Byron's Babbles

Building New Instincts

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Instinct, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on July 24, 2021

I am reading another great book right now, Great Circle, by Maggie Shipstead.This amazing novel tells the story of a trailblazing female pilot named Marian Graves and the woman, Hadley Baxter, who played her in a film decades later. It spans time and space while sharing the stories of two courageous women. Marian wants to be a pilot in the early 20th century, a time when women couldn’t even vote much less work in paying jobs where they defied gravity and risked crashing into mountains. It is incredible how Shipstead has layered this book. I am about a quarter of the way through it and I found myself Googling characters to just check and make sure these really were fictitious characters. But, that’s the beauty of a novel; we get to know everything about each character (person) as they become alive for us. Unlike real life, where there are always hidden or unrevealed aspects.

In the book, when Marian went up for her first flying lesson, her instructor asked her if she knew what to do if the plane stalled. He was surprised she knew the answer: point the nose down to gain some speed before pulling up. The instructor was impressed she knew this because it goes against instinct to point the nose down in a loss of power – we want to try to get higher. Marian’s instructor, during this part of the conversation said, “Don’t always follow your instinct but build new instincts.” I loved this statement and it is so true. Sometimes, not all the time, we must fight our instincts and even go against our instincts. Granted, however, the question of “should we question our instinct or go with it?” is not that easy.

Our instincts are not really that random. They are based on the brain’s rapid appraisal and comparison of our current situation with memories of previous situations. So when a decision feels intuitive, it might in fact be based on years of experience. Because of our cognitive biases, however, we can be led toward the wrong answer. Many times we tend to be over-optimistic; we prefer simple solutions; we notice and remember information that confirms what we already think; Additionally, we have this uncontrollable urge to continue down paths that we have already been down, are the tradition and safe path, or have already invested time and money in. This could keep us from doing a little trailblazing of our own.

So next time your instinct is sending you in one direction it’s worth assessing the situation and asking, “What are the arguments for the options of building a new instinct?