For most of us, everything from the neckline down doesn’t play a role in our day to day jobs. At most, our bodies act as a brain taxi: transporting our brains from one office to another, from one meeting to another, from one conversation to another. It is our incredibly complex and intelligent brains that get all the attention. And why not? Our brains spend hour after hour thinking through complex situations, crunching numbers, formulating ideas and processing information. In the way we currently work the brain plays the most important role.
But should it?
The truth is that within the corporate world our bodies are a majorly untapped source of intelligence and knowledge. Stemming from its puritan roots and resulting in a culture ready to sue over about anything, the American and Western business world has all but shut out any integration of the body at work. The body is covered up in conservative business attire, greeted with no more than hand-shake contact, and never viewed as a source of wisdom.
Except for one part of the body: the gut.
Interestingly, the gut has managed to escape work-place imprisonment and has its own valued place in daily language. We often hear people say things like, “I just have a gut-feeling that this is the wrong thing to do”, or “I can’t explain it but my gut is telling me that this is the right choice.” Wait, our guts are telling us what?! Particularly fascinating about our reliance on gut-wisdom is the word most often paired with it: gut-instinct. Instinct refers specifically to a knowledge that doesn’t necessarily adhere to reason or logical proof, but is just something we feel is right. It is in other words an intuition we have. Stemming back to its Latin roots, intuition actually refers to a process of looking inside and contemplating, suggesting that gut-instinct or intuition actually refers to an inner kind of knowing. This inner knowing doesn’t come from the analytic left-side of the brain, but rather from the intuitive right brain and the body--specifically from the heart and gut.
So how much could or should we rely on intuition and feeling in the workplace? Well perhaps at least as much as we rely on the brain. Why’s that? The heart pulse is the first point visible in an embryo, the first organ to form during human development and in an adult body radiates an electromagnetic field far larger than the brain. The gut, sometimes referred to as “the second brain” contains some 100 million neurons and is shown to be responsible for far more than digestion, including most interestingly our emotions which of course then have influence on our thoughts. Einstein himself was quoted as saying that what is really wrong with our time is that we have made the King -- the heart -- serve the servant -- the brain.
Our bodies are “speaking” to us throughout every moment of every day. Though we have socialized their voices out of current corporate culture, we all know what it feels like when our bodies try to warn us about the fatality of a decision we are about to make. How many of us have read accounts of bankers after the past decade’s financial crisis admitting that in their hearts they knew that their decisions could lead to a complete financial meltdown but their brains kept pushing forward motivated by profits and rewards?
I’m not suggesting a total shutting down of the brain. Rather, let’s find a way to bring the full body system -- mind, heart and gut -- into the natural balance with which it was designed to function. Do you believe your quality of work could be improved if you let your body come into conversation with your mind more often? Perhaps at your next meeting you’ll find that communicating what you body is feeling could be the one critical perspective that was left unshared.