The Essence of Business

What is the essence of business? What do people mean when they refer to heart, mind, and spirit when writing and speaking about aspects of business such as marketing? For example, “we need to appeal to the customers’ heart …” Well, the last time I checked, the heart was a pump comprised of a hollow muscle that contracts rhythmically to circulate blood and along with other essential organs, keeps us alive.

It surprised me to find, or should that be not-find, that even in books that go to some length to define all the other terms that they use, that they don’t provide business-relevant definitions for heart, mind, and spirit.

It’s not acceptable to use terms without providing definitions, our language is too ambiguous for that. I’ve often said, especially to people who claim “well, it’s obvious …” that there will be a different definition of the thing that is so obvious for everyone in the room.

We need to at least try to improve the clarity of our communication by providing definitions and confirming that we all agree on functional definitions if only for the purpose of the current conversation.

So here’s my attempt at some definitions of heart, mind, and spirit thanks to Oxford Dictionaries (OD), and to Wikipedia.

My Tentative Definitions:

Heart – The emotions people feel about what happens to them, those they care for, and the world around them.

Mind – A person’s capacity for self- and world-awareness, evaluation, reasoning, and rational thought.

Spirit – Concern for the welfare and development of oneself, others, and nature, and doing good for its own sake, all without adherence to a religion.

I’ll no doubt come back to this as I learn more and clarify my thoughts and find or develop even better definitions, but at least for now we have some clear definitions we can use.

Appendix: Definitions from Oxford Dictionaries (OD) and Wikipedia:


  • OD Definition:
    • The heart regarded as the [metaphorical] centre of a person’s thoughts and emotions, especially love or compassion – ‘he poured out his heart to me’
    • One’s mood or feeling – ‘they found him well and in good heart’


  • OD Definition:
    • The element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think, and to feel; the faculty of consciousness and thought – ‘a lot of thoughts ran through my mind’
    • A person’s ability to think and reason; the intellect – ‘his keen mind’


  • OD Definition:
    • The prevailing or typical quality, mood, or attitude of a person, group, or period of time – ‘the university is a symbol of the nation’s egalitarian spirit’
  • Wikipedia Definition:
    • Secular spirituality is the adherence to a spiritual philosophy without adherence to a religion. Secular spirituality emphasizes the personal growth and inner peace of the individual, rather than a relationship with the divine. Secular spirituality is made up of the search for meaning outside of a religious institution; it considers one’s relationship with the self, others, nature, and whatever else one considers to be the ultimate. Often, the goal of secular spirituality is living happily and/or helping others.