By Stephanie Sullivan
Let me ask you an important question: are you living a congruent life? Are you wondering what that means? Great question! I certainly thought I knew what it meant. And, until recently, I had always considered myself to be someone living in congruency, as I had defined that as being the same, consistent person in different situations or settings, and also living one of my core values, integrity (doing what you say, saying what you mean, being truthful, etc.). Indeed, one definition of congruent is being a mirror image of one’s self. I thought that I must be living a congruent life, given that I am very much a “this is me” and “what you see is what you get and who I am”, open book, no facades type of person. Fortunately, I have never personally struggled with feeling the need to be a different person or version of myself at work than I am at home, or to hide part of myself or my identity (which I don’t want to minimise this, as I know it is a real and serious issue for some people). Sure, living in congruency is about being the same person on the outside as you are on the inside (your authentic self), and being consistent from situation to situation. But, is it more than that?
If you look up the definition of congruency, it says “in agreement; harmony”. In a recent training I attended, I learned that living in congruency also means in terms of agreement or alignment within yourself, between your head and your heart. Oh! Hold on! That’s when the realisation hit me. I had been unintentionally living an incongruent life for many, many years. And, I believe that many people are doing the same, also potentially unaware. Let me explain further.
I had been unintentionally living an incongruent life for many, many years. And, I believe that many people are doing the same, also potentially unaware.
Have you previously heard it mentioned that we have three brains? These three brains are your head (the rational brain), your heart (the emotional brain), and your gut (the intuitive brain). If you are quite a rational person, you probably have a tendency to rely more on your head and logical analysis of pros, cons and probabilities to make decisions, maybe even an overthinker. If you are more of an emotional person, you likely have an inclination to “go with the flow”, be more spontaneous, and make decisions driven mostly by your heart and the way something makes you feel emotionally. If you are more of an intuitive person, you likely have a tendency to make decisions based on your gut or feelings in your stomach, or possibly sensations elsewhere in your body (e.g., a lump in the throat is a common one), or an unexplainable feeling or energy.
Living in congruency is about taking actions and making decisions which are in tune (aware) and aligned with your head, heart and gut. It’s about not placing one above the other, or turning one off completely, or always relying on one over the other, but rather, taking the time and focus to listen to each. Generally speaking, it’s not ideal to be dominated by one over the other. For example, making decisions solely based on your head (ignoring your heart and gut), or vice versa. They all serve a valuable purpose and provide insight for decision making. The true magic happens when they are all aligned, or you leverage the powerful insights that they each contribute to making the best decisions for yourself.
Living in congruency is about taking actions and making decisions which are in tune (aware) and aligned with your head, heart and gut.
Here are some common examples of misalignment between the “three brains”, or you may have heard the terms “internal dissonance” or “cognitive dissonance”, which is the opposite of living in congruency:
- My head says I should stay at a job where I make a lot of money because that is the safe and responsible thing to do, but my heart says I’m hating it, and/or my gut is signalling STRESSED!
- My head says “don’t take the risk”, but heart says “I’m really interested and keen on trying this”
- I’ve been listening to my head for so long, I don’t even know what my heart wants or feels
- In my heart, I know I can do this, but my head is telling me all the potential things that could go wrong.
- I’ve followed a career path that someone else wants for me, instead of what I really want to do, or maybe I haven’t taken the time yet to figure out what I really want to do.
- Everyone thinks this is the right decision, and logically that seems like the case, but my gut is telling me that something just isn’t right about it.
6 Signs Your Head and Heart/Gut Are Not Aligned:
- You are internally conflicted about a decision, or withholding making a decision because you are unsure of what to do, maybe asking everyone else what they think or would do
- You are doing or have what you wanted, however, you are feeling unfulfilled or unhappy
- You’ve lost your joy or excitement about your situation or achievements; other people around you are more excited or proud than you are
- You’re feeling stagnant or unmotivated
- You’re overthinking or overanalysing (instead of “trusting your gut” or “going with your heart”)
- You would struggle to describe what you desire