The Business of Heart-Based Living
Harnessing the Intelligence of the Heart

by Howard Martin, HeartMath LLC

In the last few years, more people than ever -- from different backgrounds and walks of life -- are talking about the heart. More company mission statements make a point to mention the importance of the heart in leadership and customer care. More speakers, articles and books (both spiritual and non-spiritual) are referring to the heart.

Whether people mention speaking from the heart, listening to the heart, connecting with the heart or following the heart, it is a clear sign that there is increased energetic awareness of the importance of the heart in all of life's deci-sions.

As a result, a new understanding of "heart" is emerging -- one that moves the view of heart past a philosophical, often soft characterization into the embodiment of a dynamic, new intelligence. The intelligence of the heart encompasses physical, emotional and energetic/spiritual aspects of heart, essential for providing the intuitive guidance needed to navigate life and experience wholeness and fulfillment. Bringing the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects into coherent alignment leads to a new way of perceiving, acting, reacting and relating -- which is called heart-based living.

Heart-based living refers to all intentions and actions that express qualities of the heart in daily life. These heart qualities or core heart values can include appreciating or caring for others, expressing kindness to those around you, volunteering to work with others to relieve suffering and caring for the planet. Heart-based living allows us to experience less self-centeredness and separation, less judgment, more intuitive discernment, a sense of connection and more genuine fulfillment.

For the last seventeen years, the HeartMath institute has been exploring the power of the heart physically, emotionally and spiritually. It all started from our desire to become better people and to find ways to live a life that was more balanced, caring and fulfilling. Many good things have been accomplished along the way and we've learned a lot about what heart-based living is and what it can lead to.

Our research team has mapped out the communication pathways by which the physical heart creates changes in the brain and the rest of the body and their work has been published in many respected scientific journals. Our training programs have reached hundreds of thousands of people on four continents in a wide variety of organizations including schools and universities, fortune 100 companies, government agencies and health care institutions.

In essence we've created a roadmap for heart-based living and the educational resources to achieve it. To share our work with others we've also developed a business model based on utilizing the intelligence of the heart to make decisions big and small. This of course is an on-going process that requires constant refinement but for us heart-based business principles are at the forefront of everything we do.

Heart-Centered Customer Care

Developing the various aspects of heart-based living provides a framework for creating exceptional companies that can grow and prosper in today's competitive environment. Creating long-term business success in today's market place requires a new level of customer care.

Most business owners know caring for the customer should be a priority, but what does that mean? When it comes to creating a caring, customer-centric experience the bar has been raised, and here's why. In many cases similar products and services can be purchased from a wide variety of sources. We can buy most consumer goods from different kinds of retailers ranging from outlet malls to high-end boutique shops. Then there are the multitude of online e-tailers offering huge selections, free shipping and often lower prices. Throw in catalogs, TV offers and direct mail solicitation and you've got a lot of options when you are looking for that new mattress, pair of shoes, furniture, health care products, etc.

Price and good service are of course important buying decision factors. However, more than ever people are looking for something special and unique when making a decision on where to purchase. People are expecting more than a good deal. They are choosing to spend their money with exceptional companies that relate in some way to their core values.

Cultivating the Heart in Business

Discriminating people want to feel cared for, included and connected in some way -- all aspects of heart-based living. Companies and businesses that can authentically demonstrate qualities of heart-based living -- such as positioning around giving not just receiving, demonstrating extraordinary care (going the extra mile for customers), listening openly to feedback and bringing a genuine, demonstrable sense of integrity and fairness to the forefront of all business activities -- will attract customers and retain them. It may even turn those customers into evangelists.

Of course, business is still business -- a monetary exchange that creates profit. This fundamental aspect of business doesn't have to change. When we creatively engineer the execution of our business activities to reflect the intelligence of the heart, it not only gives us a competitive advantage, it feels a whole lot better to everyone involved.

Creating a heart-based business often requires change -- new attitudes, new policies, different marketing messaging, etc. Learning how to develop the heart's intelligence for clear decision making, strategic thinking, reducing unnecessary stress, managing overload, improving communication/relationships and igniting passion are important aspects of creating the baseline for heart-based business.

This process starts with the owners of the business and then must be infused into the entire organization. This is not necessarily easy but with proper tools and sincere practice change can come quickly as well as the rewards that come from doing business from the heart. As a new understanding of heart is emerging, the paradigm is shifting from an ambition-driven, self-centered approach to life and business to one that is more balanced, cooperative and fulfilling. It's an exciting time to be alive -- and in business!

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