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The Head-Heart-Hands Equation and How to Apply It To Your Career

What do you want to do with the rest of your life?

Do you ever question if you’re climbing up the right ladder? 

How often does work bring you genuine happiness, joy, and fulfillment?

Have you ever felt a deeper sense of professional purpose?

Are you living your life the way you want and to the fullest extent?

All heady questions, no doubt. 

Did I always have full clarity in my thoughts and answers?

Absolutely not.

Until I did.

It was all thanks to one equation that took me decades to formulate. And will take you only minutes (from now) to learn, apply, and activate.

You, like I, are emerging from years (post-pandemic) that forced us to look deep within ourselves, searching for answers to the more meaningful questions in life. None more important than where we’ll spend the most significant amount of time…


Perhaps you find yourself in a job, but want to transform it into a career. Maybe you’re in a career, but want to confirm it’s the right path.  Or possibly you’re exploring whether to transition from employee to owner, but need the clarity, confidence, conviction, and courage to take the leap.

Regardless of where you stand today, there is a simple (not always easy) solution that will empower you to make a better decision, faster.

Why is NOW the time to make the call?

Because (FACT) you’ll spend 100,000 hours working over the course of your life, and the finish line creeps closer each and every day.  

From my experience in coaching executives from Fortune companies to startups, high flying MBA’s to professional athletes post-playing days, that staggering number of 100,000 has one of two effects.

One group is energized and passionate about the opportunities and possibilities ahead.

The other is deflated, at times depressed about the thought of investing that much time into something they currently care so little about. Or, some have no idea what would ultimately light them up.

This moment, right here, right now, is YOUR TIME to be brutally honest with yourself.

When I ask, how do you feel about doing what you’re doing for 100,000 hours?

What’s going through your head?  

What’s going through your heart?

These two check-ins of head and heart serve as the gateways to answer the questions we opened with… 

  • What do you want to do with the rest of your life?

  • Do you ever question if you’re climbing up the right ladder?

  • How often does work bring you genuine happiness, joy, and fulfillment?

  • Have you ever felt a deeper sense of professional purpose?

  • Are you living your life the way you want and to the fullest extent?

You’re moments away from having a clear and inspiring vision to tackle them all…

I call it the Head-Heart-Hands Equation, and it is the key to making better decisions faster, at the most critical forks in the road of life.

Head represents mindset.

Heart represents authenticity.

Hands represents action.

The process is quite simple.

When evaluating an opportunity (such as a career choice—whether to stay or go, pivot or pursue), ask yourself two questions:

Is my head on board? I.E. Do I think it’s a good idea?

Is my heart on board? I.E. Do I feel it’s a good idea?

When both are on board, it’s a green light to take action. That could mean staying in your current role on your current path or  it could mean pursuing a new opportunity if it’s a role you don’t currently have. This is your green light in waiting.

If neither is on board, it’s a red light. No action. Pull a U-turn. Pivot, go, do what you need to do to not stay in this job for long. It will infinitely drain your battery, while depleting your daily happiness, joy, and fulfillment. As for purpose…forget about it. Not happening in a red light!

Greens and reds are the easier lights to understand. It’s simply an awareness game.

For greens, attack them with every ounce of fortitude you can. On the flip side, STOP running reds.

So what do we do with the yellows?

This is where the conversation becomes muddier, as the middle will always get a little messy.

There are two types of yellow lights. Head gaps and heart gaps.

When your head is on board, and heart isn’t—that’s a heart gap.

When your heart is on board, and head isn’t—you guessed it—that’s a head gap.

These gaps are handled very differently, one with a potentially happy ending, the other can be just as deadly as a red.

Do you want the bad news, or the good news first?

I agree, let’s rip the band aid, and let’s talk bad news (aka a very slow professional death my friend).

Welcome to heart gaps.  

We’ve all been in these situations where our head tells us to ‘hang in there’ but our heart just isn’t on board  It could be the paycheck keeping you there. It could be the years (maybe decades) already invested and the potential feeling that you 'wasted' all that time if you decide to leave or pivot. Maybe it’s the fear of being a free agent and entering an uncertain job market—even if you currently have a terrible boss or work in a toxic culture. Regardless of the scenario, you KNOW your heart is NOT on board. Your mind persuades you to stay, while your heart says GO.

I have some sad (but real) news for you.

Your heart rarely (if ever) changes over time. Your head may try to convince you to ‘give it another month’ so things change for the better, but they rarely do…because your heart ultimately knows what it wants, and what it feels. Whether dating or in a job, you know when you’re with the right person or company.

If you find yourself in a heart gap job or career path, it’s a dead-end. It’s just a matter of whether you’re willing to face it head on, and take action to find a greener pasture. I’m not suggesting an irresponsible overnight leap, but just know this isn’t the place for you.

As for the head gaps, you can overcome these with an optimistic and persevering mindset, a well thought out plan, at times short term sacrifice for long term gain, and equally important, support from others.  

If an entrepreneurial venture is calling your name, a courageous and diligent business plan is in order.  If your heart wants to contribute to a greater cause like a non-profit, but your head is blocking you—a change in lifestyle and proactive savings plan could be justified. If a self-limiting belief is holding you back from taking the plunge or making a pivot…a coach, mentor, or conversation with a trusted advisor may be what’s needed.

Regardless, head gaps can be overcome.  

Head gaps are the yellow lights you want.

Heart gaps are the yellow lights you need to exit (sooner than later).

It’s time for the moment of truth.

Think of your current working situation RIGHT NOW.

Is your head on board?

Is your heart on board?

Did you land on green, yellow, or red?

Red—you know what to do.

Yellow—reference the game plan above (head vs heart gap).

Green—this is the path to live the life you want, to the fullest extent. A life of purpose, fulfillment, and impact awaits.

For your life to truly change, attack green lights with a passion unknown to humankind.  

Trust me, a green light lifestyle is pretty priceless. Follow the head-heart-hands equation, and I’m sure you’ll agree.

See you on the other side.


Paul Epstein is a mindset and performance coach, award-winning keynote speaker, and bestselling author, after 15 years as an NFL and NBA executive. For coaching support, please email [email protected] 

Want to hear more from Paul? Check him out on Instagram and follow his Top 40 Lessons in 40 Years of Life.

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