Do You Want My Advice on Taking Advice?

Spoiler: you’ll only take the advice given when you’re ready to understand it

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

After word-vomiting thoughts about the universe, my therapist told me I remind him of Ted Mosby. If you are familiar with the TV sitcom How I Met Your Mother, then you’ll know who this is. At first, I gave a small side-eye because I know he’s ranked as one of the worst TV characters of all time. So it got me thinking (as therapists do), am I, Ted Mosby?

After my session, I began to scour the internet to identify the character’s exact traits he had in common with myself. I came across some quotes Ted said during the show, and that’s when the similarity clicked. Many of his most profound sayings were concepts I attempted to explain to my therapist to rationalize life.

One quote, in particular, hit home with what I tried to explain that day.

You can ask the universe for signs all you want. But ultimately, we only see what we want to see when we’re ready to see it.

- Ted Mosby

My word vomit must’ve made some sense for my therapist to connect its meaning to Ted’s simplified words.

I love this quote for the original meaning, but also how it pertains to taking advice. Swap out the universe with advice, and you get the following:

You can ask for advice all you want. But ultimately, you are only going to take the advice given when you’re ready to understand it.

- Anne Pennington

The digital rabbit hole

Throughout life, you inevitably come across situations you want help understanding. Surprise! You don’t know it all. You seek external advice on all things you are unfamiliar with on how to proceed.

You may start by first seeking advice from your loved ones, the people you trust. You also want to hear what the experts have to say. Experts are those educated on the topic of interest. They have studied or been through a similar situation and can help see a solution through successfully.

The easiest way to access advice from experts nowadays is through the internet and social media.

These digital tools have become great resources for information on topics you require additional help to understand. The advice may come to you in the shape of self-help articles, how-to videos, positivity posts, and podcasts. I best learn by reading various articles, blog posts, ebooks, and email newsletters.

If you can think of it, there’s probably some form of digital content on it.

The ease at which information can be published and accessed on the internet is genuinely remarkable, especially after hearing how my parents wrote academic papers with physical library books and typewriters.

Although I fear having all this information at the ready is doing the exact opposite of its intention. Ultimately, advice helps you reach decisions. When you don’t know what choice to make, guidance helps steer you one way or another.

Yet after hours of searching for answers, do you return from the digital rabbit hole feeling further away from understanding what direction to take?

Why is this?

Information overload

When you’re on the hunt for advice, it’s great to have a choice. Choice allows you to cross-evaluate between different resources to obtain the best fit. Yet, if you end up reading, watching, and listening to a specific topic for hours on end, you may not be absorbing any of the information.

The digital landscape has become a content mill. It churns out more content than you know how to utilize. Discovering credible advice in the sheer amount of content can be overwhelming. Knowing where to start can be hazy.

Take Medium, for example. There are so many informative articles on this platform. It’s a great place where experts can share tips & tricks that have worked for them. However, when scrolling through article titles that are nearly the same yet slightly different, what one do you choose? What article is more accurate or valuable?

Choice-paralysis occurs when you are overwhelmed by choice that our decision-making hinders. Because there’s a variety of advice out there, you don’t know the best option to follow. You are unsatisfied with the choice you made because you know there are alternatives that may be better. Or you don’t choose any and shut the lid on that topic forever.

Can’t relate

Say you do finally settle on an article. But it starts with advice stating, “you need to do this…” to reach whatever goal the content is explaining. The word need is so intense. It puts an absolution into play. For if you take the advice and it doesn’t work, you must’ve done something wrong. You may become discouraged and feel like a failure.

Everyone functions very differently. How I process things is different than how you process things. There’s advice that doesn’t work for me, simply because what is on offer doesn’t mesh with who I am. And that’s okay.

Advice can’t be generalized. The best advice is to observe how someone has helped themselves. By witnessing a problem solved first-hand, followers can become inspired. Try not to attribute the advice given too literally. Resonate on similarities, not sameness.

Educated intuition

Once you get past choice-paralysis and find something you can relate to, there’s excellent information out there to absorb. The collection of my knowledge comes from research and wading through informative content.

It’s easy to become caught up in advice from others because there’s so much of it to consume. You also may feel these people created the information, so they know best. That’s not always the case.

With all this digital information, you can forget a primary component in making advice stick. The key ingredient is gut feeling. It’s essential never to forget what our instinct is telling us to do in a situation. Before taking someone else’s advice, understand how it will work best for you.

Once you’ve done the research, mute the noise to help simplify decisions. Close the tabs. This silence allows your gut feelings to speak, and for once, you’re able to listen. You alone will know what the right choice will be.

When I look back at some of the best decisions I’ve ever made, they’ve been based on gut feelings. Some of these decisions have gone against all instruction manuals on the topic. On paper, instinctive advice looks risky, but it’s never failed me yet.

Moral of the story

The only way people will listen to advice is when they want to. Until then (depending on how you consume content), words are on an empty page. When you take the knowledge gained from research and then decide with your instincts, you will know what to do with the advice.

Throughout HIMYM, Ted received countless pieces of advice from various sources on relationships. Yet, he also stayed true to himself and followed his instincts. And in the end, *spoiler alert* he got the girl. And if you’re worried about me being compared to Ted Mosby by my therapist, I’ll be okay. He’s not so bad…

Thought-provoking writings on relationships, mental health, and modern philosophy.

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