Today it occurred to me that I am involved in a lot of things that truly interest me. Some of them I make money from, which is a bonus, and some of them I most certainly lose money on, which isn’t great, but at least the activity interests me, and is in some way fulfilling.
I also absolutely know that many people aren’t that lucky. I frequently talk to people who a) don’t like their job, b) don’t like their home, or c) don’t like either. I know I have felt that way from time as well; we all work a shit job once in a while; we all let the house get a little too dirty; we all let our relationships suffer occasionally.
But there’s something we’re all born with that all too frequently gets ignored. It’s called instinct. Doesn’t that sound animalistic?
Instinct, in animals, is the thing that says “loud noise = run away,” or the thing that says “brightly colored frog = poison.” Instinct keeps animals alive. That doesn’t mean, however, that simply because we can use words like “loud” or “frog” that that instinct is now dormant in us, that we have to ‘reason’ our way through every problem. Because we reason, however, instinct gets washed in with the noise of our lives.
So what is instinct for us bipeds, then? Is it a feeling in the gut? Is it some ball of stress I’ve buried and tamed? No. Instinct does not cause stress, it causes action.
What will causes stress about instinct is when you ignore, or outright flout it. Now you’ve got to deal with the fact that some part of you thinks you made the wrong decision. Whether that instinct is right or wrong won’t matter – what matters is that it feels right, and what you did feels wrong.
Instinct comes from the reasoning you’ve learned as a child. What you like. What you don’t like. Your morals. Your parentage. Your religion. What you did and learned in school. These things have combined into the amalgam that is you. Instinct is pre-reasoning from being a child, watching your parents, and seeing how life unfolds when you make the right decisions, versus when you make the wrong ones.
I find that my instinct often fights with my desire for gratification. I can waste an afternoon playing video games, while my instinct sits and asks why I’m not at the Secretary of State getting my license plate tabs renewed. Procrastination is the opposite of instinct; while procrastination has me sit on my butt, instinct tells me what I should be doing next.
So trust it and do it. (Note that sometimes this means saying NO to the new thing. Instinct will tell you when you’re overloaded.) Instinct and gratification are not opposing forces always; eventually you’ll have done all that you can do “productively,” and your instinct will say, “Take a break,” or “Play Mariokart,” or “** your wife.” This is when gratification is truly gratifying – you’ve beaten down all the dinging bells, the project managers, and the nags, and you’ve gotten control of it all. What’s more: you’ve now given yourself the ability to be yourself. Rock and roll.