Be an Animal! Act on Instinct

If my dog walks into a room, and something feels off, she just turns and walks out. She doesn’t worry about whose feelings she might hurt, or what anyone will say about her after she goes, she just gets the hell out of there.  IMG_0350

Man is the only animal who ignores his own instincts. Why do we do that? How many times in life do we find ourselves up a creek in a situation that we knew felt wrong when we got into it?

A huge element of Happiness is learning to listen to yourself. As humans, we’ve been evolving for millions of years, and not just our physical form, but our brain power, too. If something feels wrong, chances are it is wrong and your brain knows it, so stop plunging ahead, forcing yourself to finish something just because you started it, or because someone else expects it of you, or because you keep telling yourself it’s the right thing to do. Honor your instinct.

This past week, I was saved from myself once again by the blog team at the Huffington Post. In the time I’ve been a blogger on the site, only twice have my articles been rejected and both times – both times! — I sighed a big, “whew!” when I got the note.

I don’t know how they knew it, but in reviewing the submissions, the editors must have sensed what I knew the whole time I was writing them – this is not really on message for me. This is not what I want to be putting out into the world as part of my own personal brand of happiness.

The most recent rejection happened on Wednesday, and it was of an article about parenting that included a specific scene I witnessed between a friend and his son. I’ve shared the post with half a dozen friends who all agree that it’s well written and my points are valid, but the bottom line is it might really hurt this person’s feelings to see me using his very real parenting moment as an example of how not to talk to your kids, and I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to send that kind of negativity out there, and the HuffPost team was right to say no, for whatever reason (I do wish they would explain the reason, however, as that is a bit maddening). I just find it hard to believe that I hit the Submit button when I already felt so wrong about it in the first place.


I’m grateful that the Universe finds ways to protect me from myself, but I can’t always rely on that, so this is a big learning moment for me (and I hope others as well). We know in our hearts what is good for us, and in our heads, and in our guts. We just have to overcome the noise that interferes with our ability to act on instinct. From now on, if it feels wrong, I’m going to behave like a German Shepherd and walk away. After all, I know of few creatures in the world as happy as my dog, and maybe, just maybe, trusting her gut is the reason.

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6 thoughts on “Be an Animal! Act on Instinct

  • Karen B.

    I’d own a house with all the money I’ve blown on bad decisions I KNEW I shouldn’t have made. Fortunately, it’s only money. But I’m learning not to do that any more.

    • Valerie Alexander Post author

      Preach! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve acted against my instincts in matters of finance. It’s the way we’re socialized (particularly women), and we just need to tell ourselves to stick to our gut. Even if that’s wrong, it won’t sting so much in hindsight.

  • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

    Pause before hitting ‘Send’ on your email. Pause before clicking ‘Submit’ on a comment. Take a second before clicking on ‘Post’ on your blog.

    Sometimes I do it anyway – but I like to think there is a place where my brain says ‘one last chance’ before putting something out forever, which is what it is now, with everything archived somewhere.

    You’re right – only sometimes will the universe give you a second chance. But, like with your anecdote, you CAN learn to pay attention to that little quiet feeling in the gut that says ‘Have you really thought this through yet?’

    Thanks for reminding me there is often a good reason for the hesitation.

    And then let me be brave when the hesitation is NOT warranted, and the piece of fiction I’m writing IS ready to go out, in spite of me being scared.

    Great post.

  • Valerie Alexander Post author

    Oh, there are a whole slew of emails I’d like to get back. Sadly, I don’t get that gut feeling usually until after I’ve hit send. Need to work on toning that muscle.

  • David Erickson

    Open mouth and insert foot. If I got a nickle for every time I said something I shouldn’t have or done something out of some misguided genetic-driven overreaction, I’d be a very rich man.

    The odd thing is I’ve had people tell me of something someone did that really bothered them and there I am, often weeks later, repeating it and then realizing immediately I’d reacted like I’d received a subliminal message from that person to reenact that stupidness. When that happens I want so much to take it back or at the least apologize, but by then it’s way too late.

    Doesn’t work well when your natural instincts are suffering from time delay.