Advice, Opinions, and your Inner Guide

A while back, I wrote a post about my frustrations with friends giving unsolicited advice. The trouble is, I realized recently that it’s not uncommon for us to solicit - even poll our friends for - advice on topics where we should really be turning to our inner guide. Oddly enough, solicited advice can be just as frustrating or confusing as receiving advice that you never asked for in the first place.

You see, while I deeply love my friends and do value their opinions on many topics; the reality is others rarely have all of the information and skills necessary to offer expert, unbiased advice. In most instances, my friends would quickly offer what “they’d do” in the situation based on the few facts I’d given them. But, the reality was, they lacked some of the first-hand experience and detail necessary to offer a truly helpful opinion. What I wound up with was a laundry list of “If I were yous” and a gut instinct that directly conflicted their recommendations. Why? Because, while they truly have my best interests at heart, they aren’t experts on my life or in the specific topic I was seeking advice on. Yes, they might have experience in the area and know me intimately as a friend, but expertise, no.

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The topic came up again this week while I had an intimate conversation with a coworker about a rough time in her life where a close friend had offered her opinion about a big life decision. The opinion went directly against my coworker’s gut, but because it was offered by a friend it created tremendous doubt in her mind. The doubt weighed on her, making her questions her decision deeply. She wondered if her initial gut instinct was wrong. Worse, the simple presence of doubt got her thinking: if doubt was this easy to stir up, did that mean the doubt was warranted? Ultimately, after a lot of soul searching and internal debate, she landed on this, “You can’t let other people decide how you should live.”

It’s true. Our friends may have our best interests at heart in most matters. We should look to them for support, understanding, and empathy when we are going through something tough or have a big decision to make. However, their opinions can also create a lot of noise and distraction from what you already know to be true; from what your inner guide is telling you. While I’m not saying this is always the case; I certainly have friends who are able to provide feedback from a fairly removed, unbiased, judgement-free place. Oddly, these friends typically have little first-hand experience with the exact topic I’ve sought their opinion on (just an observation, not necessarily a brilliant declaration).

The conversation with my coworker combined with my recent experience asking my friends for advice was an important reminder that we all have a powerful guide inside of us. A guide, who - when faced with matters of life - instinctively knows what to do. The answer won’t always come immediately or with ease, sometimes we must sit with the discomfort of indecision. This is what I think makes us often turn to our friends as guides in the first place; a hope for a “shortcut” through uncertainty. What we get, sometimes, instead is greater confusion and self-doubt around a decision we should have left up to our inner guide.

Intuition is a powerful thing. If you are experiencing uncertainty, that is a sure sign you need time to sit and feel into your emotions, to write down your thoughts and fears (a super powerful exercise if you’re experiencing uncertainty with a decision), to meditate and let answers come instead of trying to force answers out of yourself or others.