Heartstorming is brainstorming with the heart (or the emotional part of your brain).
The mental kind of brainstorming is good for generating problem-solving ideas. It’s useful for mapping out the logical space of solutions. Generate lots of ideas, and sift through them to pick the best ones.
That kind of brainstorming, however, is terrible for setting goals and priorities, especially big picture goals for your life.
That’s because you can’t set priorities dispassionately. Goals are emotional in nature. The logical brain doesn’t distinguish between the value of brushing your teeth versus transforming someone’s life. You have to feel your way into priorities.
How do you evaluate options on a brainstorming list? You’ll likely evaluate them based on effectiveness, practicality, or impact – or something along those lines.
To evaluate options on a heartstorming list, look for emotional resonance. Look for passion, excitement, playfulness, love, joy, silliness, connection, scariness, etc. Look for ideas that rile you up and make you want to take action. Look for ideas that might scare or embarrass you. Notice which ideas keep drawing your attention, even if they seem a bit ludicrous.
What if none of your ideas are like that? Then you suck at heartstorming. That’s okay. Lots of people suck at this because many of us are taught a different way of thinking that gets in the way of heartstorming. We learn to silence the voice of our hearts. Big mistake… but we can correct that.
Young children tend to be naturally good at heartstorming. Ask a kid what they want for a gift. Then listen to their answers. Are they brainstorming or heartstorming? You’ll probably see mostly heartstorming, including answers that may be impractical or illogical but which clearly have some emotional resonance.
You probably knew how to do heartstorming when you were very young. Did you lose touch with this skill? Have you forgotten (or overlooked) the value of doing this as an adult? How’s that working out for you?
The Value of Heartstorming
I rely on heartstorming more than brainstorming for making decisions about what to do with my life. I imagine what would be fun, fascinating, courageous, a little bit insane, growth-oriented, social, creative, and so on. I look for emotional resonance. Then I pick something that fascinates me, and I push my brain to get with the program. My brain almost always objects initially – it’s stubborn that way – but the heart is very powerful when it leads.
A brainstormed goals list would include things like making a certain amount of money. That’s boring as hell, Mr. Scrooge. It’s logical, but why should the heart care? It probably doesn’t care. So where will the fire come from? Your motivation to act will probably evaporate as soon as you set a goal like that. Your money goal just makes everyone yawn.
A heartstormed goals list will include weird and wild ideas that you’re afraid to share with other people. But some of these goals will excite your heart anyway. And if you describe them to other people, their brains will likely reject those goals, but their hearts may feel some resonance. And if they’re really in tune with their hearts too, they may even encourage you to go for it.
One of my heartstormed goals is to visit every Disney theme park in the world with my wife. We’ve been to all six USA parks, so we have six left: Paris (2), Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Tokyo (2). Is this a logical goal? Nope! It just sounds like fun. So we’ll probably do it (when it’s safe to do so). We’ve been to Paris twice before, so it would be a simple matter to pick that one up, but this goal will also get us to visit Asia finally.
I especially love that I have a wife who enjoys working on heart-based goals and having heart-based experiences together. That’s a special kind of joy when I can share a wild idea with her, and her reaction is basically, “You had me at hello.”
Heartstormed goals that feel emotionally resonate are easier to act on. Motivation is emotional, so if you lean into the emotional aspects, it’s way easier to flow into action.
What’s also great about heartstormed goals is that because action is easier, you can achieve more goals. Additionally, you’ll pick up some head-based goals that come along for the ride; they’re easier to achieve when you use a heart-first approach.
I like to pick fun and interesting projects that also happen to generate income, as opposed to setting income-based goals. I do my best to make the income-generating parts fun too. One day I earned $30K while spending a day at Disneyland with my wife. Doing an online launch while going to Disneyland isn’t a logical goal, but it is fun and motivating. I enjoy the silliness of it. And oddly it’s easier for me to earn money in ways that are silly or unusual.
Brainstormed goals make your brain lazy. Your brain will come up with the most dreadfully dull and predictable ideas that you probably aren’t going to implement anyway.
But if you assign idea generation to your heart, it will fill up your list with wild and crazy ideas, some of which will indeed be stupid, but others will be fun and worthwhile. The best ideas will challenge your brain to stretch creatively. They’ll expand your conception of what’s possible. They’ll wake you up.
Would you rather earn an extra $30K by slaving away at some corporate job for however long that takes? If so, keep generating ideas from your headspace. For the heart, earning an extra $30K is a fun and silly goal – pretty easy when you’re motivated and creative.
Would you rather put your heart in charge of your project choices and demand more from your brain? Why the hell can’t you earn $30K in a day while going in rides at Disneyland? And do this with your best friend and lover that you enjoy spending time with? Create fun memories together, and get paid for the experience. With the heart there’s no compromise. You get enjoyment and results. You get a full, rich, and balanced life.
The logical brain generates embarrassingly crappy priorities – so uncreative, unambitious, and uninspiring.
When you do heartstorming, you’ll probably be laughing and crying along the way. Sometimes you’ll get scared by an idea. You should FEEL something as you generate ideas. The emotion should get stronger as you dive deeper into heartspace.
How to Heartstorm
Give this a try. It’s very easy, but it does take practice.
Open a new page in your journal. Write at the top what kind of list you want to make. Then start typing or writing ideas. But instead of focusing on your brain to generate ideas, put your attention on your heart. Go into your heartspace, and listen from there. Invite your emotions to speak. Tell your logical brain to shut up for a while. Invite your heart to generate ideas.
Pretend you’re four years old again. You can do this. It’s a no-brainer.
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