08/01/2013 12:09 pm ET Updated Oct 02, 2013

Is Your Heart in The Right Place?

Do you feel stressed out? You're not alone. Along with today's modern conveniences, stress has become part of our daily lives. Stress affects our judgment, our relationships, our decision-making and our health.

In fact, the negative effects are significant. According to a study by the American Psychological Association and the American Institute of Stress:

  • 77% of interviewees said they regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress
  • 33% reported they are living with extreme stress
  • 48% said that stress has a negative impact on their professional and personal life
  • 54% said that stress has caused them to fight with the people that are close to them

And even though stress may be a residual of winning in this global economy, it is a warning sign that we are veering off course. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association and the American Institute of Stress, stress also significantly impacts the bottom line, with annual employer costs of over $300 billion for stress-related health care and missed work.

This message is clear. We treat business as a military operation in which only the fittest survive. Our quest for victory may be providing us with short-term wins, but the tactics are hurting us long-term -- in ways that we have yet to fully understand.

The truth is that there is an alternative. Heart-based leadership makes it possible to win the battle AND the war.

It's time to shift our mindset, to rediscover ourselves and to reconnect with what's important. It's time to stop striving to win at all costs and to bring heart back into our business. It's time to lead from within and to tap into heart-based leadership that gives us a sense of trust, meaning, purpose and balance.

We are not meant to be machines that work around the clock. We need balance. We must find meaning in what we do and purpose in our long hours.

We have come to think of the heart as something soft and our logical mind as something strong. But the status quo is not sustainable. We must learn to leave behind what the brain expects us to do and rediscover what the heart finds admirable and acceptable.

If the mind speaks of faster, better, leaner, cheaper, the heart tells us to pay attention and slow down.

Our heart is the source of the things we just know, such as our gut feelings and strong intuitive wisdom. When we follow our heart, we make it easier to gain perspective. We can change -- and maybe even quell -- our thinking.

The Age of Meaning

We have transitioned from the Industrial Age to the Information Age -- an age of interconnectedness that has left us feeling disconnected from ourselves. Now it's time for us to enter the Age of Meaning.

Nobody wants to be stressed out, working 24/7 for something that has little value or lasting purpose. If we are looking for meaning and purpose, the first step is to listen to the heart and learn its language.

Heart-based leadership lets us reclaim ownership of our life, freeing us to create new ways to be successful and that serve us better than before. Learning to develop and listen to the wisdom of the heart and translate it into heart-based leadership is the essence of leading from within. It means discovering a fundamentally different way of viewing daily life and leadership in the quest for meaning and purpose. And, most importantly, it doesn't mean surrendering competitiveness. Heart-based leadership is for anyone in the position to influence and inspire others.

To find meaning we must begin to understand how to attain it. If we want to be better leaders, do better work, enjoy better relationships and make our mark wherever we go, we must start with the basics. We begin with ourselves, with trusting the heart enough to regain control of the mind and quieting the mind to make room for the heart.

Here are some starting points:

  • Reconnect with those who are dearest to you. Slow down. Savor the moments of joy and connection.
  • Reflect on where you've come from, where you are, where you want to be.
  • Realign with the things that inspire you and give you energy.

In future columns I'll be writing more about the heart and its wisdom and sharing concrete ways to foster heart-based wisdom in everyday life.

Heart-based leadership benefits our mental, physical and emotional well-being.

Heart-based leadership transforms lives. I invite you to join us on this journey.