Peer, parental, or professional advice can be wonderful sources of wisdom for a lost soul in need of guidance, or one seeking a second opinion on a subject outside of their expertise. On the contrary, all advice is not created equal. Sometimes internalizing the wrong words at the wrong time can create only doubt and confusion for the recipient, when he/she is much better off following the wisest prophet of all: the self.
For many of us, seeking the opinions of well-meaning others is just what we need to illuminate a perspective not yet considered, or debunk an idiotic line of thinking that if continued, would only lead to our ruin. Looking for outside perspectives can, in many cases, assist our process of well-thought-out decision making; especially if we are the hopelessly indecisive sort (yours truly), or prone to exercising bad judgment.
However, falling prey to the persuasion of others is a double edge sword: in rare cases, listening to another voice too closely can drown out our own intuition, shoot down our morale, or derail us from a track of confident decision making by flinging doubt and distraction into our path. Sometimes, too many outside opinions compounding on one another can snowball into the very iceberg that sinks our ship. No expert, friend or even parent, after all, knows us better than we know our self.
I’ve been recently seeking advice from my friends and family to guide me through the agonizing life chapter the popular cliché dubs, the “real world”. I’ve made my way through life thus far with a relaxed, “go with the flow” attitude, which has enabled me to take things in stride and be flexible with my goals and agendas, avoiding the pressures of rigid expectations. However, I’ve now reached a fork in the river, and unless I pick up an oar and commit to a direction, i’m in for an ugly shipwreck.
What i’m learning more and more is that the decision to go right or left at the fork must be made for oneself. It can be tempting to let the current sweep you along, or let somebody else do the paddling, but eventually we need to seize control of the oar and steer ourselves to safety. As i’m entering this phase of self-reliance, advice is beginning to lose its appeal. It now brings me anxiety, undercutting my own judgment and freedom to engage a unique process of self-discovery. The adage goes: Flip a coin to make a decision, and you will know what you want while it’s in the air. In reality, nobody really wants the penny to dictate the outcome of their life- it is sometimes just the exercise of flipping it that helps us uncover our true feelings. In the past few weeks, i’ve come to look at advice giving and receiving in a different light. I feel that we need to come to our own conclusions- especially when the consequences affect us alone. Advice should not beguile or coerce us, or redirect us down a path oppositional or counterintuitive to one we would choose on our own. If given and received effectively, advice should guide us to our own discoveries and realizations through asking important questions, highlighting new perspectives, encouraging creative solutions, and creating a space for dialogue that that might help summon our subconscious thoughts.
When I first set out to receive advice about what I should do post-college (a HUGE decision), I yearned for a voice to project from the sky, booming down the answers I needed to hear. I was inclined to follow the process i’d been trained to do through years and years of schooling: receiving a task or set of instructions, and successfully completing it to make a grade. However, the “real world” is different; it’s a new game now. The variety of decisions we need to be making in our post-college life are ones we should be making independently, because at this stage we are logical, reasonable, insightful and intuitive people who have a knowledge and understanding of our selves that others don’t. We are no longer invalids who need to rely on more acute wisdom from others- sometimes we hold the key to our own success. If you find yourself waffling, backpedaling or riding the fence constantly, and the barrage of outside opinions coming your way are only leaving you more confused, TUNE THEM OUT. Listen to your heart, make a choice with the best information and sense of purpose you feel at the time, and dedicate yourself to making your choice one from which you can either triumph, or learn something valuable for the future. If your remain optimistic and open-minded, your choice will lead to something productive even if it is not exactly the outcome you had in mind. Often times we don’t know what we want anyway, and life has wonderful things in store for us we could have never have imagined, or known to strive for. The point is to not to fear tackling big decisions. We hold the power of making decisions and living with them happily. We can learn from any situation, transcend any degree of hardship, and eliminate indecision by simply acting. From there, we can view any outcome optimistically if we commit ourselves to the practice. Decisions like which career to choose should be looked at as an exciting opportunity; an avenue of new and challenging possibilities. There is no right or wrong choice as long as you make the best of what you’ve picked, and follow the route that aligns with your most clear and profound goals and desires for fulfillment. Advice can help provoke our thoughts and tease out tangles, but it should never be used as a crutch, or a replacement for our own judgment. Take control of your life, be strong and adaptive, and remain positive through it all- decisions made with good intent and sound purpose should never be regretted.