Good Instincts

I’m a little obsessed with the fact that animals know exactly what to do and not do in life based on instinct. Like the fact that my dogs attempt to dig a hole in the ground carpet every night before bed, and bury their bones in the yard for safe keeping from predators the lawnmower.

I’m sure our human ancestors knew how to survive instinctively as well, but over the years, things like language, electricity and the practice of wearing of clothing seem to have swayed our natural reactions into less-natural learned behaviors. Damn you, modern society.

I like to think I still have some instincts, though. Things like automatically ducking when I hear a loud noise, or naturally gravitating to the super market when chocolate is on sale. These innate responses make navigating through life a little bit easier. They’re still there, just a little dormant.

This is why I think it’s an incredible compliment to be told you have good instincts. I was told this today and it made me feel really happy. Work’s been stressful lately, good stress — the kind that pushes you out of your comfort zone and into intense learning – but it’s been hard. So when I heard these words, it was as if I was told, “Yes, you are intelligent. Not a bumbling fool – nope, not incompetent!”

It’s not that I was forlorn, or moping about with my tail between my legs, but I’d forgotten how nice it was to get a little confidence CPR. I’d survive just fine without it, but because of it, I’m energized.

Professionally, it sometimes can be really hard to follow your instincts. There are so many factors that impact our thoughts and actions, not the least of which is the fact we’re working for other people and companies, not ourselves. We don’t always get to act in a way that represents our true self, and occasionally we’ve forced to make decisions we don’t particularly agree with. It’s a delicate balance — being true to yourself without totally pissing off anyone who can fire you.

So what’s the answer…how much should we stick to our instincts, and when do we need to drink the damn Kool-Aid?

Uh…if I had that answer, I don’t think I’d be blogging on my couch at 10 p.m. I’d probably be making millions as a business consultant. But I don’t think there is a clear-cut answer. I believe it’s one of those frustrating conundrums life throws at us over and over again, as a way of keeping us sharp.

If decisions were easy, we’d all be complacent. And complacent is boring. So cheers to fine tuning your instincts.


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