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When should you take advice?

Dr. Eric
Dr. Eric
May 20, 2021

I’ve taken a lot of advice in my time. Advice from parents, from friends, from teachers, from random people on the internet. The list goes on. Sometimes the advice was great. Other times the advice was not-so-great. Sometimes, I wouldn’t find out about the not-so-greatness of the advice until several years later or another form of a significant investment.

I’ve pondered about the nature of advice, why we take it, why we give it. I’ve found that the world has a lot of opinions and there are a lot of people who want to share their opinions. However, I’ve learned with my psychiatric training that the world doesn’t do a whole lot of listening. I’ve learned that listening is very healing but, unfortunately, very expensive (Look at the price and shortage of therapists these days).

When people don’t listen, it’s more likely that someone’s advice is an ego-projection onto you. If your sense of yourself is still forming, it is tempting to take on that ego-projection and integrate it into your own ego-identity (sense of self). Isn’t that what parenting is all about: Children taking on ego-identities of their parents?

But is this the right way to take on advice? Be a doctor, be a lawyer, get high grades, focus on getting a promotion, get a family asap, get a mortgage, buy bitcoin…

Some of these may or may not be you. So when you get advice, when should you take it? Here’s a simple process that might be helpful:

(1) Identify your personal goals.
(2) Did the person giving you advice achieve those goals.
(3) Does the person giving you advice love you?

If you have a solid foundation for (1), then continue to (2) and (3). If (2) and (3) are both yes, then it may be advice worth taking.

But if (2) or (3) are no, does it mean you should throw out the advice? That depends. I would say keep an open mind and take it more as information than advice. There’s value in critically assessing what anyone says. But if you find yourself filled with a lot of people giving you advice and opinions, this process may help clarify what suggestion to follow.

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