Humans beings are controlled by our instincts. We always have been, and we always will be.
Whether we realize it or not, our basic instincts govern our every decision. We like to believe that our big brains and free will grant us the freedom to be free thinkers, but in reality, the power of our primal urges is more powerful than many of us care to admit.

To understand how we use our basic instincts to survive, we must first identify what they are and how they have evolved over time.

What are basic human instincts?

Just like any other living being on Earth, human beings strive to meet our two basic instincts: survival and reproduction. All our deepest desires are governed by our fundamental desire to fulfill those two basic needs. Let’s delve a little deeper into our instinct for survival.

Survival is a simple enough concept to understand. We, understandably, have a strong desire to stay alive. To achieve our goal of not dying, we avoid objects or situations that could be detrimental to our health, even if they don’t actually pose an imminent risk.

For instance, humans are instinctually scared of snakes and spiders. When we see a creepy crawly, our primal caveman brains instantly send us into a panic, alerting our bodies to the potential threat. The only problem is, snakes and spiders no longer pose humans much of a danger.

Our nomadic ancestors, who often found themselves sleeping outside among the elements, were constantly at risk of being bit by venomous vermin. As a result, our brains are still hardwired to react with fear, despite having easy access to bug spray, Benadryl and exterminators.

Our living situations are drastically different than those of our early ancestors. We no longer must worry about finding adequate shelter every night or hunting our own meals, so how do our brains use our instincts now?

How can we make our basic instincts work for us?

One aspect of survival that we’ve developed over hundreds of thousands of years of evolution is the ability to analyze social situations, particularly body language and vocal tone. While we no longer must worry about being bashed in the head with a club while our backs our turned, humans have found new and creative ways to backstab each other, particularly in the workplace.

There are millions upon millions of examples of people getting manipulated or thrown under the bus in workplace situations. We’ve all been treated unfairly in one way or another at some point in our professional lives.

Now, how many times have you thought to yourself, “I had a bad feeling about that guy?” The answer is likely many. Our need to survive provides us with the instinctual tools to read a situation. That’s why learning to trust our instincts can be such a powerful career tool.

So, what about gambling? Do humans have an instinctual desire to make risky bets?

Believe it or not, our propensity to gamble is also part of our core survival instinct. As far as our ancestors were concerned, choosing not to gamble was a gamble all its own. The potential reward of a winning bet was too much for our primal brains to shake off.

Early humans who had a higher instinctual urge to rely on their gut had an evolutionary edge over their non-risk-taking brethren. Our ability to survive hinged on our desire to take risks – to hunt dangerous animals for their nutritious meat, knowing full well the potential risk of becoming a nutritious snack ourselves. Or chowing down on an unknown fruit, fully-aware that it could be our last.
The result is that the instinct to gamble still dwells inside every one of us. We see it in successful entrepreneurs who risked everything they had on a dream, and we see it in sports betting, slot machining and casino playing.

Those who have the ability to take the biggest risks often reap the highest rewards. When it comes to playing slots and other casino games, you can’t win big if you don’t even play to being with. As distant as casino gambling might seem from our days of hunting dangerous game, the underlying instinct remains the same. We take risks in the hope that it pays off, and often, it does.

To Sum Up

While we live very different lives than our early ancestors, our brains still work the exact same way. Our needs have changed, but our instincts have not. Our core desires to survive and reproduce still guide our every move, even if those moves sometimes don’t make much sense. The good news is, we can harness our instincts and use them to benefit our lives. Whether it be in the workplace or at the casino, instincts are both a driving force and a potent tool.