Instinct is an inborn pattern of behavior shaped by centuries of human experience. Similar to intuition, that transcendent faculty that summarizes the meaning of a situation instantaneously, the instinctual part of the personality is quick to sense danger, and safety. Instinct is the jungle wisdom that tells you when to wait, when to take action, who to trust, and who not to trust. Instinct can be over ridden by fear, doubt and idealism, the desire for life to be what you want it to be rather than what life is: an opportunity to learn what works in the real world. With instinct as a guide you can maneuver through the challenges of daily life, adjusting as you go, like the tennis champion who plays within the lines of the court until she wins more matches than she loses, or the alert soldier who finds his way through enemy terrain. Ignoring instinct can wreak havoc in your life, as when you project qualities onto others they do not possess. When these people turn out to be less than you expected, to the point of being harmful to your mental and physical health, you feel devastated. Maureens story Trusting the wrong person and then feeling badly about herself was a pattern for one of my clients. Maureen kept getting involved with men she believed could guide her to success. When their lack of character was exposed, she felt foolish and betrayed.
He seemed so capable when I met him, Maureen said about a former business partner as we talked about that part of her autobiography (the first assignment I give to my clients). After we worked together for a while, he became competitive with me. In meetings, he had to have all the attention. If I came up with an idea he passed it off as his.
What did that tell you about you? I asked.
When Maureen looked puzzled, I asked if her instinct had warned her about the man when she met him.
Yes. He was not the person in public that he was when we were alone. Hed say one thing to me, and then another when he was in a group. That was so confusing. When I called him on it, he said thats what I had to do if I wanted to get along with clients.
And you believed him? I asked.
Maureen sighed. At some level I thought he was right. People dont want to hear the truth, you have to butter them up to get their approval; otherwise theyll go elsewhere. I also thought he knew more than I did about business. He was good at sales and marketing.
Its true that some people dont want to hear the truth, I said to Maureen. But thats not true about people who want to change. Didnt you tell me clients came to you when they wanted answers? Why wouldnt prospective clients see you as the expert they could trust?
I didnt connect clients trust in me with the ability to close sales. I thought Id have to do what my partner did to get new business, manipulate people. I didnt want to do that. Since Maureen was thinking about getting into another partnership, I asked her to go back to when they first met. What did your instincts tell you at the time? I asked. Without missing a beat Maureen said, he needed someone like me to shore up his shaky image. Here you have an example of how quickly instinct sizes up a situation. So why was Maureen considering moving forward? Her compulsion to get involved with an insecure man mirrored her fear that she was not a solid enough person. This unacknowledged lack of confidence was a legacy from her relationship with her father, a man who had to be right. I was always trying to get his approval, Maureen admitted when I asked what she wanted from her father. Based on what youre saying, that was illogical. We all want a father we can look up to, Maureen, I said. But thats not the father you had. In fact, I suspect he was threatened by your independence. You dont need a father figure to achieve success. You just have to see your value in the marketplace. When you team up with a person who is not as capable as you that confuses customers. They wonder about your judgment.
Maureen nodded. That makes sense. I'll call him today to say what my instincts told me when I first met him. And that is? I asked, smiling. No thanks. Confusion turned to clarity when Maureen made the connection between her idealized father and the men she put on a pedestal. Free from a girls point of view, she realized she had much to offer clients. A year later she called to update me on her business. My latest client said he wanted to work with me because he thought I was so instinctual, Maureen said. Well, that must be what he needs to learn from you, I said, and we both laughed. Trusting instinct Think of the times in the past when you ignored instinct. Was it fear, impatience, doubt or idealism that caused you to dismiss your first response? What would you do now if you were in the same situation? Next, make a list of the times in your life when you trusted your instinct. Why were you so sure of yourself? What was the end result? To live an instinctual life you need to divest yourself of a childs idealized view of life and the family. Free from illusions you will hear instincts instant messaging. Then you will know what to do and what not to do, at the right time and the right place. Nancy Anderson is a career and life consultant based in the San Francisco Bay Area and the author of the best selling career guide, Work with Passion, How to do What You Love For a Living. Her new book, Work with Passion in Midlife and Beyond, Reach Your Full Potential and Make the Money You Need is available in online and retail bookstores. Nancys website is workwithpassion.com.