Overcoming Instinct.

I am writing this for myself, just as I am writing it for anyone else. I am an ape, a primitive being, and so are you. We all can be better, we all can improve, and when I clarify my thoughts by putting pen to paper, I fortify my belief in these thoughts. I make my understanding of what I think and believe concrete, and I further propagate this message deeper into my psyche; I want to embody what I write, I want it to become my core, molten, firey, possessing deep power. I want this message to embed itself in my DNA at such a fundamental level that my future children come marching out of the womb screaming OORAH!

It is Human instinct to reach for the bag of Doritos over a banana, apple or mango. It is Human instinct to lay on the couch doing nothing. It is Human instinct to always prefer the easy way. It is Human instinct to choose fast-food over fresh-food. It is Human instinct to hit the snooze button rather than going to the Gym. It is Human instinct to choose the present over the future. It is Human instinct to be lazy, gluttonous and short-sighted. It’s your instinct, your destiny, to be fat, lazy and unproductive, only doing the necessary actions to keep yourself alive. Is this the life you want to live? A life of obesity, unfulfilled potential, unrealised dreams? A life of mediocrity, a life of instant gratification? Would you be happy dating someone like this, a lazy person who values the present over the future…someone who has and will never amount to anything other than a slave to their biology? If you’ve answered no to these questions, then keep reading; else, enjoy your mediocre life, filled with long-term pain and short-term pleasure.

Humans are programmed to survive, and the instincts within us have kept the Human race surviving for roughly 300,000 years. Our instincts drove us to choose the caloric dense foods over the less dense foods (fat > carbs/protein, 9 kcal/g, 4 kcal/g respectively) for they offered more energy; foods such as nuts, avocados, and any other naturally occurring food possessing a high-fat content. Laziness meant we didn’t expend energy unless it was necessary, and in a world of caloric scarcity this prevention of unnecessary caloric expenditure was a line of defence from starvation and death. In a world where everything is trying to kill you and food is scarce, it doesn’t make sense to do things that aren’t directly tied with your survival, so why do the thing that doesn’t need to be done? In a world of uncertainty, a world where the future didn’t exist because the present was so demanding, instant gratification kept us alive.

In the modern day, these instincts, and I’m speaking primarily of the instincts regarding food consumption and default to laziness, hold us back. They stop us from self-actualising, they stop us from being fit, healthy, and they stop us from realising our dreams. They keep us rooted in the present; our instincts know not of the future, for the future exists behind a wall of haziness and uncertainty in our imagination. Those who succeed, those who realise their dreams, and those who do the thing…these people overcome their instincts. They overcome this intrinsic drive to do nothing and to eat Doritos and ice cream while watching Netflix, and periodically dozing off to sleep. We’ve all been there, let’s be honest.

Why should you overcome instinct?
Great question, I couldn’t have asked it better myself. The modern is challenging in new ways. We have not evolved to adapt to the conditions in which we live in the modern day. The industrial revolution, which resulted in the internal combustion engine and electricity (think anything that doesn’t use steam power or literal horse-power), has only occurred within the last ~200 years. Conversely, farming was first used ~14,000 years ago; comparatively, it is only a recent invention and one that radically changed our world in fundamental ways. This fuelled the scientific, technological, and information technological revolutions of the 20th and 21st centuries. It takes enormous amounts of time, literally hundreds of thousands to millions of years. Our biology is primitive but our world is modern. Our world is Wi-Fi but our biology is carrier-pigeon…we’re running an outdating operating system and we need a software update. If God is in charge of this homo sapien product line, the CEO, the board of the company best be firing him because this hardware is inferior to the environment to which it was deployed. We’re but moths to a flame…the modern world preys on our ability, or lack-there-of to overcome our instincts.

Why do I like fast-food so much? I’m very health conscious and athletic, but I’ll still enjoy a mean vegan potato scallop burger from my local takeaway shop, dripping in oil; the pre-diabetic diet. Why do I drive to the grocery store when I could easily walk? Why do I wanna sleep in and chain watch The Office? I’m a hardcoded lazy ape whose instinct makes him favour energy conservation over physical health and productivity. I wrestle with my instincts every day, and I’m gonna bet that most people do.

You are driving home from work. The image of a burger from McDonald’s flashes before your mind’s eye and you feel the delight from within. You can feel the pull toward the heart disease between diabetic buns, and you know this to be the wrong choice. What are you gonna do? If you submit to your instinct, your primitive impulse, you will have lost the battle. The battle in the campaign of your life and one battle may not seem like much, but you have committed a fatal error. Submission to instinct has now become an option, and this card is on the table available for play. You’ve lost. You’ve submitted. You’ve embodied the primitive Human…you’ve created negative momentum. Welcome to the jungle motherfucker. To overcome your instinct, you must not pull into the drive-thru and you must go home and cook sweet potato and vegetables, or whatever won’t callous your arteries and wreak havoc on your insulin sensitivity. To overcome instinct you must act in the opposite manner in which you feel compelled? Do you want saturated fat? Wrong. Carbohydrate. Do you want to quit? Wrong. Lean in, push on, do not give in. Do you want to check your notifications? Wrong. Keep working, stay focused and OVERCOME INSTINCT.

Each time you choose to not submit to your instincts, you strengthen the mental muscle, you strengthen the neural pathway for that behaviour in your brain. The stronger the neural pathway, the easier it is to engage in that behaviour, therefore, the more you overcome instinct, the easier it becomes to overcome that urge in the future. Do it enough and it becomes automatic. Each time you choose GYM over SLEEP IN, you strengthen your neural pathway. Each time you choose SWEET POTATO over BURGER you strengthen your neural pathway. Each time you choose A BOOK over NETFLIX you strengthen the neural pathway. Your behaviour creates momentum, and this momentum is based on neural pathways, and this is why ROUTINE WORKS. If you want to succeed in whatever you desire, you must engage in repetition; For example, If you want to be healthy you must repeatedly eat healthily and exercise, and to do this you must overcome instinct. Overcoming instinct is a fundamental cornerstone of any success story. Win the moment by overcoming instinct and you will win your life.

To overcome instinct is to get a leg up in life; a distinct advantage over those who succumb to instinct. Overcoming instinct means it is more likely that you will live the life that you want to live. It is because of this repeated self-overcoming (overcoming instinct), that you will be more likely to execute on the tasks that will move you toward realising your dreams. This continual self-overcoming fortifies your willpower, and this willpower will be the driving force in your life; you will possess the power in which to execute on your dreams. Do you want to be the best that you can be? Do you want to realise your dreams? If you want to level up, get an advantage in life, you must…



6 thoughts on “Overcoming Instinct.

  1. It’s a decent article. I’m surprised you didn’t credit Aristotle since he defined a virtuous person as someone who is indeed in the habit of being virtuous; and I’m pretty sure that your paragraph ‘The Process’ alludes to this.


    1. I had no idea Aristotle said that man! My apologies, I don’t know much about Aristotle besides a brief run-in with udaimonia


      1. It’s in his Nicomachean Ethics. But hey, thinking like Aristotle without having read Aristotle–more power to you.


  2. Moreover, I wasn’t speaking about ethics at all in this article! I’m a but confused by your comment however.


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