What is Heartful or Whole-Hearted Living?

There are three quotes that sum up the meaning of heartful or whole-hearted living for me – two by Pema Chödrön and one by Dr Brené Brown. They are as follows –

  • “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” ~ Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Dr Brené Brown.
  • “If we want there to be peace in the world, we have to be brave enough to soften what is rigid in our hearts, to find the soft spot and stay with it. We have to have that kind of courage and take that kind of responsibility. That’s the true practice of peace.” ~ Pema Chödrön: Practicing Peace in Times of War.
  • “To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again.” ~ Pema Chödrön: When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times.


What is the Definition of Whole-Hearted Living?

Dr Brené Brown defines Wholehearted Living as –

“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid but that doesn’t change the truth that I am worthy of love and belonging.”  (p.10 – Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Dr Brené Brown).


How can we Live Whole-Heartedly?

At the start of the book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Dr Brené Brown refers to 10 Guideposts to Wholehearted Living. These 10 guideposts are what the Wholehearted people “…work to cultivate and what they work to let go of” in their lives (p.9).

In the following video clip Brené discusses wholehearted people as having –

  • a sense of worthiness – they believe they are worthy and know they are enough
  • courage – to tell your story and be yourself
  • compassion – for themselves and others
  • the ability to connect with others
  • practicing gratitude
  • leaning in to joy
  • practicing vulnerability and let themselves be seen and live and love with their whole heart knowing there are no guarantees.


What are the 10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living according to the research by Dr Brené Brown?

They are as follows –

  1. “Cultivating Authenticity: Letting Go of What People Think
  2. Cultivating Self-Compassion: Letting Go of Perfectionism
  3. Cultivating a Resilient Spirit: Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness
  4. Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: Letting Go of Scarcity and Fear of the Dark
  5. Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith: Letting Go of the Need for Certainty
  6. Cultivating Creativity: Letting Go of Comparison
  7. Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth
  8. Cultivating Calm and Still: Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle
  9. Cultivating Meaningful Work: Letting Go of Self-Doubt and “Supposed To”
  10. Cultivating Laughter, Song and Dance: Letting Go of Being Cool and “Always in Control”” (p.9).

One thing I enjoyed about her guideposts, is Brené indicates you cultivate and practice them. If you had to look at your own life, what would you be out of 10?


If you are ready to reclaim your courage and take the next step towards freedom and opening your heartwhy not join our Toolkit?

References –

Brown, B. (2012). Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. New York, USA: Penguin.

Chödrön, P. (2006). Practicing Peace in Times of War. Boston, USA: Shambhala Publications.

Chödrön, P. (2010). When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times. Boston, USA: Shambhala Publications.