Merge's Blog

Old habits are not always the best solutions for new situations

I usually tell leaders to trust their instincts and follow their intuition.  “When in doubt, fall back to your first instinct and gut feeling,” I tell them.  “You know what to do, you have the experience and the knowledge to make decisions and take action.  Don’t second-guess yourself.”  However, last year, a driving trip in Australia caused me to re-evaluate this advice.  Turns out that this counsel only makes sense when you are in familiar surroundings where you can trust your past experiences.  Just yesterday, I was reminded of this again.

I delivered a workshop to a small team of eight people, and my talk was accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation.  However, we ran into a small technical problem and I decided to not to use the projector, but just set my laptop on the conference room table where everyone could see it.  Because the group and room was so small, this solution worked very well.  Well … except I ran into an unexpected problem. Normally when delivering a presentation, I either have a confidence monitor in front of me (for larger crowds) or I glance back at the screen (for smaller groups).  Yesterday however, much to the amusement of my small audience, I found myself repeatedly looking up at the screen in the front of the room … yes, the one that had nothing projected on it!  Turns out that I am so used to glancing at the big screen that I simply kept forgetting that the presentation was just on my laptop.

Yesterday’s incident brought to the forefront of my mind the importance of NOT falling back to instinct when you are in a new environment – such as a new organization or a new department (or in my case, a new situation).  Turns out that when you’re in unfamiliar territory, it’s actually more appropriate to fight your old habits and force yourself to be thoughtful about every action.  If  you’re going into a new circumstance – a new job, a new leadership team, or even new business ventures, then this is a notion that is definitely worth reminding and remembering.

What do you think?  Do you agree that there are times when you should not rely on your gut instinct, when you should fight the urge to fall back upon old habits?  Please jump in and share your thoughts.


  • Merge, i totally agree with you. I learn this lesson in a very hard way when i ventured into a new profession and new company few years back. Turn out that my old habit had alienate myself from my co-workers. I was trying to make people around me to accommodate how i worked instead of me learning to work along with them. Now, after a few years older (hopefully wiser as well) I learn the importance of not bringing my old habit into my current job. Recently i have a new colleague who just join few months back but is suffering the same fate as i was. He can’t start comparing how things here is so different from his previous organization. i see the old me in him. I will share this article with him, and hopefully he can find it useful. Thanks for this wonderful advice, Merge.

  • You’re welcome Sylvia, I’m glad that you’ll be able to use this to help one of your colleagues. I hope both of you will continue to join us in other discussions here on this blog as well.


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