Guided by your instincts, but not relying on them

I often hear people say, “I trust my gut.” I agree. We must at times be guided by our gut, or more accurately, our instincts; but not always. When you include a rational, planning process you put yourself in a position where you can balance rationality from planning with instincts. You can do this because the planning process clarifies your high and low priorities. You get to know what is worth paying attention to in any given moment and indeed what is worth defending.

You also know what not to pay attention to i.e. a distraction that will lead you away from your intention. The end result is that you develop the ability to review what your instincts are, that gut feeling that attempts to draw your attention in any given moment, before your behavior is high jacked. At this stage you can still go where your instincts are leading you but you are better informed.

 Don’t chase too many seagulls

If you’ve ever watched a dog chasing seagulls on a beach, you’ve probably noticed that despite an instinctive intent for catching a seagull, the dog ceaselessly changes its target from one to the next based on choices that appear closer or easier to achieve but soon gives up, exhausted.

In my opinion, many people hotly pursue opportunities like metaphoric seagulls but switch their focus when the going gets tough; or when a seemingly more attractive, or presumably easier, opportunity presents itself. As a result, none of these opportunities are then realized, leaving the pursuer exhausted and disillusioned.

Does that mean we must give up on our instinctive optimism? Certainly not, however, it’s wise to avoid operating on instinct alone as a guide for our choices.

When combining instinct with a strategic approach, you will be more able to confront multiple choices and make wiser decisions about which opportunities to pursue. Significantly, the ability to do this will also help you manage those anxious feelings that come with being overwhelmed or intimidated by multiple choices.  In focusing on the right things, rather than chasing life’s metaphorical seagulls, you identify and concentrate on the type of future you are passionate about.

 Eliminate some of the difficult choices

Dan Ariely, in his book “Predictably Irrational”, makes the claim that we can get overwhelmed when faced with too many difficult choices. This is further aggravated by an instinctive need to keep our options open. He concludes that these draw heavily on our limited energy reserves (Ariely, 2008).

I agree that many of our difficult choices could possibly overwhelm us and have a detrimental effect on our vitality and stamina. That is why, as part of our mental toughness development process, we should include a limited range of carefully considered scenarios in our personal strategy. This will give the benefit of sufficient, clearly thought-out alternatives when our number one plan fails. Ultimately however, it will be our ability to adapt that will help us thrive.

Dr Steve Harris. Motivational speaker, team building, conference speaker, keynote speaker