People love to tell you to follow your instincts. This permeates through everything from self-help to movies, to coaching of all kinds. “Listen to your gut,” “Follow your spirit,” “Do what’s in your heart.” These are all different versions of the same advice, and that advice is this:
Don’t follow any line of logic whatsoever. Just follow whatever the fuck you’re feeling right now.
And sometimes, maybe it’s not the worst idea. I don’t know. I don’t know every situation in the world. But I do know that at different points in my life, my instincts have told me to do the following:
1. Eat salt with a spoon.
2. Eat sugar with a spoon.
3. Watch and read things that don’t challenge my brain at all.
4. Not read anything at all ever.
5. Sexually assault people.
6. Eat my dog.
7. Jump off of buildings.
8. Profess an opinion about something I don’t understand.
9. Scroll through Facebook without taking in any information.
10. Jerk off while driving.
11. Think through nothing.
12. Eat cinnamon rolls until I am literally dead.
Our instincts mislead us because they’re outdated by thousands of years. They tell us to eat fattening food because food used to be scarce, and we needed to pack on fat to survive. They tell us to cheat on each other, because of the ancient concern of, “What if the lady carrying my spawn drinks some bad swamp water and shits out her liver? Better fuck that pile of flesh over there just in case to make sure my genes are passed on.” And they tell us to be twitchy paranoid weirdos because we used to live in lawless worlds populated by mostly pedophiles and tigers.
But of course, we now have more food than we’ll ever need, we’ve got procreation down pat, and we’ve more or less eliminated tigers and kept pedophiles on the internet. So maybe what we should do is tell our instincts to go fuck themselves right in their stupid butts.
The First Thing You Need To Know: Your Gut Is An Idiot.
When people say to “follow your instincts,” they don’t mean that you should have 25 Bagel Bites for lunch and fuck some rando with questionable sores around their mouth. They mean that you should follow your instincts (or your gut) when making life decisions.
But is there a difference between these two things? Well…no.
The idea of your “gut” as a decision maker basically boils down to fear and desire. It feels like it’s something more, but it’s not. Every “feeling” about a decision you have boils down to how much you want something versus your feelings about the repercussions of going for it.
You want to eat that last slice of pizza, but you’re afraid of the extra jiggle it will give to your gut.
You want the opportunities of a new job, but you’re afraid of leaving behind what you already know.
The guy at that bar has pretty eyes and a great jawline, but you’re afraid he’s giving off a major “roofies you then spends the night smelling your hair and crying” vibe.
It’s all fear and desire. If you’re relying on instincts, you’re making major life choices with the same mechanism that tells you to eat three Cinnabons, or that Advil will give your child Parkinson’s.
If you think about it, going off of your gut is really no different than the normal measurement of risk vs. reward, only it’s your emotional brain measuring these things instead of your logical one. You decide what job to take based off of what kind of “vibe” your would-be new boss gives you rather than, you know, his actual words and actions.
It can be right sometimes, but it’s not reliable. It’s something to weigh, and then usually throw the fuck out.
Your instincts aren’t your truth. They’re your leftovers. They’re Neanderthal baggage that you’re forced to keep dragging around. Imagine the paradise we’d be in without them.
Now, Actually Imagine A World Without Instincts.
Imagine not wanting to fuck someone because they look a certain way. Think of how incredible that would be. Not only would all of us be able to choose partners based completely off of compatibility, but we wouldn’t objectify women, rape would fall off significantly, way, way fewer people would die alone. If you were alone, it would be only because you suck as a person–which would motivate the human population to be better.
Women wouldn’t spend hours every day to make sure they look good, guys wouldn’t spend that same amount of time masturbating, and both genders could lead more productive, amazing lives.
Like holy shit. Look at all of that. Can you think of anything else that would decrease both rape and masturbation? There is nothing else. And it doesn’t stop there.
Imagine not constantly feeling a need to pack weight onto your body. Imagine not constantly being enslaved to your desire for empty carbs and processed garbage. You’d pretty much have to get hit by a train in order to die young.
You may be saying, “Oh but then I couldn’t even enjoy something as wonderful as ice cream for a dessert.” You wouldn’t need to! You’ll find joy in ways that aren’t terrible for you! Can you fathom something so wonderful? Creating art is your ice cream! Roller coasters are your doughnut holes! A walk in the park is your artisanal froyo!
Imagine being motivated by logic and the reality of a situation, instead of having the uncontrollable desire to follow what you want right this second like a six-year-old. You could stop before every decision, and—holy shit—EVALUATE IT! You would no longer be a wandering idiot who just does things without knowing why.
You wouldn’t just be better off in all of these ways. You’d be free from the shackles of your emotions. You’d still have them, but they wouldn’t impact your decisions. You’d simply experience them, and move on.
We could accomplish so much. We could find some other worldly motivation. We could kick the shit out of this world if we were just able to get a hold ourselves.
The Solution: Tell Your Instincts To Fuck Off.
Now there’s one little problem with living instinct-free: it’s impossible. Your instincts will always be there. They will always tell you what to do. They’ll always tell you to avoid a risk out of fear, or to stare at a girl’s cleavage, or to eat that pile of deep fried ice cream. Sometimes they’ll scream at you to do these things.
But avoiding a risk out of fear is stupid, deep fried ice cream will just make you sad later, and a good cleavage stare is the most fleeting satisfaction you’ll ever experience.
So we have to try something. We can’t ignore our instincts, but that doesn’t mean we can’t control them. Just because they’re telling you what to do doesn’t mean you can’t say, “Uh no, asshole.”
One way people tell us to follow our instincts is to live in the moment. After all, if you’re in the moment, you’re outside of your head, and you’re just experiencing, and reacting to life instinctively instead of pondering it.
You know who does this really well? Zebras. Zebras live in nothing but the moment. They aren’t pondering something they read about that day, or what they’re going to do about their credit card debt. They exist only in the now. And because of this, because they don’t analyze their situation, or think critically about the fact that they kind of stick out like a sore thumb on an African prairie. So living in the moment often results in them getting like…eaten to death.
So how about fuck the moment?
How about instead of living in the moment, we decide on the moment. We don’t seek to react to the world, but rather to create it.
This means that you control every decision. You ponder every opportunity. You weigh pros and cons instead of just blindly running to the pros or from the cons. You step outside of the moment and become your very own puppet master. Your body is Pinocchio, and your brain is the weirdo that wanted his doll to become a real life little boy with a growing shaft-like nose.
Relying on instincts sounds nice because it’s easy. You don’t have to use your brain, or confront anything about yourself, or take responsibility for anything you do. But the fact of the matter is, it sucks. You end up doing things for your current self at the sacrifice of your future self. You’re being a selfish asshole, and you’re victim of it.
And you don’t have to be the victim. Take your life back. Use your head and decide on the moment. Create your life using your logic, instead of gutturally reacting to it like a zebra with its tail between its legs.
If you don’t, honestly, you probably deserve to get eaten by lions.