Trying to make a decision? – When not to trust your instincts

June had come to see me because she was feeling stressed. Unhappy in her present job she was initially delighted when offered a dream promotion in a new company. Through a series of interviews June had triumphed over one hundred and four candidates. However after two unexpected redundancies in eight years she had become doubtful of her abilities and worried if she was ‘good enough’ to fulfill the new role.

Although both past employers had to make huge cutbacks because of the recession and were loath to let June go; she had taken the redundancies personally. Constantly battling with feelings of being a failure and worrying in case it should happen again caused her to become anxious when thinking about work.

With this in mind I was not surprised to hear June say that it was her ‘instinct’ to turn down the new job offer and stay with her present company. My instinct was that she was making the wrong decision because June was making a decision based on fear.

Instinct can be a wonderful human skill that helps us to make decisions about people and our environment. Instinct is fed and influenced by a myriad of things – from the smallest of human facial movements to a persons tone of voice, beliefs, goals and past experience. However fear can crowd out this rich multi layered stream of information.

If ‘fear’ had a job it would be to keep you safe
Fear is part of our human experience for a very good reason. When in danger you need to act quickly. Any deliberation can sometimes mean the difference between life and death. So nature has given you the ability to cut off rational thought and act from primitive instincts when feeling threatened.

When your body has an inkling of a situation being threatening it roars into action cascading your body with chemicals that send you into fight or flight. This means that you become physically stronger, can run faster and pack a heavier punch. Great if you want to escape from a hungry lion, or fight off an attacker but horribly debilitating if you are trying to make a decision about a job offer.

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Jill Wootton (47 Posts)