Instinct or Impulse?

Who do you trust when making quick decisions? Is your instinct always reliable?

As a matter of fact, we think it is. 

The difficulty comes in determining if what you are following is your instinct, or actually your impulse. Is your decision based on your gut, or based on your gluttony?

How do you tell them apart?

When you feel a subtle urge to do something, how do you know if it is your instinct nudging you on, or an impulse taking over your thoughts?

A common answer to this is that impulse decisions rarely have a positive outcome. But how can you determine this before the event? How do you avoid the bad decision altogether?

Think of persistence and urge.

Instinct tends to be a nudging itch at the back (or front) of your mind. Impulse is a sudden idea for action, and often requires the silencing of other (instinctual) thoughts or concerns.

An example of instinct versus impulse

Your work has felt stagnant, or problematic, for a while now. You get to the office feeling a little “off”, something is uncomfortable. You don’t know quite what to do, or maybe even exactly what is wrong, but you know this status quo is not sustainable.

This is your instinct: a persistent and subtle sensation that change is required.

Walking back from your lunch break you see a poster of a tropical island in a shop window, so you get back to your desk and decide to throw a chunk of your savings on a two week trip to Tahiti. This should help clear your mind, right?

That action is your impulse taking over. It is sudden, unplanned, and not really anchored to any other action or consequence.

Instinct is about work

Instinct is generally un-glamorous. It is often un-exciting in of itself.

So we tend to ignore it and suppress it until impulse finally takes over, and we end up thinking we were wrong all along, both in impulse and in instinct.

Instinct is harder because it is an urge to work, a desire for change. And change is never simple.

When you are making your business decisions, listen to instinct. Understand those pulsating, gut urges and ideas. If it is guiding you to sustained change and new work, that is a good sign.