I am notoriously bad at trying other people’s advice. I have an annoying tendency to look for any reason I can find for why their advice won’t work for me. But all the same, over the years I’ve learned a lot of things that I would never have learned if I never tried anyone’s advice. So today I’m not only going to tell you that trying someone else’s advice is important, I’m also going to explain why.
Just doing it
I had promised myself that I’d write one new blog post today, but picking a subject is hard. I’ve got a tiny A6 spiral notebook laying around the house where I jot down anything I want to write about. Right now, the count stands at well over 50 ideas, so I won’t have to worry about running out anytime soon.
Then, after going back and forth a lot and not getting anywhere, I decided I had to just start writing. I didn’t even have a subject yet, but it came quite naturally to me once I just started putting words down on the page.
By just jotting down my thoughts, I landed on all the tips that were floating through my head about starting on a task. I noticed the amount of resistance I felt to all those tips, and there was my subject.
Other people’s advice
If you ever had trouble starting a task, these bits of advice will probably all sound very familiar to you.
I thought of tips like “break it down into its most tiny constituents”, but the tiniest constituent here was finding a subject and that wasn’t happenng.
And then I heard, in my mind, “just start somewhere and the rest will follow on its own”, which is what happened to this blog post. But it took some coaxing before I managed to just start writing. Luckily digital writing doesn’t waste any resources.
What finally got me off the fence was “it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be a beginning,” and “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. And then, I just started writing, and a short while later I had a topic for my blog post.
Resistance against advice
But it wasn’t always that easy for me to listen to or even believe in that kind of advice. Cognitively, I knew they were true. Otherwise they probably wouldn’t have been such popular tips.
I just didn’t really know what to do with all that crap. And I had the feeling that it was all easier said than done.
But the important lesson that I learned over the years is that it’s totally normal to feel some resistance against such advice coming from someone else. It’s human. It doesn’t mean you’re unreasonably headstrong, or stubborn, or that you don’t want to listen.
All it means, is that what they’re saying doesn’t correspond with the way your mind works (yet). Becuase, let’s be honest, if your mind already worked that way, you wouldn’t need that advice in the first place.
It’s perfectly human to feel resistance against anything coming from the outside that doesn’t feel natural to us. Even though we change and grow on the daily, our brains are naturally resistant to change. I wrote a short post about brain homeostasis on my Facebook Page.
Our brains just like to keep everything stable. So its first response to influences from the outside is rejection. But if you’re aware of your brain’s natural response, you can look past it.
The best thing you can do in such cases is first and foremost not to do what I usually did, which is getting frustrated (especially at the person giving me the advice) and saying that I’d tried but it wasn’t working. Turns out that’s not really constructive. What is constructive on the other hand, is giving yourself time to get that new habit or pattern ingrained in your brain. Because here’s the thing: of all those bits of advice, most of them are true. They might not be true for all of us and the actual implementation might differ from person to person. But by allowing yourself to keep an open mind about these things, you open yourself up to the possibilities. Now, I know that might sound corny, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
You don’t have to do things the way other people do it, but the way you’re doing it now clearly doesn’t work well enough for your goals. And the only way to change the way you’re doing things, is to stay open for other ways of doing things, all of which are going to feel unnatural to you to some degree. And while you’re keeping an open mind, and while you’re making an effort to at least try some of those other methods, you’ll inevitably land upon methods that work for you and for the way your brain works. Either you find something that matches your brain’s ways, or you’ve trained your brain to work in a different way that facilitates that new method. In any case, you’re never going to find what works for you if you don’t branch out.
I completely understand how counterintuitive it sounds to purposefully try stuff that doesn’t sound like you can do it. But you shouldn’t go into it thinking that you should be able to do it exactly that way. You should go into it thinking that you might naturally gravitate towards a method that works, or you’ll learn more about what doesn’t work for you. Whatever happens, you can’t really go wrong trying on those pieces of advice. Even if you end up not implementing someone’s advice at all, you’ll still get out of it a bigger and better person than you were before.
As Thomas A. Edison said: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Never underestimate the importance of being able to cross things of your list and to expand your knowledge on what does and does not work for you. There’s not a single invention that was done without a couple of failed attempts or at least a prototype, so don’t expect yourself to get it right on the first try either. Newsflash: you won’t. But if you never try, you won’t get anywhere either, even if ‘anywhere’ is nowhere near where you hoped to go.
Eventually you’ll find what works for you. But before you find that, you’ll have to find a lot of things that don’t. And that’s fine.