guidance or recommendations concerning prudent future action, typically given by someone regarded as knowledgeable or authoritative.
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How often are you looking externally for advice? How quick are you to consume the ideas of experts, authors, and self-help gurus without a moment’s hesitation or consideration?
As someone who spends a lump of their time reading, listening to podcasts, and watching YouTube videos, I have a fair bit of random advice floating around in my head. Some of it’s useful, a lot of it’s repetitive, and then a small chunk of it can truly change your life.
Much of this advice comes from experts in certain industries or experimenters who have found something that works for them.
And the problem that many of us face today is that we are simply overwhelmed with information. It’s barreling towards us at a steady stream of 18 Mbps, and unless you plan to unplug your Wi-Fi and throw away your phone, there isn’t much you can do to stop it. We are bombarded with new tactics, ideas, strategies, and systems for improving our lives on a moment to moment basis.
And I will be the first to admit that I am a contributor to this stream of information.
But here’s the thing: I’m not against all of this information being put out into the universe. I think it’s awesome that people are so enthusiastic to help others live a happier, better, and more fulfilling life.
No, what I am in contention with and what I have recently come to realize, is that not all advice should be treated equally. And no, I don’t mean it in the sense that some advice is better (which it can be), but in the fact that YOU should not treat all information equally.
Because when we are discussing things like:
Your daily routine…
And your circumstances.
Each of these by themselves has the potential to be similar to someone else’s. However, it’s the collection of each individual trait that makes you unique.
And when you are considering the advice that might work for someone else, you have to understand that there is a possibility that it won’t necessarily work for you.
Because if you don’t, and you try to apply every piece of advice that you hear, you run the risk of self-disappointment. Mainly disappointment in the fact that when you try applying advice to your own life and it doesn’t work, you are going to feel like a failure.
When in reality there is a possibility that this advice just isn’t meant for you or your current circumstances.
Take meditation for example. I’ve been meditating on and off for a couple years. I’ve gone long stretches with it and also a few short stints without. But in the end, I’ve realized it’s something that helps me a fair bit and I should keep it in my life.
But this past month I encountered a real snag in my meditation practice. The city I’m currently living in is incredibly noisy. Every morning the dogs are barking, the garbage men are ringing a bell, and the ice cream man is blowing a kazoo.
As a result, I have very few extended moments of pure silence – and to meditate in peace has become quite difficult. Now, I know I’m supposed to not let the outside noises affect my ability to concentrate and that I shouldn’t be bothered by external distractions, but I find it incredibly frustrating every time a meditate. And because of that, I find myself a lot less motivated to do it.
But then I tried something new. A walking meditation. Where instead of sitting on a chair focusing on my senses, following my breath, and staying present with the moment – I do all of that while walking.
It ticks off all the same boxes as a sitting meditation, yet does not require a perfectly silent living space. And as a bonus it gets me moving in the morning so I’m ready to work as soon as I get back home.
Now, even though this adjustment was sitting there right under my nose, it took me a while to discover it. And ultimately, I believe the main culprit for that lies in my “Advice Inflexibility”: my inability to consider some advice as unhelpful.
Because I had continuously heard the benefits of meditation and how I NEEDED it if I was going to be successful, I was blind to any other option. I saw it as the only way to go, and if any obstacle came about I had to smash through it or wait for it to go away. In the end, I was trying so hard to make something apply to my life that I ended up hurting my ability to progress.
All of this reminded me of a great quote by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius,
“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
So often when we hear advice from people we admire and respect, we consume it without much deliberation. We have become blind to the idea that maybe, just maybe, this advice is not applicable to our unique circumstances. Then, when we encounter obstacles that impede our ability to properly use this advice, we assume that something is wrong with us, instead of the advice. And because of that, we choose to either keep banging our heads against a brick wall or give up entirely.
When in reality the best option is to adapt. To take the advice at face value, consider if it’s applicable to your circumstances, and choose whether or not it should be applied or modified.
At the end of the day, the moral of the story is simple:
Do what works for you.
Just because something worked for someone else doesn’t mean it’s suitable for a person with your body type, your lifestyle, or your mental state.
All options should be considered, but not all options must be acted upon. Therefore, the challenge lies in your ability to filter through the endless stream of advice. And a helpful way to do this is through my version of the Serenity Prayer.
Grant me the courage to seek out the advice I want to try,
The readiness to give up the things that aren’t working,
And the wisdom to know what works for me.