Home Concepts Best Practices Head-Heart-Gut Approach to Coaching

Head-Heart-Gut Approach to Coaching

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Why would I take a Head-Heart-Gut approach to coaching?

Since the late 1990s I have used a holistic approach – coaching the entirety of my client with the entirety of my being, a “Head-Heart-Gut approach.” I had no name or supporting evidence for this method, I just knew that it was effective and my clients achieved success according to their own definitions of success. Recently scientific research has provided evidence and a structure to support this holistic approach. Research by Michael Gershon began on the gut brain in the late 1940s and became mainstream with the publication of his 1998 book Second Brain.  Research on the heart brain was published in the late 1970s and popularized by Paul Pearsall’s 1998 book Heart Code. Much as the current evidence-based approach to coaching, the holistic approach I used for many years now has an evidence-based framework that I share with my clients and other coaches.

A brain is defined as a complex and adaptive neural network that has memory, intelligence, and control over the decisions we make. Composed of interneurons, neurotransmitters and glial cells, we thus have three brains:  the brain in our head (central nervous system), the one in our heart (cardiac nervous system) and the one in our gut (enteric nervous system).

The importance of this to coaching is:

  1. All three brains (a.k.a. intelligences) need to be accessed and incorporated into the decision-making process. Without the head intelligence, the decision will not have been properly thought through and analyzed. Without the heart intelligence, there will not be sufficient values-driven emotional energy to care enough to act on or prioritize the decision against competing pressures. Without the gut intelligence, there will not be enough attention to managing risks nor enough willpower to mobilize and execute the decision once challenges arise.1
  2. Ensuring that one brain is not being used to do the function of another. Each brain has its own domain of competence and, by definition, is not the most competent in the other prime functions.

“Since the time of the Enlightenment, Western culture has increasingly valued the wisdom of the head-brain – conscious thought and control of thought – over alternative perceptual and integrative systems in the body. The Cartesian formula ‘I think, therefore I am’ is the sort of logical formulation that epitomizes Western thought, which gives the head-brain primacy over other neural systems – brains – that exist in our bodies. Our educational systems reinforce this prejudice…”2

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