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  • Jordyn Crowley Watts, alumna

Stop Taking Advice

Stop taking advice If there’s anything the $9.9 billion self-help and personal coaching industry tells us, it’s that people are constantly seeking advice from others. Fitness and lifestyle influencers on social media give advice from what to eat to how to decorate for the holidays. And, of course, family members give solicited and unsolicited advice at every opportunity.

But here’s the thing: If you’re always looking to others to check your beliefs and advise you on decisions, you’re never going to 1) feel committed to anything you believe or do or 2) make the decision right for YOU.

So what advice should you take? How can you weed out good advice from bad? In what situations should you ask for advice?

Embracing the irony, here’s a few pieces of advice about advice-taking.

Only you know your context.

You are the only one with all the necessary information to make a well-informed decision. Well-intended advice from others is without your passion, your weaknesses, your goals, and your history. Sound, practical advice from others only goes so far; decisions have to be made in your own life’s context.

Ask those who’ve been where you’re going.

If they haven’t been where you want to be, why are you looking to them to tell you how to get there? As wise as your aunts, teachers, best friends, spiritual advisors, etc. are, have they accomplished what you’re trying to accomplish? Everyone has their own journey, and that should be respected. But is your trusted, beloved friend who heads up HR at a tech startup the best person to advise you on how to get your big acting break in Hollywood?

There isn’t one way.

Even if you find someone who has been where you want to be, it doesn’t mean their way is the only way. Ask them questions, pick their brain, and soak in all of their knowledge. Then make your own way. Mason Ramsey’s fame and success came by way of a video filmed in Walmart going viral at age 11. Lady Gaga spent years finding gigs here and there while she developed her music and her identity. Who’s to say there’s one right way?

“Nice” advice only goes so far.

Most advice-givers want to help you, right? Their advice comes from a place of love or concern; they want your life to be easy and pain-free. But life isn’t easy or pain-free. Sometimes difficult decisions have to be made, and pain has to be embraced. Respect that those giving advice want to help you, but recognize their advice may not be as realistic as what you really need.

The root of the advice matters.

If you’re getting advice, whether you asked for it or not, consider the root of the advice.

  • If you’re asking for advice, why? Are you not confident in your own decision making? Are you inexperienced in a particular area? Do you want your outcome to match someone else’s? The motivation behind your need for advice can help you determine whether or not you really need advice or if you just need to take more time to reflect.

  • If you’re getting advice, why? Does the advice-giver have a relevant set of experiences? Does the advice-giver believe you don’t have all the information you need? Does the advice-giver genuinely want to help you, or want to control you? Again, trying to understand the motivation behind the advice can help you weed out good advice from bad. Regardless, always treat advice with an open mind and be respectful; say thank you and then make your own choices.

Listen anyway.

Continue to take advice. Continue to seek out mentors and advisors and appreciate advice from trusted love ones. Just remember that in the end, the best advice is the kind you give yourself.

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