Where Advice Falls Short

Have you ever wondered why we’re so set on taking advice from others?  bad advice

When we ask someone else what they think or what they would do, we get their wisdom, their perspective, and a plan of action that would work for them.

We do not always get wisdom, perspective, or a plan of action that would work for us.

For example, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard advice on how to organize your day to ensure more uninterrupted creative time. It sounds something like: “Do it first thing in the morning. Write, create, etc. first thing in the morning while your mind is clear, before you even think about other tasks.”

It’s kind of hard to refute that. It has some definite face validity and is reasonably logical, but there is one big problem. It wouldn’t work for me in a million years.

I’m sure it’s extremely helpful advice for the person who gave it. It has probably saved them tons of wasted time and led to hours of creativity. And I’m sure it’s done the same for people who are in a similar state of mind or who are similar in some other way to the advice-giver.

But it could not be less helpful to me, and to the oodles of people like me in those respects. What works like a charm for me is taking care of routine business first and creating from a clear space. Creating with a to-do list looming would be a nightmare.

And is this is always the way advice goes, isn’t it?

So rather than seeking outside counsel and hearing what works for someone else—and what might possibly work for you if you happen to be of a similar constitution—why not seek internal counsel a bit more?

Seeking internal counsel is what we do when we follow our own hunches.

From a clear mind, you get hunches. Inclinations toward action. Fresh ideas.

Those hunches, inclinations, and fresh ideas are tailor-made for you. They are yours. My inclinations would never nudge me toward writing before I’ve exercised and answered emails. That wouldn’t work for me. But my own wisdom shows me what would work for me, regardless of whether it’s what the experts say or what works for others.

Your inner wisdom works the same way. You get inclinations that are perfect for you. Share them if you want, but know that they are yours. They may not generalize.

Reporters hate this, by the way. I can’t tell you often a writer for such and such magazine calls and wants the 5 steps, 3 best practices, or 7 magic behaviors that will work for their readers.

When I tell them that the steps are essentially 1) get quiet and 2) do what you’re inclined to do, they say that’s not reader-friendly. Their readers want concrete direction.

But what they don’t see is just how much they are selling their readers short. They don’t see a fraction of the wisdom and potential that those readers have within them.

It’s like we all come equipped with our own personalized compass, and yet we keep looking at a universal atlas from the 1960s.

Advice can be great for helping people see new possibilities and hearing new perspectives. I don’t question that. But rather than relying on outside advice so much, I think we might all benefit from consulting ourselves first.


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