Trusting your instincts

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Are  Eastern civilisations more structured around the instinctive rather than the intellectual? Asks PAWAN LUTHRA

 

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With a population of over a billion, there is intense competition for all things ordinary in India. Be it the ability to figure out how to go from one suburb to another, find trustworthy domestic help, or get your car serviced in a reliable manner, often it is one’s gut instincts which work better. When applying for a job or admitting children to school, the so-called ‘contacts’ may come in handy, but one’s intuition as to chances of success help assess the situation.

Intuition is described as ‘understanding or knowing, without conscious recourse to thought, observation or reason’. Some see this unmediated process as somehow mystical, while others regard it as a response to unconscious cues or implicitly, apprehended prior learning.

Intellect on the other hand is described as the faculty of the mind by which one knows or understands, as distinguished from that by which one feels or wills; and as capacity for thinking and acquiring knowledge.

There is a school of thought which argues that Eastern civilisations are more structured around the instinctive rather than the intellectual way of living. While that discussion will have its assenters and detractors, it is interesting to observe that one legend of our lifetime, the late Steve Jobs believed strongly in trusting his gut instinct. He said that a strong instinct about something, is but your unconscious signalling you to make a change. It was Jobs’ gut instincts that led him to change the world.

Psychologists are now finding we’re right to trust our first instincts, and that we should tap into our own innate wisdom more often. They are even telling us ways in which to “sharpen” our gut instincts to put them into use at work, in say, business or teaching, or even child-rearing.

Arriving at their new home here, migrant Indians start their life largely by instinct. While they may get information from family and friends and the ever-available web, a number of decisions are based on instinct, which has been finely honed in, having spent a large part of their life in the cut and thrust of the social and professional world of India. Often their instincts help them in surviving and prospering in their new home.

Over the years, as they get more comfortable with the structures around their lives, this can give way to decision making by knowledge and intellect. This in turn can lead to greater success; however the danger can at times be an abandonment of their gut instinct and using too much of that structured decision making.

What is needed is to find the right balance between gut instinct and rational thinking.

In fact, a visit back home to India can bring back the instincts of survival as one negotiates for better pricing from the street vendor, or tries to find a short cut to navigate the maze of bureaucracy in India (if, God forbid one has to do this for whatever reason). It is interesting to note how this ability to work through instinct comes back when one is thrust in this situation. As they say, you can take the man out of India, but never India out of the man.

It is always fun to try the instinctive options in life down under. One way to start would be to put away the GPS and try finding the way to a friend’s house just with the general directions. While it may take longer to get there, it could be a lot of fun.

And being late is no crime, is it?

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Pawan is the publisher of Indian Link and is one of Indian Link's founders. He writes the Editorial section.