LEAP! with your HEART

leap collage 2

(Credits: Images above were found on Pinterest and foryouyouyou.com)

When you decide to leap, it has to be a decision of the heart.” –Jackie Bassett

Welcome back to LEAP!, an inspiring interview series featuring women who aren’t afraid to leap in the direction of their wildest dreams.  Hope you had a fabulous summer as you leapt in whatever direction your heart desired:  into a refreshing lake or a warm, salty ocean; into a frozen margarita or a dulce de lece gelato (or both!); into the arms of your loved ones or into the embrace of solitude.  After taking a hiatus in August, I had hoped to launch a new LEAP! interview this month, but a couple spontaneous trips combined with Toots’ birthday celebrations interfered with my writing time.  Starting in October, I’ve lined up a few extraordinary women to share their stories of LEAP-ing and inspire you to do the same.  In the meantime, let’s explore what propels our fearless LEAPers to take that first step towards their dreams… their hearts!

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In my LEAP! interviews with Jackie, Vicki, Rajka, and Cassi, I couldn’t help but notice a common theme: all four proclaimed that their heart led them to LEAP.  All four mentioned how their head often talked them out leaping—how their ideas seemed “crazy,” “impractical,” or even “impossible.” What made perfect sense to their heart didn’t make sense to their head.  Yet they went ahead and listened to their heart, soaring courageously into the unknown in pursuit of an intangible itch, an unmet desire, or a burning passion.  And look how beautifully each one has leapt and where they have landed in their journeys!

Recently, I was reminded (again) of how much easier life is when you let your heart lead the way.  How your head CAN help, but it can also hinder.  For six months, I agonized over a big, huge, life-changing decision: where to send Toots to preschool.  YEP- PRESCHOOL for my THREE year old.  After researching and touring several schools earlier this year, I secured him a place at my top 3 choices and then I spent six months debating which one was the right fit for us.  I say “us” because, not only did I want the best environment for my little dude, but I also wanted to find a school in a convenient location which suited my scheduling needs.  From the moment I started researching schools, I was drawn to one particular school- I loved their educational approach, the new facilities, and the teachers.  I could visualize Toots enjoying himself and thriving in the colorful, Montesorri-inspired environment.  My heart was constantly drawn back to this particular preschool, yet I agonized for MONTHS over this decision.  I wrote pro’s and con’s lists; I drafted schedules; I did multiple drive-by’s, even resorting to driving Toots to each parking lot and asking him, “Is THIS where you want to go to school?”  When I pulled into THE preschool, Toots remembered it from a previous visit and wanted to go inside and play.  I took his response as the final sign I needed, and I withdrew his spot in the other two preschools.  All along I knew in my heart of hearts that he’d end up going to this preschool so WHY did I spend soooo much time and energy contemplating this relatively SIMPLE decision? Really… WHY???????

Because I let my head get in the way.  My head was telling me that the schedule at one of the other schools was better- the later start/end times, the longer hours would better suit my needs.  My head was telling me that my friends sent their kids to the other two preschools, so I should do the same. My head was telling me that, if I sent my child to Preschool A, then he’d be missing out on Preschools B and C.  My head was full of fears for his safety, his health, his future, etc.  Basically, my head was telling me that my heart can’t be trusted to make such decisions…. about PRESCHOOL.  Yeessssss, PRESCHOOL.

I totally get how ridiculous this sounds, and I feel slightly embarrassed that such a basic decision could occupy so much mental space for half of a year.  Maybe a few other mama bears can relate!  But now that I’ve made the decision and Toots has started preschool, I can look back and see it for what it was: just another exercise to reinforce the importance of listening to my heart…. trusting my heart to guide me even when facts and figures point in a different direction….then leaping HEART-first with courage and conviction as my wing-men.

I could share many more stories about leaping head-first vs. heart-first and what I’ve learned through these experiences. When I think about the times that I let my head call the shots at the expense of my heart, I remember the emotional distress I endured as a result: the grief, the melancholy, the disappointment, the desperation, the sheer panic, the anger, the self-hate, the SHAME.. all stemming from the misalignment between heart and head.  Looking back, I know that my greatest, most significant, most transformative, most KICK-ASS leaps happened when I followed my heart… like saying “YES!” to a last-minute assignment in Amsterdam, like starting up a conversation with the cute Dutchie sitting next to me on the plane, like launching a professional women’s network and mentoring ring in the Middle East, like leaving the corporate world behind to start my own coaching business and become a mama.  Oh the JOY that comes from leaping HEART-FIRST!

Perhaps I needed this “preschool” lesson to remind me that, although I’ve made a few “PhD-worthy” leaps in my lifetime, I must practice leaping every single day.  Some days, I need to take baby steps in the direction of my heart, and other days I need make toddler-sized hops across life’s puddles.  These mini-leaps prepare me for when it’s time to make another PhD-level leap.  By practicing the art of leaping heart-first on a daily basis, I’m ready for those life-altering moments when I’m standing on the edge of a cliff with my eyes closed, visualizing where I’m headed, taking a deep breath, and then LEEEAAAAAAPING into the unknown… yet with absolute trust and faith that I will land exactly where my heart wants me to land, exactly where I’m meant to be.

So, with this in mind, let’s start our new “school” year with some journal exercises to tune into our hearts and listen to this inner guidance.  I’ll be posting a weekly journal prompt on my Facebook page through the month of September to help you start this heart-centered dialogue and see where your heart leads you.

Week 1:  Reflect on an example of when you listened to your head (aka your logic) to make a decision and then reflect on an example of when you listened to your heart (aka your intuition or instinct) to make a decision.  What did you learn from these experiences?

Week 2: What tends to guide you in your own decision-making: your head or your heart? How can the two energies complement each other?

Week 3:  What is your heart telling you RIGHT now?  How can you learn to decrease the volume of your head and increase the volume of your heart as you make decisions? How can you learn to trust your heart to guide you?

Week 4: Re-read what your answers to the previous week’s questions.  Identify at least ONE heart-led step you would like to take before the end of September, and then define another step or two you’d like to take in October.  Challenge yourself yet be realistic.

“When it comes to LEAPING, I would say all leaps must come from the heart so listen to what your heart is wanting you to hear.  And trust it.  Always ask for signs and guidance and once you receive it, take a little leap.  If it’s meant to be, the little leap will lead to another leap and you keep following the little leaps until you finally ready to fly.”

-Cassi Christiansen