When I talk about HEART and explain the five checkpoints, the first question I usually get is: how often do I practice using them?
The answer is: not as often as I should.
Allow me to illustrate my point with a story:
The other morning, I got out of bed and said my back hurt. This isn’t the first time I’ve said this recently—my back has been hurting for a week, and I’ve been vocal about it. My daughter, who was nearby, made a quick prescription: “You need to go to the chiropractor today, Mom.” Even though my back had been hurting for days, there was just something about hearing a ten-year-old prescribe a solution that made me stop and check myself.
If I’d heard anyone else say their back had been hurting for a week, I would’ve told them the same thing she told me: go to the chiropractor. So why hadn’t I scheduled an appointment for myself?
“You know what? You’re right,” I told her, mentally committing to make it happen.
A few minutes later, I was in the kitchen making my morning coffee and thinking about this conversation. I wondered: how long has it been since I did a HEART check? I moved over to the refrigerator to fill up my YETI with ice (the same one I used yesterday!) and didn’t bother washing it first because I needed to get to the next thing on my list. I realized then, how busy I’ve been lately.
Earlier this year, I’d been so discouraged about work, but this fall, it has seemed like we are finding our stride. Instead of dreading every work-related task and meeting, as I did in the spring, I’m excited every week when it’s time to log on to our team meeting. Every week, as we work together to craft that week’s edition of the English Edit and finalize our blog posts for the week, I feel energized. The more we find our rhythm—setting weekly goals, organizing the calendar, bouncing ideas off each other—the more I’m tempted to jump headfirst into work first thing each morning.
As soon as this thought crossed my mind, a warning bell flashed through my mind. This mindset, this magnetic pull to do more of the things that fire you up, is EXACTLY what I caution people against in my book. Work, when exciting, can suck you in. If you’re not careful, human nature (aka, greed) will blind you to your needs: your physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and relational needs.
I’ve done the HEART check-in enough times that I didn’t need to walk through the five checkpoints to figure out what was wrong. Checking in with HEART has become almost second-nature. It took me longer to write this than it did to think through it, but if I had stopped to do a formal HEART assessment, it would have looked like this:
· Help Myself: How do I need to take care of myself physically? Go to the chiropractor.
· Empower Myself: What are my emotional, intellectual, and spiritual needs? This checkpoint is all about what I’m consuming, or what I need to consume to keep my mindset in the right place. A good book and a sermon podcast.
· All My People: What are my relational needs? My family comes first in this category. What do they need from me and what do I need from them? We need quality time together, and we already have a family dinner on the calendar for tonight, check!
· Resources and Responsibilities: This is the stuff and things category. Oil changes and air filters. AKA, adulting. Am I stewarding my finances and possessions wisely? With a remodel going on, the to-do list is long! If I meet in with David on a few projects, I can put a check mark on this category and move on.
· Trade and Talent: This is the work and career category. Am I using my gifts, talents, strengths, and abilities to their best advantage? In short, YES, but warning sign: work is consuming all my time lately!
The thing is, I didn’t even need to run through the last four letters to know what was wrong. In this case, H was the category smarting with need. Not taking care of messed-up back impacts every other checkpoint on the list. If I’m not feeling my best physically, I can’t give the best of myself to anything else, including my work.
When HEART goes wrong, when things get out of balance, the cause is usually something unobtrusive. Like all slippery slopes, we have to be attentive to notice if we start sliding down. Work picks up, a full calendar means the bills are piling up because you haven’t had time to sit down and deal with them, but you’re not sleeping well, so sluggishness plagues your day. You don’t realize this little glitch affects more than just your work, the unopened mail, or your sleep habits. But everything is connected—you know that.
The best way to get it all back into order is to practice doing a HEART check-in daily. The HEART check-in helps you realign your vision, focus, and actions. It helps you not only get to where you want to go, but also where you need to go, where you were designed to go.
Okay, quick recap, just to make sure you’re with me.
· Physical pain was the trigger.
· This reminded me to do a HEART check.
· I realized I needed to practice physical self-care.
So, what do I need to do next? You’ll be happy to know that I saw a chiropractor that afternoon. Sure, it would have been easy to push an adjustment in favor of meeting a deadline, running an errand, or something else on my list, but I know from experience that not taking care of these little things eventually throws everything out of alignment in a big way (pardon the pun).
What do I do with the other stuff on my HEART list? Answer: Nothing, right now. The important thing is that I paid attention to the trigger instead of ignoring it. I need to take care of my body first. If I’ve used my HEART notepad to do the check-in, I’ve got everything else written down. Now I can weave in anything else that came up during my HEART check on the coming days to-do lists. If I tried to stop and do everything at once—that would also throw my life off balance. Progress counts, no matter how small!
Do you have any other questions about HEART check-ins? What’s the thing that triggers your life out of balance? Leave a comment and let me know!