On the Power of Inner Coherence

Stephen Covey reports in his book The 8th Habit (2004) that controlled double-blind scientific laboratory studies ‘are producing increasing evidence of the close relationship between body (physical), mind (thinking) and heart (feeling).’

—Stephen R. Covey, The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness, London: Simon & Schuster, 2004, 51

Before I go more into detail using the original research report, let me outline here the quite far-reaching conclusions that Dr. Covey drew from it, calling it our four intelligences:

  • Our physical intelligence (PQ);
  • Our Mental Intelligence (IQ);
  • Our Emotional Intelligence (EQ);
  • Our Spiritual Intelligence (SQ).

The IQ is our classical intelligence concept as affirmed by psychology and early brain research. It was widened in the 1970s by the understanding of ‘emotional intelligence’ or EQ.

—See for example Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence, New York, Bantam Books, 1995

Goleman writes in one of his later books, summarizing his many years of research on emotional intelligence that ‘for star performance in all jobs, in every field, emotional competence is twice as important as purely cognitive abilities.’

—Daniel Goleman, Working with Emotional Intelligence, New York: Bantam Books, 1998, 31

The intelligence of our body, namely our gut, and our spiritual intelligence have however been discovered more recently only. Doc Childre and Bruce Cryer write in their research report:

The human body is an incredible system — roughly 7 trillion cells with a mind-boggling level of physical and biochemical coordination necessary just to turn a page, cough, or drive a car. When you consider how little of it you have to think about, it becomes even more amazing. When was the last time you reminded your heart to beat, your lungs to expand and contract, or your digestive organs to secrete just the right chemicals at just the right time? These and a myriad of other processes are handled unconsciously for us every moment we live. Intelligence manages the whole system, much of it unconscious.

The notion that intelligence is a purely cerebral, aloof activity uncontaminated and unaffected by emotions has been shown in this and much other recent research to be an outdated and misguided myth.

—Doc Childre & Bruce Cryer, From Chaos to Coherence: The Power to Change Performance, Boulder Creek, CA: Planetary Publishing, 2004, 27–28, and 33

In my own words, I would express this truth with the statement that self-regulation is built in our body and mind system, and that peak performance is a result of inner peace.

These scientists have termed the inner state that is conducive to success ‘inner coherence.’ Based on this insight, they are talking about the need for inner leadership and internal self-management as the starting point of all highly effective leadership. This revolutionary research confirmed what mystics already knew under the oldest of traditions, namely that the world is an ‘internally created phenomenon.’ We all live in a different world after all for we take the inputs received through our senses and process that sensory data through our mental setup, our beliefs and out emotions to create what each of us experiences as ‘the world out there.’ The authors write in their report:

Creativity, decision-making, health and well-being all improve when mind and emotions are coherent and relatively noise-free.

—Doc Childre & Bruce Cryer, From Chaos to Coherence: The Power to Change Performance, Boulder Creek, CA: Planetary Publishing, 2004, 3

From my several years of work experience as a corporate trainer in South-East Asia, I know that today organizations not just in Asia but everywhere in the world are challenged at a very high level. The mechanistic management solutions most executives have learnt and believed in are not working any more because they disregarded the human element, which means the human being that has also an irrational side, and is emotional, rather than an always rational robot. Under the old leadership paradigm and before globalization, this was still quite workable, but with the networked world economy and the relocation of producing markets to virtually everywhere on the globe, the old model proves to be increasingly insufficient. It is not surprising, then, that the authors summarize their research in these alarming terms:

In an age of chaos, emotional management or mismanagement is more important in determining the long-term success of an organization than product success or process improvements. This is as true of start-up firms that experience rapid success but are unprepared for its operational realities as it is for the massive older organization or institution affected by large-scale emotional turmoil and malaise of its workforce. It is also true that 80% of the Fortune 500 companies of 1970 have disappeared off the list.

—Doc Childre & Bruce Cryer, From Chaos to Coherence, 34

This is why the individual learning experience assumes such a great importance. When executives and workers in a company are left alone to self-manage their emotions and learn new knowledge, they will fall back on old memories, those namely they had in school or even earlier.

Without conscious thought or choice, a person often avoids learning environments and challenges because of unpleasant feelings imbedded in neural tracks in our brains during earlier learning experiences.

—Doc Childre & Bruce Cryer, From Chaos to Coherence, 34–35

What this research also revealed is that the cognitive capacities of employees become far more sharp and effective as emotions become balanced, understood and integrated. If organizations continue to leave people alone and without professional support in handling their emotional conflicts and challenges, or believe that it’s enough to have a psychologist in the house, they will not be able to help their staff handle the enormous stress that today is part of organizational life everywhere on the globe. Abundant research delivered the proof that millions of people today are maladapted to handle the stress of life in our modern consumer societies, both at work and at home.

—See, for example, Hans Selye, The Stress of Life, Revised Edition, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1978/1984, with many references

Hans Selye was the first researcher who found that not all forms of stress are harmful. He even asserted that some basic level of stress is needed for advancing in life; in other words, our emotional system can cope with stress if stress levels remain within reasonable boundaries. According to HeartMath® research it depends on the person’s ability to handle their individual ‘stress response.’ In so doing, a person skilled in self-management can actually take stress as an opportunity for personal growth. Thus chaos is not the problem; but how long we need to build inner coherence.

Research in emotional intelligence has shown that the most successful people in life are the ones who have learned to manage their emotional reactiveness, neutralizing or transforming negative emotions in the process of gaining a new richness of experience.

—Doc Childre & Bruce Cryer, From Chaos to Coherence, 43–44

This research also demonstrated that when the electrical patterns of the brain synchronize with the rhythmic patterns of the heart people operate with greater physiological coherence, resulting in increased conscious awareness and greater intelligence.

The ability to self-generate feelings such as care, appreciation, and compassion is key to greater brain efficiency, enhanced learning, and a more emotionally balanced life. This is one reason why heart intelligence is such a powerful metaphor for increasing personal and organizational effectiveness.

—Doc Childre & Bruce Cryer, From Chaos to Coherence, 45–46

One of the most cutting-edge findings of this research is that, contrary to more traditional neuroscience, people can learn to ‘rewire’ maladapted neural tracks that inhibit learning, growth, and emotional maturity that are necessary for achieving success. The brain has showed to have an enormous plasticity for those processes of rewiring neural networks and change preferred pathways that were laid down in early childhood. This fact opens enormous possibilities for assisting employees with professional mind and brain changing tools targeting at not only boosting their performance level but changing their self-understanding in virtually limitless ways. We need, as a society, and even more so, as an employer, to stop blaming our emotional nature for mismanaged emotions and start to see the heart for what it is — the source of our core power intelligence.

This is so much the more important as, although the heart and brain each radiate electrical frequencies, the amplitude of the heart’s signal is 40 to 60 times stronger than that of the brain!

A mind or organization without heart is scattered, impulsive, and easily distracted. Emotions and organizations without the intelligent balance that comes from the heart create flash fires of instability and waste, causing people to stay locked in self-justified mental loops, missing a heart intelligent perspective that could offer deeper understanding. Incoherences rules. People leave. Groups operating only on instinct arising from gut feelings and often based in fear stay constrained in modalities that imprison the spirit and age prematurely. The heart puts first things first, from the 7 trillion cells it nourishes to the life it sustains to the vitality it ensures — intuitive, intelligent, businesslike; core, fundamental; the first priority.

—Doc Childre & Bruce Cryer, From Chaos to Coherence, 51, 55

The results measured after implementing this research are staggering. They included reductions of 65% in tension, 87% in fatigue, 65% in anger, and 44% in intentions to leave the company.

The Mandarin Oriental Hotel in San Francisco was one of the first organizations that setup a program inspired by the HeartMath® research. But even before, the hotel won many awards for its consistency in providing exceptional value and service to its guests since opening in the late 1980s. Internal Quality Management (IQM), which is a self-management program was instituted at all level of the hotel staff to help ensure a high level of balance of personal and professional effectiveness.


Childre, Doc & Cryer, Bruce, From Chaos to Coherence: The Power to Change Performance, Boulder Creek, CA: Planetary Publishing, 2004

Covey, Stephen R., The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness, London: Simon & Schuster, 2004

Goleman, Daniel, Emotional Intelligence, New York, Bantam Books, 1995

Goleman, Daniel, Working with Emotional Intelligence, New York: Bantam Books, 1998

Selye, Hans, The Stress of Life, Revised Edition, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1978/1984

Video Presentations


Howard Martin, Heart Mastery