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Following your own advice

Have you ever given great advice?

A friend is having problems and turns to you for some sort of support. You listen to them and try to be a good friend. Then, when everything is out in the open you tell them what you think. You give them your opinion and, as a friend, you may even tell them what you think they should do. Maybe the person even acknowledges that you are right.

You’ve been a good friend.

But let me now ask you this….

If it were you in the tough position, would you follow your own advice?

If you’ve ever turned to someone for help or support, have they ever asked you that sneaky question - “what advice would you give to someone in your position?” and you reply with “I know, I know”.

Sound familiar?

So, what is going on? It’s like you know exactly what you should do but can’t seem to do it. Why is it that you can analyse a situation and provide advice so well for another person, yet seem unable to do the same for yourself? Surely it can’t be that everyone else in the world is more important or more deserving than you?

When you offer opinions or guidance to somebody else the onus is on them to take action. They are the ones that need to find the strength to do what’s necessary to alleviate their plight. You just have to sit back and watch to see if your words have any effect. It is so much easier to be the one dishing out the advice than the one acting on it.

To some extent, the moment you have dispensed your pearls of wisdom, your role in the situation is over. Then the hard work begins, and you don’t have to do it. Except in certain situations…

What if they ask you to help them? What if they say they are going to need some support to do what is required? My guess is that if you are at all able to do what they are asking, you will say yes.

And right there is why it is so hard to follow your own advice.

When someone offers their opinion about an action that should be taken, there is often an implication, an unspoken understanding, that they will help if necessary. It’s not often that someone would say “You should do this, this and this, and, by the way, don’t bother asking me to help, you’re on your own.”

If the person has plucked up the courage to come to you in the first place, it’s almost a cry for help. It’s an acknowledgment on their part that this problem in their life needs a third party involved in some way. Maybe just to listen or allow some sort of rant, but help, nonetheless.

So the dynamic is :

1 – person has problem

2 – person realises they’re not sure how to solve the problem

3 – person approaches friend to discuss the problem

4 – friend either offers opinion and possible solution or rejects the friend, unwilling to help.

5 – person considers the friend’s response.

6 – person will react according to how they now feel.

The crucial stage is Step 4. The friend, after hearing about the situation their friend finds themselves in, has a choice. Do they get involved or not? By offering advice it seems reasonable that there is also an implied offer of additional assistance on top of the words. Some sort of practical help that extends beyond the advice. The person could now feel less alone in the situation and the mere knowledge that their friend is prepared to help could be the difference between the person making changes, or not. They may not even call on the friend to do anything at all but at least they know they can if they need to.

Compare that to this example where you now have to follow you own advice :

1 – You realise you have a problem

2 – You ask yourself what advise you would give to a friend in this situation

3 – You know with some certainty what you would say.

4 – You offer this same advice to yourself.

5 – You react according to how you feel.

The difference here is that you don’t feel any different. You knew what was wrong and you probably already knew what you should do. But there is a part missing. The part where a friend gets involved and offers the advice. You would have to do it alone. You would have to take action and be strong, alone.

The only way to avoid that would be to ask for help, and this is where the struggle begins.

It is often easier for a person to accept help when it is offered than to ask for it when it has not.

Perhaps it comes down to pride, self-worth, who knows? But too many people seem to shy away from asking for help, even though they absolutely know it will make a positive difference to them and their situation.

Believe it or not, a lot of people in that position where they turn to the friend for help or advice already know what to do. They just want to ‘run it by you’ first. Maybe get you to say it for them because it’s to hard to admit what they should do. They want to feel they are being supported. They want to be backed up. They don’t want to go it alone.

So, if you’re one of those many, many people that can’t seem to follow their own good advice, don’t be scared to ask for help.

You’d want your friends to, so try setting a good example.

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