When I’m having mixed feelings about something or feeling like my head is going to explode, I generally like to talk/vent/rant about it with my friends, family, significant other, or local bartender. I’ll either bounce ideas off of them, ask for their opinion, or sometimes I’ll ramble until I notice their eyes glaze over. There are also times when I don’t even ask for advice, I merely make a comment about some sort of disappointment and ideas/opinions/conspiracy theories are thrust upon me. Although I certainly appreciate the time, the effort, and (above all) the patience of my compassionate audience, I usually come to the conclusion that there is only one person who will provide the answer or solution to my dilemmas. She is wise beyond her years, open-minded, and delightfully quirky; but she is also quick to change her mind, stubborn, and occasionally gives into her overwhelming emotions. This of course, is me. Even though I always end up following my own advice, which for some reason takes me forever to do; I always ask other people for their opinions even when I know there’s a 90% chance I’ll disagree with them. I know I’m not alone here, so why do we drag others through our messes when we know we’ll be the one who cleans them up?
I think one of the reasons we ask others for advice is because we know the answer to our problem, but we want to hear someone else validate it. This is particularly true when it’s not an easy one to fix. Of course there are also times when we simply have no idea what to do about a particular issue whatsoever, but I think that for the most part people generally know how to solve their own problems. Whether they choose to solve them or not is a completely different story (and a rather annoying one if you’re the advice-giver). So why is it so hard to fix our problems, even when we know the answers and are fully capable of solving them on our own?
I think there are several answers to that question, but the main answer is fear (laziness would be a close second). This is particularly true if the answer to the problem requires that something significant must change. There’s a saying that goes along the lines of ‘the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t’; meaning your situation may be bad but if you make a change then the situation could be even worse. This is a stupid piece of advice and probably one of the worst sayings I have ever heard (only to be topped by ‘YOLO’). What happened to optimism and positive thinking? Why would making a positive change lead to something negative? Clearly, if you made some sort of change and the outcome was not what you expected, then you either didn’t make the right move or you need to do more. This fear of the unknown is one of the reasons I believe it is so important to listen to your own thoughts rather than seek outside advice. People can put ideas in your head and make you question and doubt yourself, which can be helpful (the questioning, not the doubting); however, it can also make you back away from choices or opportunities that might have been perfect for you. Unfortunately, people have their own agenda and their advice might not be what’s best for you, but more so what’s best for them (people do this both maliciously as well as unintentionally).
In certain situations, you may seek outside advice because you’re the one filling your head with questions, doubts, and fears. If this is the case, then you need to take a breath and clear your mind (I find walking helps, booze not so much) and figure out a plan. At the end of the day, everyone does exactly what they want, regardless of how spot-on the advice they receive may be and the many times this advice has been repeated to them. In order to better ourselves as individuals, and preserve the sanity of those around us, it is imperative to be able to make decisions and execute changes alone.
Of course it’s helpful, and sometimes necessary, to seek the support of others, but when it comes down to problem-solving it is far better to be able to pick yourself up rather than wait for someone to drag you along. It is certainly harder to be painfully honest with yourself and figure out your own problems, but it is better for you in the long-run by far.