So much of how we view our world today is often determined by our emotions or feelings which can change at “the drop of a hat.” Instinct, on the other hand, does not run on emotions or feelings. Dictionary.com defines instinct as follows:
- an inborn pattern of activity or tendency to action common to a given biological species;
- a natural or innate impulse, inclination, or tendency;
- a natural aptitude or gift (e.g., an instinct for making money)
- natural intuitive power
Instinct doesn’t run on logic or reason (nor does it operate on emotions or feelings). It’s innate. And instinct is not the same as intuition. It differs from intuition as described below (quote source here):
Although the words “intuition” and “instinct” appear identical to most people, these two do not refer to the same thing as there is a difference between them in their meanings. Intuition is our ability to know something without reasoning. It is when we feel as if we know what is about to happen or what to do without having any real facts. But, instinct is something different from intuition. It is an inborn tendency. Instinct is our natural reaction; it occurs without even thinking. It is more an ability, unlike intuition. This is the main difference between intuition and instinct. Through this article, let us examine the difference between intuition and instinct.
Intuition is “the ability to understand or know something without conscious reasoning.” It is similar to an insight that we have regarding a matter. For instance, have you felt as if something is not right, or that something bad is about to happen without having any concrete facts? This is due to our intuition. We do not have real facts or a rationale for our feeling, but we feel as if it is correct.
When intuition comes to play, we do not analyze the situation. We also do not weigh the pros and cons, we just know. For instance, before arriving at a decision, people approach it from different angles. They try to work out the best manner of doing something, verify the advantages and disadvantages. However, with intuition, one does not have sufficient information to rationalize his decision or thought. It is as if the individual can see beyond what is presented.
Instinct refers to “an inborn tendency.” It is a natural ability. Instinct is not something that we have learned, but it is a natural response. For instance, imagine you see a vehicle coming at high speed towards you. You would naturally jump out of the way. In such a situation, you hardly get sufficient time to think, but you respond automatically. This is because of our instinct.
Unlike intuition that is a thought, instinct is mostly a behavior or else an action. For instance, if a ball comes in your direction, you instinctively attempt to either catch it or else move away so that it will not hit you. You do not have time to think whether you should move away or catch the ball. Within seconds, you act on it. In psychology, we speak of two concepts of “flight or fight mode.” Flight is when the individual moves away from the situation; fight is when the individual faces the situation, or else in this case catches the ball. This occurs in a very short period.
Instinct takes place in the immediate “now.” As humans, we like to rationalize everything, but instincts can’t be rationalized. It is a natural reaction, an automatic response, and an inborn tendency.
With that in mind, the other day I ran across the book, “Instinct: The Power to Release Your Inborn Drive” (2014), by Bishop T.D. Jakes, “a charismatic leader, visionary, provocative thinker, and entrepreneur who serves as senior pastor of The Potter’s House, a global humanitarian organization and 30,000-member church located in Dallas, Texas” (quote source here). He is also a New York Times bestselling author of many books. An introduction to the book on Amazon.com states the following (quote source here):
Whether you call it following your heart, a gut feeling, a hunch or intuition, instinct–the inner knowledge bubbling up from a wellspring of wisdom within–can lead to a bigger, elephant-sized life.
Combining social, business and personal examples with biblical insights, in “Instinct” Bishop Jakes shows readers how to rediscover their natural aptitudes and reclaim the wisdom of their past experiences. Knowing when to close a deal, when to take a risk, and when to listen to their hearts will become possible when they’re in touch with the instincts that God gave them.
If readers are ready to unlock the confines of where they are, and discover where they were meant to be, then “Instinct” is their key! (Quote source here.)
In the opening paragraphs in Chapter 1 titled, “Instinct Has a Rhythm,” Bishop Jakes states:
Our instincts are the treasure map for our soul’s satisfaction. Following our instincts can make the crucial distinction between what we are good at–our vocation or skill set–and what we are good for–the fulfillment of our purposeful potential. When you’re truly engaged with your life’s calling, whether in the boutique, the banquet hall, or the boardroom, you rely on something that cannot be taught.
I’ve convinced that our instincts can provide the combination we need to align our unique variables with our callings and release the treasure within us. When harnessed, refined, and heeded, our instincts can provide the key to unlocking our most productive, most satisfying, most joyful lives. . . .
Unfortunately, much of what I see today isn’t about fulfilling one’s true potential as much as it is about appearing to fulfill what other people expect. Too many people want the appearance of winning rather than the practices and hard work that create a true champion. They mistake the prize for the art of winning and will ultimately buy a trophy without ever running a race. They didn’t take the class; they bought the diploma. They aren’t successful; they just have the props. They aren’t driven to achieve something; they just bust their gut to appear busy to everyone around them.
The irony is what these people fail to realize. When you’re living by instinct, then you will naturally enhance everything and everyone around you. In other words, success will come naturally! When both your intellect and instincts are aligned, then producing the fruits of your labors brings satisfaction beyond measure.
Now, it will still require hard work and dedication on your part, but the internal satisfaction will fuel your desire to achieve even larger dreams. Based on the fact that we are all inherently creative people, if we are in touch with our instincts, then we will naturally increase our endeavors. When you don’t become fixated on winning the prize or appearing successful, and instead pursue your passions, then you will discover the fulfillment that comes from living by instinct. (Quote source: Chapter 1, pp. 1-3).
In Chapter 2 titled, “Basic Instincts,” Bishop Jakes writes:
On a basic level, we share many of the same instincts. We see instinct in action when a baby tries to suckle in order to receive nourishment, or a toddler recoils from a hot skillet. It’s the sense you have about the stranger lingering behind you on your walk home that causes you to run into a store and call a taxi. Similarly, no one has to teach you to dodge the oncoming bus careening toward you while you’re crossing the street.
We are wired to stay alive. Our bodies naturally seek out nourishment (food and water) and protection (such as shelter, clothing, and weapons) to survive. You’ve probably heard of the “fight or flight” response, which is an instinctive reaction to any perceived danger. Many scientists also believe that language is instinctive, or at least the desire to express our responses to both internal and external stimuli. Some researchers believe that we are instinctively spiritual beings as well, which, of course, I would confirm. . . .
On the other hand, our instincts are not necessarily accurate all the time. The hunch about someone else’s business deal wasn’t true. Your sense of timing for the big date wasn’t on target after all. The sense of dread about a client’s reaction to your work proved to have no basis in reality. . . .
So how do you become more aware of your unique, naturally developed instincts? And perhaps more important, how do you discern when to trust your instincts and when to rely on logic, fact, and objectivity?
Obviously, this is where our relationship with instinct gets tricky.
And that’s what this book is all about. (Quote source: Chapter 2, pp. 12-14).
Of course, you’ll have to get the book to find out more, but at this point I want go to Chapter 9, “Instincts Under Pressure,” where Bishop Jakes explains how instincts played a crucial role in his move from West Virginia to Texas on pp. 95-101:
We’re used to basing our decisions on past experiences and then suddenly our instincts pull us toward something equally tantalizing and terrifying. We cannot deny our instinctive attraction, and yet we’re unsettled by its unfamiliarity. Nothing in our repertoire of achievements and abilities, nor our family, our training, our education, or our experiences has prepared us, and yet we are drawn instinctively toward something that excites us, touches us, energizes us, and leave us shaking in our boots.
From my experiences and those of many others, instinct likes a challenge more than it likes comfort. Our instincts would rather lead us to face the unknown than let us shrink into the corner of our cage. When we’re committed to fulfilling our destiny, our instinct drives us away from complacency and toward contentment.
An inmate leaving prison must certainly feel this odd mixture of excitement and fear as he walks through the door of his cell one last time, through the gates of the prison grounds. What had become familiar to him, normal and routine, must now be left behind. He must start over. And as exhilarated as he may be by the restoration of his freedom, he also must make his way into a new jungle that has grown unrecognizable from when he knew it before. In fact, many parolees and former inmates become so stressed trying to reacclimate to the outside that they often end up returning to crime.
Did they commit a crime in hopes of returning to the confinement of a prison cell? Probably not consciously, but one wonders when looking at the recidivism rate. The literal, physical incarceration may even seem preferable to the fear of learning to live outside the prison walls.
Even if we have never faced physical confinement, most of us can relate. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a new career, a new marriage, a new season of being single, a new business launch. When we start anything by following our instincts, we will likely be forced to leave our cage of comfort and complacency.
I faced this very dilemma when I made the decision to move my family and ministry from Charleston, West Virginia, where I’d grown up and lived all my life, to Dallas, Texas, which I probably knew better from television and movies than from my own experience. I’m still not exactly sure how it came about. I became interested in the Dallas area because I had heard that many people there attended church regularly (not always the case in urban areas) and were open to joining a new Christian community. I had also heard that property was relatively affordable for such a large urban area.
Ironically enough, I had actually told a friend of mine, another pastor, that he ought to move to Dallas and start a church there. But after some thoughtful and prayerful consideration, he ended up going another direction. And yet the thought of this place I had recommended to him haunted me. I began to wonder what Dallas was really like. While I had been through there a time or two, I knew very little about the people, the culture, the flavor and lifestyle of Texans. And yet I couldn’t quit thinking about moving to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. It remained an alluring attraction, one I finally could not ignore.
When I went to Dallas and visited the prospective property for our new church, I asked the owner if I could have a few minutes alone in the building and he agreed. There in the echoing cavern of a structure so much larger than our entire church back in West Virginia, I asked God if this was where he wanted me. It didn’t take long before my awareness of his presence increased, and everything in me heard, “Yes.”
Even with this sense of God’s calling and blessing upon the move. I remained fearful. I have lived in West Virginia my entire life! I would not only be leaving my church to plant a new one, but I would be leaving one lifestyle and culture for another. The Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area included over two million people at that time–about twenty times more than Charleston! And how would Texans take to an African-American outsider moving into their territory? If everything is bigger in Texas, would that include prejudice and hostility?
With growing trepidation, I agonized over this decision. I paced the cage that contained me and wondered if I dared set foot into the Texan jungle opening before me. If I stayed put, would I regret not exploring this opportunity, forever wondering, “What if . . .?” Or would I long for the comfortable security of my humble roots and regret my risk when inevitably confronted with adversity?
Moving away would include uprooting my wife and kids, and taking my mother with us after she had lived over six decades in the same area. We would be leaving the small-town warmth of our cocooned community and launching out on new wings. But would we fly? Or flutter momentarily before crashing to the ground?
It was a huge risk, but I had to take it. I had to leave my cage, but I had to take it. I had to leave my cage. Not only did I feel God’s prompting me to make the move, but something deep inside me knew it was where I belonged–even if I didn’t exactly know why. Needless to say, I have never regretted my decision to follow my instincts and move to Dallas. No, instead I discovered that my move was not just an open door to me but was, in fact, the intersection of the destiny of thousands if not millions of others whose lives would forever be changed, all predicated upon me releasing my fear and mustering the courage to be stretched beyond my comfort zone.
When we find ourselves at the crossroads between at least two different directions, we often panic. It feels like a no-win. After our instincts have been stirred by a vision, a glimpse, a divine whisper inside us, we cannot ignore the decision. Or, if we do, then that in itself becomes a decision we know we will soon regret. When our instincts magnetically urge us in a particular direction, my experience has been that we will regret not acting on that urge. Standing at the crossroads may feel like being caught in the crosshairs!
But I’m convinced that it is so much more productive, satisfying, and invigorating to have risked a new endeavor and failed than to play it safe and remain in the status quo. When a mother eagle senses instinctively that her eaglets are now ready to fly, she disrupts the nest with her beak, pushing them out with an eviction notice that seems so cruel. Her beak dislodges them from their nest and pushes them to the edge. Have you ever been pushed to the edge?
I saw eagles in the plain I visited soaring in the wind. It was amazing to me to realize that what seems so natural now was once a moment of great terror. When it was young that eagle was pushed to the edge. Its mother’s beak had no doubt dropped him off the edge of the cliff!
The results produce a striking beauty, but in the moment of crossing from nest to nature, the sight would make you call the animal rights commission and file a complaint of abuse! The mother obviously is not being cruel to her little birds. Instead she is pushing them into the uncomfortable place of discovery. She knows that the nest was only the crossroads through which they would grow and develop. If they sat in the temporary, it would be at the expense of the permanent.
Now, I’m told that the little birds become frightened half to death and initially start flipping their wings out of terror, flailing wildly to ward off what looks like inevitable death. But the flailing of their fear is the birthing of a discovery. Their instinct to fly is released with great peril and fear.
In the galing winds and impending danger, they find that the wings they never utilized in their previous comfortable nest find use in the fall and give birth to their flight. To ensure that they will not come back to the nest, she stirs the nest with her beak so that the prickly briars protrude and make it impossible for them to find comfort where they once rested.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been forced to find my wings by the discomfort of staying where I was. I’ve felt like an eaglet more than once, forced out many times by circumstances I couldn’t control. I’ve screamed inwardly a thousand reasons why the time was not right or I wasn’t prepared. If you are like me, you tell yourself, “But I don’t have the experience or the training or the education or the relationship or the resources necessary to take such a dangerous leap!”
All of which may be true. But there are times when we must disregard the data and distance our doubts if we are ever going to achieve greater velocity towards the goals that roar within us. We must follow the instinct to fly. (Quote Source: Chapter 9, pp. 95-101.)
This may be one of the longest posts I’ve pieced together, but I hope it provides you with encouragement in your own circumstances no matter what they might be. Stagnating or vacillating in life is never a good option, and it only takes one small step to move forward, even if we can’t see the next step. These past eight years for me have been a very long lesson (still ongoing, too) in taking one step at a time and not ignoring those “instincts” when they are giving us direction. And just like the mother eagle forcing the eaglets out of the comfort zone of their nest . . .
We must follow . . .
The instinct . . .
To FLY . . . .
YouTube Video: “Born For This” by Mandisa: