In his book, Instinct (FaithWords, May 2014), Bishop T.D. Jakes shares the power of instinct, how it can draw us to our true purpose and how we can follow it to realize our potential for a life of jubilant contentment and passion. He says our instinct is the key to becoming the people we were meant to be.
Our instincts are the treasure map for our soul’s satisfaction. Following our instincts can make the crucial distinction between what we are good at—our vocation or skill set—and what we are good for—the fulfillment of our purposeful potential. When you’re truly engaged with your life’s calling, whether in the boutique, the banquet hall, or the boardroom, you rely on something that cannot be taught.
I’m convinced that our instincts can provide the combination we need to align our unique variables with our callings and release the treasure within us. When harnessed, refined, and heeded, our instincts can provide the key to unlocking our most productive, most satisfying, most joyful lives.
We often recognize people who seem to thrive by instinct. Fashion designers who do what they do beyond the training they received, with a flair for the latest trends that’s inherent and instinctive. Interior decorators and others in the graphic arts may wield this gift as well, but they are not the only ones. Athletes in the “zone,” or investors with a keen sense of timing, performers with the courage to audition for a role outside their fans’ expectations. They all know what it means to function by their own unique internal compass.
If you have ever had the privilege of working with someone like this, then you know they can take the mundane and make it magical. They can take the most simplistic equipment and produce the most superlative results. Often they maximize their training with their unique flair. No matter what you call it, the truly gifted simply have that extra something that seemingly others don’t have or don’t tap into the way they should.
Unfortunately, much of what I see today isn’t about fulfilling one’s true potential as much as it is about appearing to fulfill what other people expect. Too many people want the appearance of winning rather than the practices and hard work that create a true champion. They mistake the prize for the art of winning and will ultimately buy a trophy without ever running a race. They didn’t take the class; they bought the diploma. They aren’t successful; they just have the props. They aren’t driven to achieve something; they just bust their gut to appear busy to everyone around them.
The irony is what these people fail to realize. When you’re living by instinct, then you will naturally enhance everything and everyone around you. In other words, success will come naturally! When both your intellect and instincts are aligned, then producing the fruits of your labors brings satisfaction beyond measure.
Now, it will still require hard work and dedication on your part, but the internal satisfaction will fuel your desire to achieve even larger dreams. Based on the fact that we are all inherently creative people, if we are in touch with our instincts, then we will naturally increase our endeavors. When you don’t become fixated on winning the prize or appearing successful, and instead pursue your passions, then you will discover the fulfillment that comes from living by instinct.
Feel the Rhythm
Consider this: scientists tell us that even our cells have instincts. Imagine my amazement when I spoke with physicians who revealed the way our physical cells operate. They say even our cells function based on what has been genetically programmed within them. Instinct is interwoven into the very fiber of our DNA.
We all begin as a single cell, a product of an egg and a sperm. They unite to form a zygote, the result of the fertilized egg, the single cell that will evolve from a human forming to become a human being. This new cell undergoes a series of rapid divisions that produce a blastocyst, the initial ball of new cells. The blastocyst then multiplies into many daughter cells. One expert describes these cells as being “pluri-potential.” In other words, each of these cells has the potential to differentiate into new cells of many different varieties. Some “daughter cells” instinctively become skin cells, bone cells, spleen cells, and cardiac cells or brain cells. The inherent imprint of these cells activates them to become what they were predestined to be.
This inherent sense of identity based on function is truly astounding. Doctors explain that the cardiac cells are “auto-rhythmic” cells. They actually vibrate and beat together instinctively at the same tempo—before they ever unite with each other and function as the heart! Even drummers in an orchestra need a conductor to set a rhythm, but these cells instinctively catch the same beat and have the same rhythm. They draw together and beat together to the same rhythm.
Learning about these “cell instincts” made me think of the old camp song taken from the Old Testament book of Ezekiel—you know, the foot bone connected to the leg bone and the leg bone connected to the hip bone and so forth. Now, I’m not a doctor, and I’m sure not here to sing around a campfire. But what I want you to see is that the body develops by cells that find their rightful place because they know what they were made to do! These cells vibrate to the tempo of their purpose even before they’re operating and performing their function.
So how about you—are you in sync with your inner wisdom about your strengths, abilities, talents, and unique contribution to the world? Or is your life somehow offbeat to your inner melody? Have you lost your rhythm because you have not found your place to define and activate your unique contribution? One of the great tragedies of life is not discovering the people, culture, and careers that are part of your tribe and moving to the same beat.
You may have experienced the discord that comes when those around you move to the beat of a drummer different than your own. Successful businesses, healthy relationships, and most collaborative endeavors require a syncopated alignment of roles, responsibilities, and rhythms. Entrepreneurs often need employees with a work ethic and flexibility similar to their own. It’s frustrating when you have an urgent idea that requires execution at midnight and a team member who cannot be reached until the following day. It’s not wrong to set boundaries and limits on work, but people need to be on the same page of music so the orchestra can play together. Similarly, romantic partners often discover they’re out of step because one desires a waltz while the other’s leading a tango.
Contentment comes when you find the people, places, and events in life you were created to impact. Most individuals who lead rich, productive lives do so because they allow their instincts to guide them to the intersection of the head and heart, the place where their deepest passions and sharpest skills align with destiny. They succeed instinctively because they each know their own tempo and recognize it in the individuals and institutions with whom they collaborate.
Connect to Your Calling
If you have ever felt misaligned, if you have lost the rhythm, the passion, or the thrill of living in alignment that you once glimpsed, then keep reading. As he did with the very cells that comprise our bodies and the dry bones that were joined together for new life, God has given us deeper instincts to be attracted to those things that fit a higher and better purpose.
Never settle for less than God’s best for your life.
Some people have the courage to move beyond the ordinary, from the methodical mediocre into the revolutionary realization of where they belong. You can have this sense of belonging only when you connect to your core calling. If you believe in calling, as I do, you understand it’s more than the motivation to minister that clergy experience. The calling to creativity, the calling to teach, to give, to build, are all part of allowing your instinct to guide you to the “something more” that you suspect is out there.
Who can deny that some people move into their life’s purpose with the skill of a child prodigy when he first touches a violin? They’re aware of a compelling sense of attraction and engagement that cannot merely be taught but can only be caught. I’ve known musicians who played the piano from childhood, many without lessons. They just sat down at the keyboard and felt connected to it.
It’s a sad thing to live your life without this deep-rooted sense of connection to your purpose. Like a lightbulb without a lamp, this kind of disconnect fosters dark and foreboding feelings in the soul. Whether you are the manager or the employee, the homemaker or the home builder, what matters most is that you have been awakened to your purpose and enlightened to the inner fulfillment that it affords.
Early in my life I myself was haunted by feelings that I was created for more than I could access in my environment. The only reason I moved beyond the many potholes and pit stops I encountered is because of an instinctive allure pulling me toward something up ahead on the road that I had to find! I refused to stop and settle for less than the explosive exploration of what God had placed within me.
There is no secret formula for learning to listen to your instincts. These words merely offer my sparks toward kindling the blaze of your own incandescent, instinctive alignment, the deeper and fuller life you were created to attain. So as we journey together, let’s remove the smoke and mirrors and ask the questions at the heart of our truest self. If we seek meaning in our motives, perhaps the answer will not be the voice of God shouting at us from the heavens but in the whisper of our God-given instincts deep within.
You see, Scripture tells us, Out of the heart flow the issues of life (Prov. 4:23). The heart can’t read. It can’t draw and it surely can’t drive. But if we will listen to its drumbeat, if we have the courage to be wooed by its wisdom, then we will find our answer. We could spend the rest of our lives in a rhythm so in sync that the melodious sounds we make transform all areas of our lives into an integrated, harmonic symphony of satisfaction.
As we grow and go forward, our master Creator may be wooing you instinctively into a place where your intellect can flourish and your heart can rest. If cells move until they connect and form the highly complicated and efficient beings we call humans, then maybe we need to put our ears to the heart of the matter and catch the beat. Maybe we need to stop choosing people purely by résumés and rationales that have led us headfirst into disappointment. We need instead to find people who are in sync with our beat and form a more perfect union with those who hear the same rhythm! It is time for us to find the thing we were created to do, the people we were meant to affect, and the power that comes from alignment with purpose.
Having had unique opportunities to sit at the table with champions in almost every imaginable field today, I’ve found that people who accomplish massive feats don’t play by man-made rules. They are trendsetters and game changers.
They lead the world into paradigm shifts that we can only study after they’ve done what they set out to do. They negotiate unprecedented deals, build beyond borders, and innovate virtually every area with amazing accomplishments.
They do it because they don’t play out their lives by prewritten scripts. They aren’t afraid to leave the cages of comfort and head to the jungles of judicious risk and discovery. These people of whom the world takes notice dare not to fit in but aren’t afraid to stand out. They don’t run in a pack or stay with the herd. They know where they’re going and where they belong.
I’m not suggesting that we take our script from others. The low-grade plagiarism of popularity will never lead you to true contentment. But I am saying perhaps it is possible to learn from the risk-takers committed to living instinctively, listening beyond information and example, for the inspiration of igniting your purpose. If you are already doing what you were created to do, then I want to help you enhance your success. And if you are not, I hope your days of following other drummers will diminish as you listen for the unique, syncopated beat within yourself.
If you listen, it will guide you like a magnet to steel. All else is misguided. Most people are manipulated by the approval of others, the paycheck that supports them, and the lifestyle that has handcuffed them to the brass ring of perceived success. On this path we eventually live like slaves to a man-made system. We chase the goals of others instead of pursuing our own dreams. We anesthetize our despair with the next purchase, pill, or plunder. We do what we think we should instead of living beyond what logic alone can dictate.
If these words resonate with you and reverberate with what you know to be true, then it’s time to decode your own instincts, increase your areas of advancement, and illuminate the dark corners of disappointment at the edges of your life. I truly believe that following your instincts will transform your workplace, liberate your career, and enhance your relationships.
Make no mistake, this information can only offer you clues to stimulate your own process of discovery. The answers you seek are already inside you. So if you’re ready to unlock the confines of where you are to discover the freedom of where you were meant to be, then it’s time to get started. Your instinct is the key!
Excerpted from Instinct by T.D. Jakes. Used with permission from FaithWords, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.