“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and lean not on your own understanding.”
—Proverbs 3:5

Try this: Put your hand on the top of your head. Now move your hand down, across your face, past your mouth and neck, continuing down your torso until it comes to rest on your heart—in the middle of your chest.

How many inches from your head to your heart? Of course for everyone it will be a little different, but it is approximately 17 inches. Maybe an inch less, maybe an inch more, but about 17. And that’s where the “17-Inch Rule” comes in.

It seems to me that being aware of the relationship between our heads and our hearts is essential to our success in life.

When we focus on data, information, facts, process, figures, protocols, rules, policies—all those kinds of things—we say we are “using our heads.” Science, logic, math, technology: these are the hallmarks of our cognitive self.

When we focus on emotions, feelings, intuition, hunches, instincts, relationships, compassion, kindness—all those kind of things—we say we are “following our hearts.” Emotions, spirituality, the arts, love: these are the hallmarks of our affective self.

We need both head and heart—both cognitive and affective.

How do we bring them into alignment with each other? How do we keep the channel between head and heart open? Does our faith in God have any impact on our capacity to balance using our heads and following our hearts? How do we shorten the distance between what we know and what we do?

To be faithful to our mission and calling, we need a 17-inch rule: The essence of maturity and leadership is developing the quiet capacity for listening, focusing, and learning to hear God’s voice—and then with kindness, compassion, and courage following our hearts to do what He asks us to do.