Heart Over Head: Valentine Ramblings Of A Writer
The human heart beats around 115,000 times per day.
A recent study from Queens University has found that on average humans will have 6,200 thoughts per day.
Coincidence? I think not.
OK Mike what the hell are you talking about? Who cares?
Well on this day of St. Valentine I thought it would be fun to explore some fun facts about the human heart. This started off as my morning writing exercise and quickly morphed into, what the above noted researchers referred to as “thought worms”.
I was looking for an analogy or metaphor or some interesting little tidbit to share with you on Valentines Day. Instead, as is prone to happen when I write uninhibited, I started going down a veritable rabbit hole of thought exploration.
When I saw the statistic about how many times our heart flexed its muscle every day it struck me that that sounded like an awful lot more strength than what I believed to be true of the human mind. In order to confirm my suspicions I walked my fingers over to my friend Google.
“How many thoughts does the average human have in a day?”
While I had expected to see something closer to 60,000 thoughts per day as many of the self-help gurus and positive thinking advocates espouse like a carnival barker on a sunny Sunday, what I found was the results of this study published in 2020 that gave me the 6,200 number.
Much of the work that I do in my speaking, writing and coaching practice speaks to the importance of heart over head so naturally my brain definitively linked these two statistics to support my hypothesis.
Our heart has more output than our brains have thoughts!
Now I suspect there is no scientific correlation between the two and I am equally sure I will not be earning my PhD at Queens University any time soon for this comparison. It is however an interesting thought (1 of 6,200) to consider. It also makes it a little more fun to discuss doesn’t it? I think so. So let’s expand on this a little.
How often do we listen to the drivel that our mind spews and how often do we ignore the love, passion, courage, empathy, compassion that is born of the heart?
While this discovery of mine may not be the compelling evidence that you need in order to make the decision to follow your heart more often, perhaps it will cause you to take pause and reflect on how often you unquestioningly follow head over heart.
Now I am not suggesting that heart is always superior to heart. There are certainly times where we need to pay more attention to our head than to our heart but in my, now 52 years on the planet I have observed far more adherence to head than to heart when it comes to decision making. We seem to believe that if something (ideas we have) originate in the head and are vetted by the head that somehow they must be the better choice. For most, we believe that decisions are a function of cognition. We believe that it is our rational brain that ultimately determines the path we take, the direction that we follow.
We feel that if we can just take enough time to think it through we will somehow come out on top. Despite much evidence to the contrary we stick to the fallacy that our rational minds know the way. That our logical brains will support us in seeking the kind of life we want to live. Yet far too often it is our rational brains that put us in the muck.
I mean think of the last time you ignored your heart, the last time you ignored your gut, your intuition. How did that work out for you?
We have this societal propensity to ignore our gut (our heart) and think our way through life’s challenges. I first started exploring the impact that affect (feeling) has on behaviour as a young sales person. In my quest to be one of the best I realized that in order to influence my customers’ decision to buy from me I needed to reach them on an emotional level. Let’s face it, it is never the thing that we choose to purchase. It is the feeling we believe that thing will give us.
I could share scores of examples with you but the reality is that how we feel shapes our cognition. Our heart shapes our thoughts. To try and separate the two is foolhardy at best and downright dangerous at worst.
It is this concept (we make decisions on the foundation of emotion) that drives the work that I do today in my quest to help men become the best versions of themselves possible. I teach men to find a deeper connection with self in order to find clarity and purpose. To be intentional about the life they want to live and the decisions that they make along the way.
If you have followed me and know my story you will have a deep appreciation for the impact this can have on all of us. The man that murdered my girlfriend in 2015 likely thought he was a rational, logical human being. Someone who made powerful decisions and took no shit from anyone. I think it is very clear that when he chose to murder the woman he couldn’t have and then chose to take his own life those choices were made out of an emotional response with very little reason attached. He made a decision with very permanent consequences based on a very temporary emotion.
Certainly there is nothing logical about taking someone’s life and then taking your own.
So what can we learn from the fact that our heart is powerful enough to beat 115,000 times per day and our brain only manages 5% of that number generating thoughts?
Well it may be a stretch to make a scientific correlation but for me these random bits of trivia that somehow find ways to bury themselves deep in my psyche. So my hope is that you will hold this little bit of trivia and use it as a reminder for you to summon the courage to question your head more often than you do right now. That it will serve to remind you to listen to your heart. That at a bare minimum you will get familiar with what that warrior of an organ has to say.
For most of us men listening to our heart is a very difficult thing to do. We have been programmed for centuries that listening to our heart makes us weak. That men are logical creatures that make decisions based on facts and reason. As a guy that likes to understand the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ I started to research this when the truism “We buy on emotion, justified by logic” was embedded in me by sales trainers and top performers alike. One of the first scientists I came across who has done work in this area. Dr. Antonio Demasio, a Portuguese Neuroscientist who wrote a book called Descartes Error. In that book he talks about “Emotion is the edifice upon which reason is built.”
So I will say again… and again, and again, and again, as I have so many times before.
If we don’t understand the underlying emotions that drive the decisions we make we have absolutely zero chance of living a fully awakened and purposeful existence.
I promise you this men, if you want to be more, have more, achieve more you will absolutely need to feel more. If you want to find your purpose start with your heart not your head. Put the head on mute for a few minutes and go exploring. Let me know what you discover.
Amazing that even a cluttered mind’s thoughts doesn’t even come close to the number of times a heart beats every day. Things that make you go “hmmmmm”!