Since Rene Descartes developed Rationalism back in the early 1600s, we in the Western world have put the logical, analyzing mind on a pedestal. According to Descartes, “reason alone determined knowledge, and that this could be done independently of the senses.” He also argued that the mind is separate from the body.
Today we see the effects of Descartes’ left-brain worship. Organizations are fragmented into departmental boxes and org charts. The healthcare profession is fragmented and specialized, rarely treating individuals as a whole. Schools teach subjects in isolation from one another, teaching kids from an early age that compartments are king.
But is this how we really work? Humans, organizations and societies are complex systems with feelings and vulnerabilities… interconnected wholes that cannot be reduced into pieces and parts. The consequences of the rationalist approach can be seen everywhere, but let’s stick with the ones for business:
- sterile and soul-killing cultures, which kill employee loyalty
- fragmented customer experiences, which kill customer loyalty
- proliferating and competing strategies, which kill efficiencies and forward momentum
- businesses rewarded for measurable short-term gains at the expense of the broader society and environment in which they operate
becoming whole humans
The outer world is fragmented because we’ve chopped ourselves up on the inside. Individuals who aren’t comfortable in their bodies retreat to the perceived safety of the brain; those who are comfortable in the realm of body, emotion and intuition reject the structure of the analytical mind. We’ve cut ourselves into two, with perilous consequences.
Insanity is, of course, doing the same things over and over again while expecting a different result. It’s time for a new approach: one that works with our humanity and the laws of nature instead of against them… one that embraces our whole selves and all the modes of intelligence that reside within.
The Whole Mind model recognizes that what we call “the mind” does not reside solely in our brains. Did you know that we have 100 million neurons in our guts? We have a felt wisdom in our bodies that has evolved over millennia. Logic and planning was the last to emerge, and must work in harmony with our other intelligences for us to be fully, humanly complete.
The model includes two brain-based modes (analyzing and connecting), two body-based modes (feeling and sensing), and a fifth that I call Orchestration: a meta-mode that knows when and how to use the other four.
If you have strength in….
- Analyzing: You’re comfortable with structure, compartments and processes, and tend to make dramatic improvements in efficiencies. Structured thinking is also an effective way to gain clarity, solve problems, and prioritize actions and investments.
- Connecting: Thanks to pattern-matching and divergent thinking, you can see things that Analyzing can’t: the gestalt, the “third way” beyond binary options, and innovative approaches borrowed from other sectors and contexts. This is the source of rapid intuition based on prior experience.
- Sensing: You fully inhabit your body. You have a grounded energy and can feel “yes” and “no” intuitive responses; this inner barometer is rarely wrong. You likely have a strong presence that others can feel when you walk into a room.
- Feeling: You’re deeply in touch with their own emotional world, and more likely to be empathetic in their work and personal lives. You can be more responsive rather than reactive: a powerful trait for a leader.
- Orchestrating: You have all the mind modes in their toolbox, and know when and how to apply them based on the context.
I stumbled into this model unintentionally. My brain is naturally wired for Connecting: lateral, emergent thinking. I can see patterns, the gestalt, and how everything is connected. But when I went to work at a management consulting firm, Connecting was beaten out of me in favor of a linear, logical approach that fit the PowerPoint factory process. I learned the Analyzing mode.
But I was a brain on a stick: all my energy was in my head, having disconnected myself from uncomfortable emotions in the body caused by trauma. I had no idea how to work with emotions, and the concept of somatics — body-based wisdom — was utterly foreign to me. Fast forward through a lot of coaching, therapy, 15 years of meditation, what finally did the trick were simple exercises that I now use in my own coaching practice.
- Learning how to listen to my inner wisdom: what yes and no feel like in my body
- Learning how to recognize and label emotions that arise
- Following what lights me up and brings me joy
- Stepping off the endless stress of the corporate hamster wheel to forge my own path that’s true to who I am.
I’ve developed all four mind modes, plus the ability to Orchestrate: in other words, to recognize which mode is needed given the context. This is a bit like having more tools in the toolbox and knowing how to wield each one. The most effective business and life strategies use all four Modes, which I’ll talk about further in a separate piece.
This model is highly relevant for leaders who want to bring more humanity into the workplace, improving culture and boosting loyalty of employees and customers. These are leaders who I call rebels with a cause: rejecting “business as usual” in favor of a new approach that creates the ripple effects of change well outside the bounds of their teams and companies… and unlocks the freedom to be our whole selves at work, which is how we thrive together.
Experience it for yourself.
I’m launching an experiential group coaching program called Groundbreaking Leadership with my colleague Johnnie Moore. It’s designed for leaders who want a safe space to practice being more authentic and vulnerable, dropping into body-based wisdom and communicating from the heart. We only have 6 spaces available.
If these concepts are totally new to you, you may benefit from some 1:1 coaching first. Why don’t we have a no-obligation conversation? You can access my calendar here.
“Within weeks, Jennifer was able to walk me through a door I never knew existed. The process she uses is hardly difficult, but I certainly didn’t expect the seismic shifts in my thinking, my body or heart. My confidence is growing. My health is improving. My attitude at work has transformed. And I can hear my own voice without the clutter of shame, should’s, and habitual negative self-talk.”Krystal, co-founder and sales VP