Unlocking Clear Decision-Making: The Power of Head, Heart & Gut

Do you ever have trouble making decisions at work? Maybe you feel overwhelmed by the constant pressure to deliver immediate results while also planning for the long term? Or perhaps you find yourself drowning in information, unable to sift through endless data and opinions to find a clear path forward? Or maybe sometimes you find yourself with “analysis paralysis”, unable to commit to a decision because of a fear of making the wrong choice?

You’re not alone. Many leaders struggle with balancing short-term demands with long-term strategy, dealing with information overload, and the fear of choosing the wrong option. The pressure to deliver immediate results, coupled with the constant influx of data and opinions, can leave even the most experienced leaders feeling overwhelmed and indecisive.

Let me teach you a powerful decision-making process that integrates clear cognition, emotional intelligence, and intuition: the Head Heart Gut approach. This method helps you balance your rational thoughts, heartfelt intentions, and intuitive insights, leading to well-rounded and confident decisions.

I felt inspired to share this powerful tool after teaching it today to Michaela, one of my coaching clients, and seeing the immediate impact it had on her mental clarity.

I’m confident that many of you will resonate with her story, and I think it will unlock greater clarity and confidence in your own decision-making process.

Michaela was facing significant challenges in making decisions, both professionally and personally. This indecision was affecting her effectiveness as a leader. In our session, we focused on a critical business decision she needed to make.

Michaela’s company was considering expanding into a new market. However, she was torn between seizing the opportunity and the potential risks involved. She had been going back and forth, unable to make a clear decision. In the beginning of our session I observed her going round and round in her head, trying to work out the solution – but getting nowhere.

Michaela has a strong problem-solving mindset, often pushing herself to make quick decisions. Sometimes this worked out really well – but it was clear that this approach was not serving her well in this instance.

This is something I can relate to personally. I also tend to get caught in my head when making decisions, carefully evaluating all possible outcomes. This can be helpful at times as it helps avoid problems, but can at times mean I end up going round and round, having difficulty committing to a single course of action. This “analysis paralysis” has at times meant that I have taken too long to make decisions. The main costs of this are slow progress and a low level anxiety as I keep putting off taking action.

To help Michaela gain clarity, I introduced her to the Head Heart Gut decision-making process – a powerful method that integrates cognitive analysis, emotional intelligence, and intuition. I learned this process at a self-development retreat about 10 years ago and have used it ever since, as it has been a total game-changer for me. It has helped me listen deeply to myself, tapping into the wisdom of my body, which helps quieten my mind and provides me with information that my mind alone can never “figure out”.

Because it’s so powerful, I regularly teach this simple but effective tool to my coaching clients. It always unlocks greater certainty and ease in their decision making.

The Head Heart Gut process

Step 1: Clear the mind

We began with a couple of minutes of meditation to help quieten Michaela’s mind. This step is crucial as it allowed her to step back from the jumble of thoughts and cultivate greater mental clarity. 

Mindfulness meditation is so powerful because it enhances a vital quality called “metacognition”. This term literally means “thinking about thinking”, but when cultivated with mindfulness, it actually means something more like “awareness of what is happening in your mind”. This enhanced awareness will give you a sense of being able to step back from your thoughts so you can see them more clearly.

This first step gave Michaela a clearer perspective on the situation she was facing. She was then able to start identifying the assumptions and judgments clouding her decision, in turn empowering her to see more clearly what was actually required – beyond her own fears, desires and fixed mindsets.

Step 2: Connect with the heart

But the beautiful thing about the Head Heart Gut process is that it doesn’t just rely on the rational mind. It taps into the body and the wealth of information that resides there.

To do this, I next guided Michaela to connect with her heart. I started by literally asking her to bring her attention down into her chest area and focus on her breath there for a short time. Once she was able to do this, I invited her to connect with her heart – in whatever way that made sense for her. 

This helped her tap into her sense of compassion and genuine care for her team and the long-term vision for her company. I deepened this by inviting her to consider what felt right in her heart when she took her needs, the needs of her team, and those of her company into consideration, all at once. By connecting with her heart, she could see beyond immediate concerns and focus on what would truly benefit her employees and organisation in the long run.

The heart is often thought of merely as a pump that circulates blood throughout the body, but emerging research in neuroscience reveals that it is also a significant source of information that can influence decision-making processes. The heart’s neural network, often termed the “heart brain,” contains approximately 40,000 neurons that allow it to process and send information independently of the central nervous system (for reference, the brain has around 100 billion neurons). Research has shown that the heart communicates with the brain, influencing emotional processing and cognitive functions. 

Step 3: Tune into the gut

Finally, we focused on Michaela’s gut, the seat of intuition. As she took deep breaths and tuned into her gut feelings, she began to get a sense of what felt like the best next step. Her intuition was that while the new market had potential, it might not align with the company’s core strengths and values at this moment.

Like the heart, the gut profoundly influences our intuition and decision-making. With around 100 million neurons, our “gut brain” communicates with the brain via the vagus nerve, impacting emotional regulation and cognition. Studies show that it produces over 30 neurotransmitters, including serotonin, essential for mood regulation. This is why we often refer to having a “gut sense” of things. We can literally receive information that augments our conscious processing – if we are listening.

Step 4: Integrated decision making

Finally, I invited Michaela to consider the decision using all three centres – head, heart and gut. Once she had access to the information coming from each, she immediately found a clear path forward. She told me, with palpable relief, that she realised that the expansion might be premature and that it would be wiser to strengthen the company’s current market position first.

To test this further, I asked her to quickly tune in to her head, heart and gut again and see if they all felt in agreement with this decision. 

If they hadn’t, I would have next asked whichever area(s) was not in agreement – and what it would need to be fully on board with the decision. For example, perhaps her gut might have expressed fear about never moving into the new market. If this had been the case, I would have encouraged Michaela to mediate a negotiation between her gut and her head/heart, acknowledging this fear and finding an agreement that her gut would be happy with – such as setting timelines around the process.

In Michaela’s case, however, all three areas were in agreement, which was a sign that she had truly listened to their wisdom. It also meant that she was easily able to action the decision once she got back to work.

Applying the process to your own leadership

This process can be applied to any decision, whether it’s a strategic business move or something as simple as what to eat for lunch. In fact, the more you practise this with simple decisions, the easier it will be to apply with the higher-stakes ones.

Here’s how you can use it:

  1. Clear your mind: Take a few minutes to meditate or practise deep breathing. This helps quiet the mental clutter and brings clarity.
  2. Connect with your heart: Reflect on your deeper intentions and the people involved. What does your heart tell you about the best course of action?
  3. Consider your gut sense: Listen to your intuition. What feels right on a gut level? What gives you a sense of ease or unease?

After going through these steps, bring everything back to the level of cognitive analysis. Because you’ve grounded yourself in your body, you’ll find your thoughts are clearer. Plus, you will have more comprehensive information to make a well-rounded decision.

The power of holistic decision-making

The Head Heart Gut approach is so effective because it helps you move beyond purely analytical thinking and tap into a more holistic understanding of the situation. This leads to decisions that are not only strategically sound but also aligned with your values and intuition.

If you’re facing challenges with decision-making – or any other aspect of performance and leadership – and want to explore how coaching can help you unlock your potential, click here to book a free discovery call

Head Heart Gut decision making is just one of many powerful techniques I teach my clients. Let me transform your approach to challenges in all areas of your professional life.