I am fascinated by people.
I am fascinated about why people (including myself), do the things we do. What motivates us to make the decisions that we make every day? And what is even more interesting for me is what can I do to make my own life more enjoyable, satisfying and productive.
In order for me to understand more about my own motives, I need to accept something that isn’t very flattering. This is the fact that in many ways, I am no different than a gorilla, Lion, or Elephant. Yes, I am an animal. And so are you.
When I make decisions, I try to be a rational man. But many of my daily decisions are usually based on feeling or emotion as opposed to good logic. Many times, I seem to be controlled by a force that literally “makes me” do things that seem to not be in my best interest at all. The older I get, the easier it is to live logically but I am afraid that this has little to do with my high intellectual capabilities. I guess I am more like an old lion now then a young cub. I prefer to lay around and relax instead of looking for sexual partners, power and control. I just don’t seem to need to be the “king of the forest” anymore.
I have spent many, many years searching for God. I have read many, many books about how to become more “spiritual” and enlightened. I have had tremendous “successes” and tremendous “failures” which I have learned a great deal from. I have developed a system for positive change over the last few years that is an amazingly simple method (or tool) to apply if someone wants to make a change in his or her life. And it really works. But it takes our instincts into consideration.
I have also discovered a new natural product for people to be able to get through the “moments of craving” when they have the overwhelming desire to use drugs or alcohol. Including sugar and nicotine. It works in the brain and it can (and will) make a real difference for people who are struggling to stop doing things that they just don’t want to do. This is purely about biology.
But one of the key factors that motivates, guides and sometimes even controls us has nothing to do with rational thinking and good planning. It is animal instinct. And unless we all acknowledge that this is there, we will never, ever have the life that we have some form of control over.
I believe that there are two options when we look at the reasons people do the things that they do. But the good news is, I believe, is that we can also be motivated by both at the same time. This is what makes you and me different from animals. Animals only act on instinct. We humans have choices. But what is instinct then?
Any behavior is instinctive if it is performed without being based upon prior experience (that is that they have never “learned” how to do it) and is therefore an expression of innate biological factors. You don’t teach people how to be in love, be hungry or have babies.
Everything that a pack of lions do every day is all based on instinct. It is an internal desire. The behavior has very little to do with outside factors or circumstances. It is usually based on pleasure. It can also be called “intrinsic” or “natural” motivation. This is essentially the stuff that animals are made of.
But we humans can also do things that are based on the rational process of decision making. What is good for me? What is in my best interest? And this folks, is the inner struggle that we have every single day. The struggle between nature and instinct and the rational mind.
The apostle Paul calls his nature “sinful”. This gives me the feeling that he hates a part of himself that he blames for what he sometimes does. Paul had some kind of secret struggle which he called his “Thorn in his flesh”. Maybe Paul was in inner conflict with something that was his “animal nature” ( maybe even sexual) and he labeled it as “bad”. It may not have been coincidence that he was always ranting about sexual immorality.
If I label my instincts as “bad” or even “sinful” instead of acknowledging that they are just instincts and that I also have a choice to obey them or not, it will cause me a lot of long term grief, shame and guilt.
I only began to really understanding myself better when I started watching documentaries about the animal kingdom on TV. Richard Attenborough is my favorite. He gets genuinely excited about everything he sees. Love that guy. The more I saw how animals behave as individuals and in community, the more I saw the parallels between humans and them. It is mind blowing.
But the difference between animals and us is that we do have a choice. I cannot use my “animal instincts” as a license or excuse for my sometimes appalling behavior. Because I am human, at any point in my instinctive actions, I am able to consciously recognize what it is that I am doing and simply stop what I am doing. Animals can’t do this.
So the next time you hear the words, “He acted like an animal” you may want to look at it differently. Acting like an animal is perceived to be negative. But look at a woman who is giving birth to a baby, look at a young man and woman who seem to be lost in a haze of love and lust that is so strong that even a nuclear blast can’t break the spell. Look at the war refugees running from danger looking for food warmth and shelter. These people are also acting like animals.
And once we accept this fact, we can get on with becoming better human beings.