This may be a stretch but walk with me for awhile on this one. We recently introduced Instinct to the world as the second virtue of #smallerthinking. As such, we defined the moment at which instinct kicks in: when we decide if something is worth our time and effort and we begin charting the course of our events. It’s internal and we essentially make it up as we go. We also talk a lot about the link between instinct and trust. Or at least the need to trust our instincts more often in our professional lives.
This all reminds me of a story. Sort of. As it turned out, this happened to me. While in college, I finished a decently-sized (approx. 5' wide), mostly white abstract painting and hung it in my apartment. I liked it well enough. About 6 months later, a tiny voice said take it down and start painting on it again. Since we’re on the subject of instinct, I’ll say that’s what was at work. Several all-nighters and a few tubes of paint later, I had a completely different painting. OK -- it was still white, abstract and of a decent size. But the newer version really did transcend the previous version (and my concept of painting at the time). I ended up working in that style for 2 or 3 years, and the final phase that I’d discovered became the most important sequence of every painting during that period. The white painting is still afforded a prominent space in every home I’ve lived in since those heady days of higher learning. For me, it’s a reminder to keep listening at every step along a path.
Leapfrog a decade or so to our current conversation about instinct. A lot of times we’re guilty of perceiving instinct to be a tool of judgement. It’s true our instincts factor into practically every decision we make. But it doesn’t have to be a yes/no answer or a right or left turn. It can be a maybe/if answer or a long slalom. What I want to believe is that our instincts spur our creativity. Or maybe it’s the opposite -- perhaps our creativity is the thing that opens the door for instinct to make a call. Or maybe they’re the same, because they’re both about possibilities, growth and trust.