~ by Whitney English
Editor’s note: In A More Beautiful Life, Whitney English shares a powerful way to, in her words, "design a life you want to live and help you live a life designed for you." HEART Goals is a system that starts with what matters most to you. H–Help Yourself. E–Empower Yourself. A–All Your People. R–Resources and Responsibilities. T–Trade and Talent. Enjoy this excerpt about Mind, Heart, and Soul.
The Checkpoints: Mind, Heart, Soul
When it comes to personal awareness and self-evaluation, I use three words to keep me grounded: mind, heart, and soul. These three checkpoints provide a tool to evaluate my balance and point me to next steps.
For the sake of this discussion, consider your mind as the hub of your thinking. In this hub, we store memories, create, organize, and solve issues. Not bad for such a small object! (Pat your brain on the back and thank it immediately, okay?)
We expect a lot of our minds! But here’s my next question: What do our minds need from us?
Aside from our brain’s physical needs, we can support our brain in other ways. Reading, writing, listening to podcasts, taking courses, and journaling can all help prepare our minds to complete their daily tasks.
I want to offer a simple technique I use to get in touch with my innermost thoughts. I start by sitting up, getting comfortable, and listening to my body. My physical needs must be met before I can focus, so I run to the bathroom, or wash my face — whatever it takes to get comfortable. Nice smells help too. (Some people call this a bubble bath.) When I’m finished pampering myself, I pull out a journal and pen.
What have I been consuming? Billboards? TV Commercials? Pinterest? Instagram? Books? A screen? Nature? Art? What have I been learning? Discussing?
What has my digital footprint looked like this week? How do I feel about these things? Name the feelings.
What have I been creating? Words and paragraphs? Paint on canvas? Thread to needle? How was my day?
I leave the “how was my day?” question until the end, because if I started there, I’d never get to the other two topics, which are easier to answer and more important. What I’ve been consuming causes me to face reality. Everything I do is pretty much documented in this day and age. What time I woke up, when my heart rate went up, how many steps I got in, how much screen time I used, and what I looked at in those moments. Heck, Alexa may even be listening to me yell at my kids — who knows? Since the answers to this question are so easy to determine, it quickly gives me a deeply honest perspective on my life. When I don’t like the answers to my questions, I change my behavior: less screen time, more patience, no doom-scrolling, more walks.
The answers to the second group of questions tell me what I’ve been working on and how I’m giving back.
- There’s nothing more beautiful: the sharing of your soul, so bravely, with our beloved, broken world.
The answers to the third question help me reduce speed. Why reflect on a day I’ve barely finished? Reflection brings a new perspective, giving us insight and understanding into our actions. And I don’t need to convince you we could all use a slow-down.
Listening to how I answer these questions gives me insight about where I could shift my focus. I’m less concerned about if I should shift my focus. I’m a grown adult. I know what I should do. The problem is I don’t always do it. This is because I have made a choice, within my control, not to prioritize it. I can choose, going forward, to do it or not to do it. The least I can do is not beat myself up about my choices and not overcommit my future self.
The world will shame us enough, friends, if we let it. I will not let my own heart, soul, and mind jump on that bandwagon. There’s a better way to equip myself.
I know, I know. It’s what this whole book is about.
Those three questions will resuscitate many feelings. When you think about the word heart, think about your emotional well-being. Our hearts dictate:
- Our self-esteem: how we feel about ourselves on any given day.
- Our perspective: how we feel about life’s ups and downs.
- Our empathy: how we feel about people.
- Our resilience: how we feel when we’re mistreated, betrayed, or abused. (Do you feel empowered to make a choice and set a boundary, for example, or do you feel trapped?)
- Our confidence: how we feel about our ability to create change in our circumstances.
- Our self-compassion: how we talk to ourselves. (Is your inner dialogue critical or compassionate?)
Have you ever had your emotions take you by surprise at an inopportune time? One moment you’re fine, and the next, it’s waterworks central with emotions pouring out for everyone to see.
Everything you’ve been avoiding, everything you’ve been stuffing deep, confronts you. This is one of the pitfalls of ignoring our emotional health.
Apathy always results in a loss of motivation. Emotions are fuel for our actions.
When we overlook our emotional world (for fear of what it contains), we suppress the engine that drives many daily decisions. No wonder we procrastinate, or feel tired and disconnected! Numbness simply cannot produce the same quality of life that healthy emotion provides.
Speaking of which, two major symptoms of ignoring the emotions of our heart are meltdown and burnout. Maybe these feelings sound familiar to you. I know they do to me. When we don’t check in with our hearts, we lose sight of what we need, we allow ourselves to revert to old habits and patterns, and we eventually fall apart.
To check in with our hearts, here are a few questions we can ask ourselves:
- How am I feeling?
- Where in my body am I experiencing these feelings?
- Am I hurt? Grieving? Angry? Scared?
- Am I happy or grateful?
- Is there something from my past holding me back today?
- How do I feel about the future?
Checking in with my emotional heart gives me insight into the feelings that influence my outlook, beliefs, and decisions. Awareness won’t eliminate these emotions, but it will empower us to understand our feelings and support a healthy mind.
Of these three elements, the soul is perhaps the most difficult to define. But we talk about it all the time. We find soul mates, do soul-searching, and have soul sisters. People have been known to bare their souls, sell their souls, and lose their souls. There are gentle souls, old souls, satisfied and hungry souls. For as little as we understand it, culturally it seems we all agree it’s an important part of who we are.
When we discuss the soul here, I’m talking about the higher self, the part of us that feels connected to something bigger than we are. This is your intuition, the gut instinct that just knows, and your sense of purpose in the world.
Our souls are an influential part of who we are. You could think of your soul as a majority shareholder, a board member with a controlling interest in our lives. Our souls have a lot of sway in how we feel, think, and live. But they’re quiet, and easily forgotten. And many of us are ignoring our souls.
Our souls help us:
- feel connected to our community,
- feel a sense of purpose and order in life (even when it doesn’t make sense),
- know in a deep way we are loved,
- experience a sense of awe,
- trust that we are supported, and
- surrender to difficult circumstances, trusting there is a bigger meaning.
We all have a soul, and many of our souls are desperate for refreshment. So many souls wander this planet, feel lonely or disconnected, and wonder why they’re here or if any of this matters. A well-kept soul is a deep well from which we can draw strength when we face challenges.
We need to regularly check in with our souls. I used to disregard this soul-care stuff as new-age propaganda, but maturity has helped me understand the value of the soul. We must cling to an inner anchor, or we will perish in the outer storm. In the next section, we will brainstorm ways we can nourish our souls, but for now, here are some questions to ask yourself.
- Do I feel connected to myself?
- Do I feel connected to others?
- Do I feel connected to nature and the physical world?
- Do I feel connected to God?
- Have I prayed or meditated today?
It is in our souls that we feel connection and purpose. We can discount the spiritual, the unseen, but I remind myself humans have only recently begun to overlook the spiritual part of our lives. In the outside world, things may not be going as planned, but in my inner world I feel a deep sense that I am safe and everything will be okay. With regular soul-tending, we will feel anchored in the midst of chaos.
Doing these check-ins might not fix anything right away. In fact, if you’re not used to turning to your inner world, at first you might feel as though paying attention to your thoughts, emotions, or soul makes you feel more anxious, rather than less. It might make things—for a time—more chaotic than they were before. Remember, discomfort means we’re growing. (I know, I hate it too.)
Don’t write off these checkpoints. We experience transformation when we routinely tend our physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual needs. We make better decisions. We find conviction to say no to things not meant for us. We break the cycle of overcommitment. We gain clarity about the future while we focus on the road ahead. We navigate muddled and messy days without losing hope or our sense of self.
This is the power of the inner world. This is the gift of knowing what is happening under the surface.
Excerpted with permission from A More Beautiful Life by Whitney English, copyright Whitney English.
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Are you longing for a better life, a more fulfilled, spirit-led, goal-oriented life? You have to go inward before the results show outward. Tend to your physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual needs and better decisions will follow. Let's ask the Lord for His guidance and leadership while we're at it! Come share your thoughts with us. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily