Highly Sensitive Refuge
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How to Achieve Your Goals as an HSP Using the Mind-Body-Heart System

Western society encourages us to decide with the Mind and ignore feedback from the rest of the system.

Success starts with a goal. Goals are followed by decisions. Decisions are followed by actions. Actions lead to success.

Logically, it’s simple. But what differentiates those actions that lead to success versus those that don’t? 

Think about a time when you reallllllyyyyy wanted something, yet somehow, halfway through, you got stuck and started procrastinating and self-sabotaging your way out of it. And how about another time when achieving your goal went smoothly, and you got there successfully, while also feeling empowered and enthusiastic?

What is the key difference that determines whether our actions succeed or fail? 

If we take it one step further, what is the key difference that determines whether achieving our goals is a stressful and painful experience, or easy and fun? 

As highly sensitive people (HSPs), we experience everything more deeply — our successes, and especially our failures. While they all have a purpose, is there a secret ingredient that can increase our success rate?

I’d like to introduce you to one ingredient that’s particularly relevant to HSPs: I call it the Mind-Body-Heart System.

What Is the Mind-Body-Heart System? 

Well, as the name suggests, it’s a system. Like any system, it implies that it has multiple parts that need to work together. If there is a disconnect between certain parts, the system won’t function correctly. 

Imagine the Mind-Body-Heart System as a car. A car contains several elements it needs to succeed in achieving its goal (to drive you from where you are to where you want to be). In the same way, the Mind-Body-Heart system needs to work together to get us from where we are to where we want to be.

Think of the Mind as the controls of the car (pedals and steering wheel). The controls are necessary to drive. Without controls, we wouldn’t be able to decide how fast to go, when to slow down, brake, or turn. If a car was being driven with no controls for speed or turning, it would be unsafe and crash.

The Mind also notices signals from the car, like when it’s running out of fuel, or if a light is flashing on the control panel to indicate that something is wrong. The Mind is in charge of taking action and putting the wheels in motion, and to keep us safe while driving. 

Our Body is the engine of the car. The engine is the internal mechanism that actually makes the car function. Without an engine, a car wouldn’t exist. The engine also tells us when something might be wrong. When we drive the car correctly, it “purrs.” But when we drive too fast, the engine will make a noise to warn us that we’re pushing it too hard, or it might show other symptoms to indicate that something isn’t working as intended.

Think of the Heart as the ignition of the car. If we try to drive without igniting the car, we can have the perfect engine and controls, but all our efforts will be in vain, because we’re not moving forward. The Heart is what starts the engine and allows the controls to work. Without igniting the Heart, we can steer and push all we want, but if our Heart isn’t in it, we won’t get anywhere.

These three parts must work together. If one part doesn’t function correctly, this might impact when we complete our journey, how we complete our journey — and whether we complete it at all! 

Why the Mind-Body-Heart System Is Important

As a Western society, we are encouraged to decide with our Mind, but we’re not as good at checking the rest of the system to make sure it will get us from A to B successfully. We’re taught to “think logically,” “make a list of pros and cons,” “stop being so emotional” and “stop thinking with our hearts.” 

As HSPs, we are deep feelers, but often these repetitive messages about approaching our goals logically force us to change our thinking — so we disconnect from the feedback we get from our heart and our body. Our heart decides whether we are enthusiastic and motivated to achieve our goals, or if we dread achieving them. If our heart is not in it, it will send us messages in the form of strong emotions, or communicate with our body to express them as physical symptoms. When our heart is on board, the other parts are driven by enthusiasm, passion, and motivation. 

It’s been proven that strong emotions (and especially traumatic ones) are stored in the body, and as HSPs, we tend to be aware very quickly when something is happening in our body.

In Western society, there is a preference to numb physical symptoms with pills. There are pills for every symptom you can think of — and even for symptoms you didn’t even realize you had.

But as highly intuitive people, we understand that symptoms can have a deeper meaning. There is a reason we are experiencing physical sensations, and they are trying to show us something. Our body is a powerful source of feedback, and it communicates to us through symptoms.

Even though these parts work as a system, they are each equally important, however, we usually have a preference to use one part of the system more predominantly.

Think about how you go about achieving your goals: How would you rank the Mind, Heart, and Body in the order of your preference? Do you tend to default to one part?

If you want to achieve your goals, this trinity has to work in balance.

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A Practical Exercise 

So, how do we create balance in the Mind-Body-Heart System and increase our odds of success?

Think of a specific goal you want to achieve. It could be to eat healthy food, lose weight, interview for your dream job, or be more assertive at work. Grab a pen and a piece of paper, sit in your comfortable chair or sofa, grab your pet for cuddles, and start writing.

Whatever your goal is, take it through these filters to do the necessary checks before you start driving toward your goal.

Mind:

  • What thoughts come up as a counter-argument to this decision? 
  • What reassurance does my mind need to support me in taking this action?
  • When have I previously done something out of my comfort zone and was successful?
  • What actions/plan do I need to put in place to maximize the potential for success?
  • What obstacles could get in the way?
  • What needs to happen for me to overcome obstacles?

Heart: 

  • What does my heart say about this goal?
  • How do I feel about achieving this goal?
  • If there was no obstacle, what would I do?
  • What emotions come up as I think about this journey?

Body: 

  • What physical sensation do I feel when I think of this decision?
  • Where is this sensation located in my body?
  • What shape, color, temperature, consistency is it?
  • If I observe this shape from a distance and give it some time, what do I notice? 
  • What would my body say to me if it could speak?
  • What needs to happen for my body to be on board with achieving this goal?

As you answer these questions, take a step back and reflect:

Did you notice that answers for a specific part came easier (for example, the Mind), but you struggled to get answers from other parts (the Body)? Know that this is normal, and it shows what you have a preference for. By exercising this muscle of connecting with each part of the system, over time, you will become more proficient in creating internal balance.

Answering questions for a certain part might feel uncomfortable or frustrating. This, too, is normal. We default to the safety of our comfort zone, where everything is familiar. However, if we keep doing the same thing, we will keep getting the same results. Stepping out of our old patterns of self-sabotage requires us to embrace growth — and growth happens outside our comfort zone. Embrace these uncomfortable feelings and take them as a sign that you are growing. 

What have these questions revealed to you? Is one part in disagreement with the others? What do you need to adjust to make sure you can achieve your goals? Sometimes we might think we know where we want to go, but if we ignore the fact that the car doesn’t have enough fuel, we risk being left stranded somewhere. We can protest all we want when a part isn’t on board, but we would do well to consider every piece of information it gives us. 

For most goals, applying the Mind-Body-Heart system and the above exercise will support you in achieving them successfully. As HSPs, many of us are prone to self-criticism and fear of failure. If you have a big goal and don’t know where to start, or if you’re experiencing a loud inner chatter that’s preventing you from focusing on your goals (or even completing the above exercise), I invite you to download my free ebook called “7 tools to coach your inner critic.

This is a deep inner journey to help you understand your inner critic and start your self-empowerment journey so you can achieve the goals you desire.

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