What Does it Mean to “Work With Heart”?

We all have felt at times in our work and life that “my heart just isn’t in this”.  You don’t feel connected or inspired — and can even feel resistant. On the other hand, there are times when we “feel” that something is right for us — we feel momentum and excitement and know that our “heart IS in it” and we easily connect in a meaningful way to our work or life. We readily bring our heart and soul into what we are doing.

Being able to work with heart has both external and internal influences. The purpose of this post is to articulate what influences us to be able to be clear about what really matters to us. It’s important to know that sometimes external forces can be greater than our own will and strong heart. Most of the time we play way too small and don’t influence our life and work as much as we can. We are far more powerful than we allow ourselves to be, both at work and in life’s journey.

Heart Strengthening Elements

The following are the necessary ingredients in the recipe for “working with heart”. They may not be overly surprising and might be more of a reinforcement of what you already hold as your own common sense. The important part is for you to self-evaluate in each area. Do you have some work to do? Start by noticing when you don’t bring your whole self to your work and relationships. You’ll come to identify this feeling readily once you make yourself aware.

Also, notice the work and times that you do bring your whole self in effortlessly. This will feel entirely different.  Then, start to draw some conclusions that could lead to new decisions for your daily life, relationships, and career.

The Recipe

Passion – The inner interest and deep drive that fires you up. Being connected to all that you do in a way that brings meaning to your life and the lives of those you interact with in your journey through life. It can be confused with energy, but it’s what feeds your energy and focuses it. Passion is a decision that often finds you and forces you to deal with it.

Energy — When life and work seem effortless, you are likely in your spirit and tapping into a level of power many never find. Energy is the “muse” of action rather than creative thought. Your body is up for the task and ready to deliver what the mind and heart conceive as important. You can sense what gives and takes it away. Manage it well.

Purpose – Knowing what you were created to be for the world is a powerful notion. Understanding the reason you exist and working to fulfill the promise that you are brings power, not only to you, but to many other lives.

Vision – Don’t live just for today but live out of your vision. Live and work into the future that you want to create for those you serve. Vision is about performance, so set some metrics and milestones that will keep focus and momentum towards the outcomes you want. Your vision comes true when you decide to go after it, not when it arrives.

Values – When everything gets taken away from you this is the siren call. We anchor to these when times are tough. It is your values that we all get called back to review and understand more deeply when we are tested most.  Ask yourself, “what is most important to me and what are my values?” Your decisions ultimately are informed by your values.  How you will treat others and yourself? Will you do the right thing when it seems to matter the most — and even when it doesn’t?

Depth – There is deepness or depth to our work when our heart is in it.  Understandably not everyone wants or desires to go deeper in life let alone in one’s work.  It is a choice, not a necessity.  It is a risk that can be accompanied by fear, uncertainty, or insecurity. However, real joy lives in the deepness of really letting your heart go and caring for something beyond your own restrictions.  Many of us need a guide for this journey because it is fraught with many “good” reasons not to let go and take the risk.

Truth – This is always the most profitable in the long haul.  It is better to build your life on a strong foundation of truth and not compromise. At some point you will need to rely on your courage to stand for something and to take a stand.  Knowing your stand and living it are two completely different acts.  The latter involves your body and training it to act according to your intellect.

Self-Sacrifice – Be careful who is asking for or requiring the sacrifice. Work is only one of the five most important systems (work, intimacy, family, social, personal) we must master as a high-performance human being.  There will come a time when you will be called to give more than others with no promise of greater return and recognition. Self-sacrifice never comes when you expect it, and there is never enough data to decide the cost when asked to make it.  Payment on this investment shows up unexpectedly and in the most surprising ways. With true self-sacrifice you should expect nothing in return, and you will reap a harvest. To think that you can make your dreams come true without it is a fool’s errand. To think self-sacrifice is the only way forward is often when we lose our soul.

Your Pathway

To work with heart requires you to be vulnerable. You must open yourself in an unguarded way, a way that may require you to closely examine your inner self to become very clear about what really matters to you. For busy, productive, results-focused people this may feel foreign or like a waste of time. The journey starts with achieving greater self-awareness. Self-awareness is a gift we all profit from, and it requires determination and discipline to get there. A good place to start or go deeper into your journey of becoming more self-aware is by following The Heartwood Group’s Transformation Model, a simple 4-step pathway focused on Values, Vision and Milestones. The model, process and accompanying exercises can be found in the book Active Transformation.