Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Trusting My Instincts

I have not always trusted my instincts in various situations throughout my life.  I sometimes thought that trusting my instincts was somehow not using my brain.  Smart people use their brain when making decisions, right?  That sounds logical.  What I have found, however, is that life is not always logical.  There are twists, turns, corners we can't see around, and unexpected things that pop up on our life's road, that can't always be predicted by logic and planning.

Life is much like driving, actually, now that I think about it.  We learn to drive we are taught the basics of driving in driver's ed, we know the rules of the road the day we get that little card with our picture on it.  We set out on the road thinking we know quite a bit about what we are doing.  How naive we are, though.  Experience is really our best teacher and for that there is no quick-study course or shot-cut route.  We have to get out there and drive, day after day, learning how to navigate those things they can't teach you in a driving class.  There are blind spots, squirrels that dart in our path, people coming at us in the opposite direction too far over in our lane.  So many things that we knew might happen, we were taught to look out for these things, we even got on the road and drove a bit with other people helping us watch out for the unexpected, but nothing truly prepares us for being alone in the driver's seat with no one to point out potential hazards to us.  At some point we have to learn to do it all on our own, and we often make mistakes in those early days, especially if we don't trust our instincts. The rules are all well and good as a base, but if a squirrel darts in front of us, we instinctively go against the rules and swerve, maybe into the opposite lane, in order to avoid hitting it.

It is the same in our lives.  We have people, usually our parents or other mentors, teaching us the basics of life, the social dos and don'ts, the rules of good behavior, that kind of thing.  Our teachers even help us through relational problems, help us to navigate the unexpected things that are sure to happen in our lives.  As we grow, the allow us more and more road time so that we can get comfortable with making good decisions, but they still come along side of us to aid us in staying close to the center of the road.  Then one day we are on our own.  We often think we are pretty savvy too.  We might even think we know more than the people who taught us do.  We really are naive though, we don't have enough experience under our belt, so we should be really cautious and ever mindful of the pitfalls we may encounter.  We are sure to have an encounter with our own squirrel on the road, a person our instincts tell us to avoid.  If we do what instincts tell us to, we will swerve to go around him.  If we follow the rules of the road, which say to stay in the center of the lane, that is to say, make friends with him, as is socially acceptable, he is a nice squirrel after all, everyone else likes him, our instincts must be wrong, so we resist the urge to avoid.  We encounter the squirrel and it doesn't end pretty.  It never does.  It's not the squirrel's fault.  We should have trusted our instincts and avoided him all together.  It is unfortunate that in our naivete we hit a few squirrel both literally and figuratively in our journey through life.  It is the rare individual who avoids it all together.

Hopefully when we encounter these types of situations, when we are badly shaken having unintentionally injured someone, we can learn from them.  We can take away positive lessons and one of the most positive, most empowering lessons we can learn is to trust our own instincts.  They are usually right.  We should never allow others to sway us toward ignoring what we feel deep inside.  No matter how much evidence they provide to make their logical case, if our instincts say avoid, we should avoid.  It ends up being better for us all, in the end, if we do.  The squirrel scampers off to his den of friends who are just like him, and we continue on to our destination, arriving safely, without the shell-shock of having inadvertently annihilated a squirrel, and go on about our live.

Chalk up a bad experience to a lesson learned.  I will endeavor never again to ever go against my instincts when it comes to my encounters with others.