Advice abounds in our information age, and everyone loves to be an expert.
I often feel like I have a host of voices in my head, all vying for attention, trying to scream at (or whisper or cajole or complain or berate) me into doing what they think I should do.
All those voices can get pretty darn confusing and overwhelming, even when they are well-meaning, savvy or wise. I can quickly fall into paralysis, either frozen or spinning my wheels, trying one thing and then another, but not sticking with anything. Or I just get consumed with self-doubt, so it’s hard to trust my own instincts.
In today’s world there is no shortage of advice. Everyone has an opinion about how we should look, parent our children, what to eat, how to be a success, how to write, think, live.
Some of that advice is excellent, life-saving, some of it may be terrible, much of it is contradictory. Most of it doesn’t apply to you at all and will just make you crazy.
So, what do we do with all this advice?
What Is Advice Anyway?
Let’s first look at what advice is.
The word advice comes from latin roots for “to seem (good)” and “to see.” Isn’t that an eye-opener?
Notice that advice is just what seems good to the giver of the advice at the time. It may not be good for you. Also, notice the root meaning of “to see,” which means advice is a view, a perspective. Nothing more.
All advice is just advice. It is what works or worked for someone else. It may just be what they believe will work that they may not even have tried.
All advice is one-sided. You can likely find someone who advocates for just the opposite. Both will have reasonable arguments to support their view. For instance, in two different eating plans I recently explored, both by doctors, one says you should never skip breakfast, the other advocates for “intermittent fasting,” which means going without food for 15-18 hours a day, i.e. skipping breakfast or having it quite late.
It is helpful to remember this when you receive or read advice. It isn’t gospel or law. It doesn’t work for everyone and certainly not in all situations.
How To Approach Advice
Try it out if it sounds good or interesting, valuable or right for you. Or if it sounds challenging in a potentially helpful or inspiring way. Make sure you aren’t trying ten other pieces of new advice at the same time, and that this is a good time to try on this new advice. Do you have the inner bandwidth for it now?
Give it a fair try. Stick with it long enough or wholeheartedly enough to actually know if it works for you. Approach it as a science experiment, gathering meaningful data on the results. Learn what you can from it. There’s probably at least a kernel of value in it.
Trust your own judgment. Trust what truly works for you, even if it completely contradicts the advice you have been given or what many people are touting as the way.
A Couple of Things to Be Aware Of
We are designed to learn from each other.
We aren’t solitary beings. We need each other to learn and grow, to heal and prosper. If many people advise doing things one way, having found that it works, give it serious consideration. See if you can discover for yourself the value in the advice, even if you don’t adopt it 100%.
For instance, in the world of writing advice, “show don’t tell” is a maxim so often repeated as to have the force of law. And it is sound advice for creating compelling writing—but not all the time. There are times when telling is needed, to move the pace along, for instance.
In the world of spiritual and emotional advice, forgiveness is one of the most often-promoted suggestions. For good reason. Yet, there are times when you first need to be angry and to grieve, to feel all your feelings, before you can move on to forgiveness in a healthy way.
You might be lying to yourself.
You have to be clear-eyed and honest about what truly works for you. Every addict, while in the grip of their addiction, will argue vehemently why they need and can handle their drug of choice. This is self-delusion and we all have it. We all have blind spots. That is why we need teachers, coaches, honest friends and guides.
So, in judging if something works for you, you have to look at the effects and results in your life. If you claim being spontaneous about when you make art, having no set schedule, works for you, yet you rarely make or finish anything, and you are frustrated about that, then you are lying to yourself. If, however, you easily produce new art each week this way and find time to hone it to a finished product, then yes, it is working for you. In that case, don’t change a thing.
- Consider what is useful. Try things on, give them a fair go. Discard the rest.
- Take care not to ingest a glut of varied advice, which may overwhelm and paralyze you and yield quite mixed results. Take care to introduce new things gradually, one at a time, so you can gauge their effects and not get flooded and dissipated with too many things at once.
- Find trusted teachers to help you see through your blind spots, where you need to grow, how you are lying to yourself.
- Most of all learn to hear and heed your own heart guidance. Be willing to experiment and make mistakes.
And by the way, all of this is advice. Do with it what you will.
Maxima Kahn is a writer, creative life coach and teacher. She works with heart-centered artists and dreamers, helping them to unleash their creative brilliance and create lives of passion, purpose and deep play. She blogs about the creative life, writing, and artful, soulful living at www.BrilliantPlayground.com. Download her free e-book, The 6 Essential Ingredients of a Brilliant Life: For Artists and Creative Dreamers of all kinds. Tune in for regular doses of inspiration and heart and powerful tools for artful, soulful living on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
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