As a (former) economist, I set a lot of store by analysis.
Evidence-informed decisions seem to be to be a ‘good thing’.
If we have limited resources and we want to achieve something specific, then why would we not want to maximise the effectiveness of what we do?
Whether this is getting the best value for money accommodation when we go on holiday (my criteria might be the cutest, most stylish and most comfortable place within a certain budget range, yours might be top-end luxury at budget prices, someone else’s might be as far from the madding crowd as possible), or whether it’s how to create the most jobs of or above a certain quality jobs for the resources available (as it was when I worked in government), there’s generally value in paying attention to evidence and data.
Data with Soul?
I’ve just returned from a three-day retreat: “How to maximise the contribution of philanthropy to achieving global sustainable development” (big title, super-fancy venue and lots of lovely, smart, motivated and experienced participants).
The first evening we had a ‘fireside chat’ (by a very real, very grand Tudor fireplace) with two speakers who were allegedly on opposite sides of the heart versus data divide.
The first woman spoke about her crowd-giving platform, about the desire people have to give from an emotional place, because of what they feel and what they want to feel.
When the second speaker spoke, he started with,
“Ah I can see why you put us against each other!”
…and went on to talk about his analytical initiative, curating expert opinion and collating data to explore whether there was a ‘best’ order to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals — were there foundational pieces which would create a domino effect of positive impact if certain ones were tackled first?
I laughed to myself as he spoke because I heard exactly the same message from both of them, I felt exactly the same passion and exactly the same connection with soul.
This Thing Called Soul?
But what is soul? And why is it even relevant?
There’s a passion and purpose that shines through us all and that we can see most clearly when someone feels truly connected with this thing I’m calling ‘soul’.
We can see that thinking and emotions become irrelevant, that they are clear-headed, productive, and in what we might in different circumstances, call ‘being in flow’.
It isn’t always a conscious experience for that person. In fact, it’s usually unconscious — think of the unconditional love you feel when you hold a newborn baby — that’s the feeling that comes when we are connecting with what we know to be true in our soul.
I know that soul can be a tricky word, one that will either resonate with you or that will stir some misgivings. Let’s not get stuck there, let’s call it whatever that sense of being alive is for you — whether you believe that to come from our neuro-biology, the electric circuitry of our brain, our humanity, or something beyond us, the love that we are all made of.
Definitions don’t matter, to me it’s the same thing and it’s something we all have — because it’s what it means to be alive.
That’s what I saw, heard and felt when I listened to those two speakers. And, yet, I wondered whether they saw it in themselves? I suspect not. In fact, I think both of them missed completely the fact that we can’t not connect with our soul, that there is no contradiction in acknowledging that is where we are most true to ourselves, and that it is how we connect with other people beyond prejudice and judgement.
I laughed afterwards as I told the analyst that he’d done a pretty poor job of dehumanising his work, but it was also there in the heart-centred entrepreneur.
She thought it was something to do with feelings and was looking to the effect of our humanity, not the source of it.
And, yet, she knew it was there, as did my new analyst friend, he just thought it was something that was getting in the way of his work, rather than the thing that was creating his impact.
Humanity versus Emotions
You hear me talk a lot about acting regardless of what we think and feel, and I know that can sound as if I’m denying that feelings matter.
There’s a void of difference, though, between acting from our in the moment emotion, which is fickle, unreliable and transient, and acting from our soul, our aliveness and our humanity, which is where truth comes from; it’s constant, steadfast, reliable and loving.
Listen for the Difference
I encourage you to listen for the difference between heart, intellect and soul. To refine your ‘ears’ so that you can tune in to what it means to be human — like you might tune in to a beautiful piece of music. I encourage you to learn to look for the humanity in others — which is always there by the way, no matter how shrouded, to learn to remember it in yourself, and to allow it to guide your work and your life.
That’s how we create the change we want to see in the world.