Recently, I’ve been questioning the worth of the advice I’m constantly shelling out to others.
In previous years, I never doubted I had sage opinions and knowledge to offer to anyone who asked me, and often to those who I thought should be asking me. Now, I’m recognizing that I may suck at being a mentor, an advisor, a coach, or whatever.
Here’s the deal: I know more about myself than I know about anybody else. Looking back, I vividly recall most of the really bad mistakes I made – the real doozies. And I remember when things went my way as well. So I reasoned I had proven wisdom to pass on to those who were struggling in some fashion. But I missed one important ingredient in advice-giving: my experience may not squeeze neatly into the lives of others. Just because I was given a helpful lesson for my life doesn’t mean the same lesson will apply to everybody else.
A few examples:
Don lectures: “Be bold, take risks and enjoy the adventure.”
The other side: Many people may be better off not diving off the cliff. Their risk tolerance is less than mine and they are most happy when they feel secure and confident.
Don lectures: “Secrets are bad to keep inside. The more transparent you are, the more you will like yourself and others will rally to your support.”
The other side: Some things may be best kept within. And there are wonderful people who are private by nature. I married one. And, in all honesty, there are times when people will not rally to your support.
Don lectures: “Lead a life of balance. Do not invest too greatly in any one aspect of your life.”
The other side: Some people receive the greatest pleasure when pursuing a focused passion and talent. It may seem out of balance, but they appear to be leading a life full of joy and fulfillment.
I could go on and on with all the loopy advice I dished up on a regular basis like I knew what was best for each member of the human race. Yet, I only am privy to a small sliver of other people’s lives. It’s fine when they wish to hear about what happened to me (like in Mindful Midweek), but I need to shut my trap when I start preaching instructions as though my “lesson plan” is an all-purpose solution for mankind.
That’s why I appreciate outstanding therapists, gifted physicians, insightful teachers and other professionals who know how to walk alongside individuals and assist in drawing out from them the personal assets and treasures waiting to be discovered inside.