, discern and make decisions. If you’re going to turf these out on the side of the road, you need to be clear on what you’re replacing them with.
And it’s this next stage that trips most people up.
When we ask our feeling body for advice, it tends to just speak from whatever is going on for it in that moment, kind of regardless of what the question is. Undirected, it will just speak from it’s most present need.
Imagine you haven’t eaten for four days. You need to pick a location to have a business meeting with an important client. You can’t decide, so you try to drop out of your head and just feel an answer.
“Let’s go somewhere where there’s food. Lot’s of food.” And so you end up arranging to have your meeting in the Food Court at Westfields. Our animal instincts are strong.
But for most people, hunger isn’t the most present need.
We live in incredibly anxious times. I don’t know how we got here. Maybe it’s because we eroded the support-structures of family and community at the same time as we radically increased our ability to tune into the horrors of the world. We worry about our safety, our relationships, the intentions of strangers, our financial future.
We are afraid.
So tuning into our feelings, if left unguided, is just tuning into our fears. And what happens when we act on our fears?
We make shitty decisions. We become defensive, unadventurous, unwilling to see the opportunities the world has to offer. We are instinctively drawn to decisions that make us feel ‘safe’. We are called to what we know, what we’re familiar with – things that will bunker us up in our comfort zones.
But growth happens outside your comfort zone. All the cool stuff does.
And so this is the trap. If we get out of our heads and just listen to our feelings, we will just end up making decisions based on fear, unless we take time to make sure we’re not actually in a space of fear to begin with.
And these fear-based decisions will tend to be terrible, life-limiting decisions.
So what do we do about it? Well, what’s the opposite of fear?
Love. We need to make sure we’re operating from a space of love. And by that I mean an abundant, generous, anything is possible, excited-to-be-alive kind of space. You know, LOVE, man…
But that doesn’t happen by accident. That requires a bit of self-reflection and self-awareness. And a bit of mental discipline to stop ourselves getting pulled into stories of fear or anger or frustration or whatever.
And if the ‘heart’ is the seat of love, then this is the hidden truth in ‘listen to your heart’. It means come back to that space where you feel open and expansive and abundant, and then make a decision that serves that space.
Drop all your fears and limiting beliefs (another piece of advice easier said than done, I know), and see which option feels right then. Once your mind has laid out a few options, I generally find if I tune into this space, one option will be clearly superior to the others.
This, I think, is what listening to your heart means.
There is a truth in it after all.
And it’s a slow process. In that it involves the act of slowing down and tuning in before you make a decision. But it’s worth it if we’re talking about important decisions – even financial ones.
Oh, and have a good lie down. You look like you could use a good lie down.