Instinctive or Intuitive?

I quite often hear people talking about following their instinct when they clearly mean following their intuition; and saying they followed their intuition when they really mean they acted on instinct.  People often confuse them, but they are two very different things, and they both play an important part in how we get our genius out into the world.

Let me say right now, I am no neuroscientist, so what follows is just my understanding of what’s going on in the brain.  I may not be 100% accurate, but please don’t get hung up on that; what matters is the impact it has on how we act, and how good – or otherwise – that makes us at being us.

When we act on instinct, we are using our reptilian brain, the oldest part of our nervous system.  Instinct holds the basic instructions we need to physically survive and thrive, and a lot of the information it contains goes back not just to the beginning of our own lives, but those of many generations before us, right back to our ascent from the apes, and even earlier than that.  Our instinct is often based on the information our ancient ancestors needed to avoid getting eaten by a sabre-toothed tiger or trampled by a woolly mammoth.

That’s useful if you’re facing a similar threat, and instinct can be very useful in making us aware of those who would do us harm.  And in the modern world, the harm is not always physical; instinct can help us identify threats to our reputation or our commercial arrangements.  What instinct is very good at is giving us instant warning, and allowing us to take fast action to deal with a threat.

But it must be said, we don’t often face that kind of physical danger in our modern lives.  What that means is that relying purely on instinct for your choices is unlikely to be the best way to be effective in sharing your genius with today’s world. We need to make conscious choice to disregard instinct where it does not serve us.

Intuition, on the other hand, is a whole lot more subtle.  It generally resides in what neuroscientists are coming to accept as our ‘gut mind’ – that part of our neurology that is not in our heads, but is distributed around our bodies, particularly the thorax area.  Experiments have shown that we often become aware of things in our gut mind several micro-seconds before we notice them cognitively.

Where instinct is a connection back through the ages to an ancient racial memory, intuition is our connection with the universal field, through which we are linked to everything there is, right now.  Like instinct, intuition is not a cognitive process, it is not something that is understood by the thinking mind.  But unlike instinct, intuition is sensed rather than felt.  Where instinct will provide us with a feeling or fear (or desire, or lust, etc), intuition gives us a sense of when something is going to work out well (or otherwise) for us.

In the context of our Genius, intuition lets us know when we are on the right track.  One of the easiest ways people sabotage their Genius is when they ignore that ‘gut feel’ they get, that what they are doing (or saying) is the right thing, and making the most of their potential.  It’s usually the feelings that come from instinct, or the thoughts that come from intellect, that stop us truly appreciating the sense of us-ness that comes from intuition.

Where intuition comes into its own is where we have the time to weigh up all the choices – not in an intellectual, thinking way, but using the sense of light or heavy that comes from our gut.  When we create the space and time to allow ourselves to access our intuition, that’s’ when we start to really expand how potently we take our Genius into the world.

So; for short-term threat, it’s instinct all the way, but for longer term deeper success, rely on intuition.


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About The Author

Andrew Horder

Founder of Joyful Genius Coaching, Andrew has been working with business owners for many years, helping them find and maintain their unique focus - those activities and opportunities that they love, and will produce their success, what Andrew calls your Joyful Genius! Andrew's first book, The A to Z of Loving Work is available from Amazon

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