Seeing the best in life's challenges

Advice: Don’t Tell Me What To Do!!

on August 20, 2013

There’s a lot of advice out there in many forms.  If you are looking for guidance on any topic, there is a wealth of books and seminars and courses.  There is an endless supply of experts who will tell you what to do.  How in the world do you decide who to listen to first, or who to listen to at all?

I’ll bet that even if you are NOT looking for it, there is still plenty of advice coming your way, right?  Friends and family usually have plenty of opinions about everything.

(Note:  read the comments below — I’m getting some good ones!!)

Well, like pretty much every topic, I’ve thought a lot about this.  And I’m attempting to break it down in order to understand it better.  Who should I listen to and why?

I think it’s useful to think about the person who is giving the advice and where they are coming from.  I think it’s fair to say that anyone who is giving advice has good intentions, from their perspective.  In other words, people give advice to others that is good and appropriate for THEM.  If you can understand their perspective, you get insight into where they are coming from, and you can make a better determination as to whether the advice is good advice for you as well.

For me it’s useful to remember that everyone is on a growth curve.  We are all having experiences, learning from them, and hopefully turning all that into wisdom.  And it’s that wisdom that is hopefully shared and taken as advice.

If our journey through life is compared to going to school, some people will be in kindergarten and some will be in middle school and some will be in college.  A few will even go to graduate school and others might pursue a career in research to continue their learning.  Also, in elementary school we all learn pretty much the same stuff, but as we get further along, many tend to specialize and focus on certain subject areas.

So, if I wanted advice on how to do math problems, and I was in third grade, I might want advice from a fourth-grader.  I certainly wouldn’t seek out a kindergartener, but I also wouldn’t really get much from a grad student – unless that grad student was really good at giving explanations at my level.  (Now that kind of person would be a gem to find, right??)  If I am going to continue to learn math, I will progress and work with textbooks that get progressively harder and more detailed, and the people I learn from will continue to be more and more knowledgeable.

So if during the course of life, I seek to learn about relationships, or parenting, or starting a business, or anything, I will seek out advice and information from appropriate sources.  No one source is necessarily better than another, it has more to do with what is appropriate for me for the stage where I am.

Only I can determine which advice is right for me.

There are people who have had LOTS of experience, but get stuck and stop turning it into wisdom.  It makes me think of those who do a lot of ranting.  There are others who are really good at taking situations they observe, and turning that into wisdom.  They might not have a dramatic story, but they have grown wise nonetheless from really understanding others.  There are as many combinations of growth curve paths as there are people.  You have to look at each individual to know their story.

If you are like me, you know people who are always telling others what they should do.  I am thinking of the people who are like little kids who love a certain toy, and when it is time to get anyone a present, they want to get them THAT TOY because it is something they love SO much.  They haven’t yet figured out that people are different than they are.  It is SO sweet when kids do this.  They want to share what they love, and they want others to experience that same joy they get from that special toy.  But some people don’t progress past this stage, and they think everyone should like what they like, and do what they do, and think like they think.  All you can do with people that are at this stage, is smile and thank them for their thoughts, and recognize that this is where they are.  Remember, they have good intentions.  They are just at a different place.  Unfortunately, sometimes you encounter people who are at this place, who are VERY convicted and passionate about life and how it should be, and they are very insistent that others should feel the same way and follow their rules!  See my post about Evangelism.

As we move along the growth curve, we learn that life is not black and white, and that there are many shades of gray.  Life is complicated.  We start to have unique experiences, and we grow wisdom on specific issues.  The more unique these issues become, the more we need to seek out others who have also experienced these things and gained wisdom in their own ways.

People further along the growth curve will tend to be less resolute about giving advice.  They recognize that not everyone will have the same experiences.  Not everyone will be working on the same issues. You can recognize the advice that these people give – it will more likely include language like “what worked for me” or “you may find this helpful” or “I don’t know about you but….”  Or other qualifying statements that indicate that the person realizes what works for me might not work for you.

Advice becomes more about sharing than about telling others what to do.

It’s not an either/or thing.  It’s a process, a transition, a growth curve, so you have to be able to observe the advice-giver and get a better sense of where they are coming from, what their experiences have been and where they are in the process.

Again, there is no good or bad, it’s just the unique place where they are in their journey.

You also need to be aware of where YOU are in YOUR journey.  You may be at the stage where you just want someone to tell you what to do.  It may be too overwhelming to figure out on your own right now.  There is nothing wrong with this!  Just be aware of it!!

You might be really far along in understanding your subject area of interest.  In this case, you won’t want someone to just tell you what to do, especially a stranger or someone who hasn’t taken the time to put themselves in your shoes and to understand your situation really well.  You probably, at this stage, only want advice from a really empathetic person.  And you might only trust the opinion of another who has been in your specific situation.

If I want to learn to knit, it might be really helpful to read books and watch youtube videos.  But there’s nothing better than to have a person who knows how to knit, sit there and show you and help you along.  And knitting is relatively simple!!!

Say someone is a single parent.  They have issues with their ex.  Of course they will seek out the opinions of other single parents who have been there.

If my teenage son is challenging me, I will talk to other moms that have teenagers.  I might talk to a friend who has toddlers, and she might be very empathetic, but it will be my empathetic friend with a kid that same age that I will listen to most closely.  And even then, I will be aware of the similarities or differences in personalities and situations.

Because, only I can determine what advice applies to me.  Only I know when it feels right to take it or how to use it.

And that’s also a higher level skill that comes along the growth curve.  At first, we might take advice from someone we love or trust, at face value and do exactly what they say.  They know better.  But as we grow and learn, we develop the ability to discern what applies to us, what is likely to work, and what no longer is appropriate.

When we are aware of this process, this dynamic, we won’t take it personally when others don’t take our advice.  We will be more comfortable watching others make their own decisions and their own mistakes.

But we would also be more aware of our own actions and would be more likely to understand the links between having experiences, working through issues, learning, turning that into wisdom, and how all that relates to the experiences, opinions, and the wisdom-sharing of others.

Be aware that those with high levels of wisdom tend not to force their views on others.  They are more likely not to get involved or have an opinion.  However, IF ASKED, they will carefully share what they have learned.  It’s the gold that has to be mined.


6 responses to “Advice: Don’t Tell Me What To Do!!

  1. I just had this conversation yesterday with my husband, lol, who was putting pressure on me to do things his way, I gently told him, I knew what I was doing and though I honored and respected his advice, it was not needed in this situation. We are all getting our wings to fly again, I am flying slowly to test the wind of my own making. This is really when we create our own life, so exciting! xo

  2. starlight says:

    Once again I really enjoyed your article. For me personally…I have been involved in this issue of ‘advice giving’ from both sides. Not only that…but according to your stages of development, I have grown through these stages during my spiritual growth! Let me give some examples.

    When I first started healing and meditating…it was so profound. I felt very elitist about what I was doing, because it worked for me and was right for me at that time. I started to assume ‘everything else’ was less good, and that everyone else were suckers or ignorant! I was quite passionate and forceful with my opinion on trying to get other people to do what I liked or did! Because I couldn’t understand that it wouldn’t be good for them.

    After I developed some more, I started to realise that we all had these different experiences and were not all ‘ready’ for the same experiences at the same time, also that I was being naive about what I thought was ‘best’ for others, when really I just didn’t/couldn’t possibly know!

    I often don’t logically understand what is right for me, but my intuition guides it.

    I had this issue when I spend some time trying to convince someone who had physical pain/illness and emotional problems to practice what I was doing – because I saw some of the old ‘damaged’ me in her! So then after my opinion was met with much rejection, I gave up. I later realised that she could well be on a different path to me in life. She may have chosen to incarnate and explore ‘pain’ and troubles a bit more, while I wanted to fix my problems – focus on working through them – and fast! Different world views, different goals…

    I stopped using my logical thinking mind to try to judge what was ‘right’ for someone and became more introverted about the topic. Since I often cannot ‘think’ what is right for me – instead I get a bunch of intuitions which seem to take me down a path (which road I cannot predict but it works in the end).

    On the other side of the coin, I have met with some teenagers in the street who kept deliberately talking to me/following me to question me! So I did speak with them. It ended with this rather odd scenario, they basically quizzed me about my dating experience and financial situations, upon me honestly admitting that I didn’t do well with this, they couldn’t understand me! So I got laughed at and teased quite a lot. One guy even said to me ‘Do you ever wake up and think where did it go wrong!’ (about my life).

    But I couldn’t even be bothered to begin explaining it because we have different levels of focus! I’m someone who is focused on internal success (learning life lessons/wisdom/healing inner trauma and resolving issues, even past life stuff which comes up). I don’t appear very successful on the outside, nor confident or anything, so from a limited awareness bubble, I look like I have just failed at everything.

    But I feel as though I have a slightly expanded awareness and choose to focus mostly on the deeper awareness, so that means a lot of contemplation…discussion of deep topics, meditation and healing work. I am ambitious in ways the usual person can’t possibly imagine! They would think me mad if I were to explain it!

    So I don’t know where I am but I can clearly see how I have progressed in wisdom over a fairly short period of a couple of years.

    I don’t ever boss people about because I simply don’t know what’s right for them. I try to get them to follow their intuition, or if they are willing to try meditations, I try to get them to do the ones which have helped me to improve my own intuition (thereby aligning me with my higher soul path more clearly). This is the best I can do for now.

    Even if I can logically see that perhaps a certain method of healing should work for someone…they might not be emotionally or mentally ready to do it at that time. Something which has become really obvious to me is that people WANT others to be like them! Because we’re all most comfortable with people around our level! So back when I was filled with bitter and angry feelings…I remember WANTING people around me to feel bad because I felt alone and wanted them to understand me…as I went through healing, I found myself wanting to change those people around who had problems to ‘bring them up’ to the level of peace I felt!

    Really we must be patient to let people struggle on through with their own path, at their own pace – and painfully watch them make their mistakes. It might be Ok to drop some hints, but I’ve found people usually never take them because they’re just following their own way.

    Anyway that’s just my thoughts for now!

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: