We’ve all been told to trust our instincts. To listen to our hearts. “What does your gut tell you?” we’ve asked each other (and ourselves) countless times, usually when faced with a difficult decision or a tough choice. We know on some deep level that our instincts are important and yet trusting them can often feel like an uncomfortable betrayal of logic.
But instincts are more than just feelings.
They are the primal pathways of the psyche. Portals to our own deep sense of knowing. Complex roadmaps of of the lessons we’ve learned and discoveries we’ve made along the way– decipherable by our specific brains, because they are formed by our specific experiences. Instincts are a lot like like fuzzy dreams we can’t quite remember in the light of day— while the details of how we know what we know may elude us, the feeling of knowing can often be difficult to shake.
Instincts are no less real than deadlines or data points, but they are far easier to ignore: They are invisible. They don’t hold us accountable. They are often uncomfortable and inconvenient, which makes us want to dismiss them as silly or far-fetched.
Our instincts are often a far more reliable barometer for truth than our own trusty “logic” because the conscious mind is notoriously irrational: It sees what it wants to see. It avoids conflict and disharmony at all costs. It forces puzzle pieces together that don’t actually fit. It explains away our fears and worries to make us feel better in the moment, which usually ends up making us feel worse in the long run.
“The truth does not change,” Flannery O’Connor wrote, “according to our ability to stomach it.” Which means, ignoring the signs won’t make them go away. We can only make excuses for ourselves (and others) for so long. At some point, we will be forced to take uncomfortable action to make our world better (even if it makes our right now more challenging).
So today, friends, I challenge you to trust your instincts. To follow them, even if they lead you somewhere you don’t want to be. To catch yourself whenever you feel tempted to explain away your feelings. And above all, to promise yourself that if someone’s behavior leaves you with a sinking feeling in your gut, you’ll ask yourself why.
Even if that someone is you.