Monday, May 30, 2011

Decision Making: Instinctive vs. Impulsive

Photo Credit:
Limkokwing Cambodia MBA Programme
What is the difference between instinctive and impulsive decision making? Both are made in a snap moment, but they carry very different outcomes. Impulsive decisions are often justified by saying, “I was acting on instinct.”

An impulsive decision is one that satisfies an immediate desire, regardless of the bigger picture or the final outcome. It is rooted in selfishness and greed. The adulterous spouse makes an impulsive decision.

By contrast, an instinctive decision considers the situation at hand, figures out the best outcome, and acts immediately. It comes from a place of innate selflessness. The soldier who dives on a grenade to save his platoon is making an instinctive decision.

There are several things which tip snap judgment in favor of the impulsive and repress our instinctive nature, among which are:
  • Alcohol & drugs
  • Constant stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Turning off the brain and turning on the TV (escapism)
  • Consistently waiting until the last minute to do things
  • Hanging around with people who make impulsive decisions

Avoiding the above things (and others that elicit the same effects) will bring snap decision making to center. There are also things which can help hone our instincts:
  • Prayer / Meditation
  • Reading the thoughts of people whom you admire & respect
  • Take quiet time, each day, to sort out what is going on. Sometimes our instincts are just smothered by an unsorted, unresolved mess in our brains. For some, writing out thoughts really helps things come together and organize.

Impulsive decisions solve an immediate want and never go more than one layer deep into the awareness of a situation. Instinctive decisions are the true 'snap judgment calls', as they take an immediate look towards the best end of a situation and quickly identify the path to get there.

What is a situation in your life story where instinct won out over impulse? Why did your instinct prevail over immediate satisfaction?


  1. Good for you in starting this blog, James. Keep up the good work. Consistency is the most important thing.

  2. Thank you, Michael. I have already put a topic to blog on in my daily Evernote to-do list, which is also thanks to you. :) I look forward to reading yours today.