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In the 1967 Disney classic movie Alice in Wonderland, Alice sings, “I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it.” Sometimes, I know exactly how she feels.
The truth is that, just knowing what we should be doing is not always enough to get us into action. The reasons why we don’t act are just as complex as the motivations that move us forward. We’re a complicated bunch here on planet earth.
Despite the fact that I’m often paid to help others make decisions and garner success, sometimes, I don’t take my own great advice. Here are some of the reasons why I – and perhaps you – don’t do what we need to do.
Reasons Why You Don’t Take Your Own Advice
Anthropologists have been telling us for years that fear served a needed purpose in our survival. After all, if we didn’t fear predators or dangerous environments, we would NOT have lasted long as a species. We’ve been eaten by beasts or stamped out by carelessness.
However, many of our modern fears have less to do with surviving long enough to reproduce, and more to do with our fragile egos. There are three big fears that keep us from doing what we know we should.
Fear of failure—we don’t step forward because the thought of failing is paralyzing. We don’t want to lose, be embarrassed, or end up in a worse position than we are in now.
Fear of success—oddly enough, the idea that we might succeed can be just as frightening as failure. I can certainly relate to this one. After all, success and demonstrating that you’ve got talent or skills creates expectations.
From that point onward, everyone expects that you will always succeed and do a great job. That’s A LOT to live up to. For me, knowing that I’m expected to re-create my previous successes can turn into a source of pressure.
Sometimes, just doing nothing allows me to avoid this. So, if you find that you KNOW you ought to do something but are afraid it won’t be as good as the last time, then this is why you don’t take your own advice.
Fear of imperfection—this is one of my biggest challenges. As a recovering perfectionist, I’m not just afraid I won’t succeed, but that my efforts will NOT be perfect. If you are a perfectionist (or know one), then you are all too familiar with watching a great idea die a slow death due to inaction.
Why? Because the perfectionist involved cannot be assured that the end result with be completely without flaws.
Sometimes, my subconscious mind realizes that I am setting myself up for failure. Perhaps I’ve over-scheduled or accepted work too far outside of my core skill set and talents. Maybe I’ve taken on a huge task – and it’s not really a one-person job.
Regardless, I don’t know as much as I should. In these cases, my advice isn’t all that great. Maybe you’ve experienced the same thing and realized you didn’t take your own advice.
In these circumstances, my subconscious steps in and puts up road blocks that stall my actions. This gives me the chance to re-visit and review a problem, then decide that maybe I need a new plan.
It’s human nature to take the path of least resistance. However, none of us like to consider ourselves to be lazy. I find that sometimes, I’ve underestimated my laziness.
In addition, some necessary things are boring. So even though I know I should do them, the enthusiasm isn’t there. This can be worsened by too much follow your bliss indoctrination. The hard truth is that sometimes, another cup of tea and a few more videos are far more tempting than clearing my to-do list.
Just as humans like the easy path, we also like the familiar. Once something becomes a habit, it can be hard to do something different, even when we know better.
I am a creature of habit. Still drinking the same brand of tea and buying the same kind of shoes I did ages ago, I’m content to wrap myself in the comfort of the known.
So when my intellect tells me that I need to do something different or change my approach, my inner stick-in-the-mud says:
“It’s always been this way; it’s what I’m used to; the unknown is not guaranteed.”
It takes A LOT of energy – mentally and sometimes, physically – to move in a new direction. I don’t always want to spend this energy when I could just curl up into the comfortable.
My friends, family, and network might not support me if I change. When it comes to taking my own advice, none of us live in a vacuum. Those around us will undoubtedly share their opinions on what we are saying and doing – whether we ask them to or not.
When what I know I should do is NOT what others expect from me, I find myself weighing options a lot longer (i.e. stalling) as I try to predict the fall-out. It’s not that I must have everyone’s approval for all my actions. I simply find that I enjoy life more without an avalanche of criticism.
Well, if I know what I SHOULD be doing and I know what’s standing in the way, how can I free myself up to taking my own advice?
How To Take Your Own Advice
Face Fear—Fear is a big topic. If you find that it is underneath your inaction, it’s time to face it head on. The richness of resources on the internet makes this very easy. You can find articles, videos, and experts who address fear in all its forms.
Immersing yourself into research on fear can help you to realize, as I did, that most of our modern fears can be conquered.
Move but don’t rush—Sometimes, a bit of hesitation can be a good thing. If you find that you’re stuck and stalling to take your own advice, then take the time to re-evaluate. Our subconscious mind can be super attuned, and maybe that “very good advice” isn’t.
Partner up—When it comes to NOT being lazy and complacent, we all need the help of a friend. More accurately, we need accountability partners.
Peer support groups, professional coaches, or a tough love friend can help. This is especially true when you need a push to get moving, or need fresh eyes on an unproductive habit. Good accountability partners acknowledge how difficult it can be to follow-through, but still insist you do it.
Build boundaries—While we do need loving supportive people in our lives, we cannot allow them to make our decisions. It’s important to set boundaries so that others don’t expect you will automatically do what they say.
Watch out for too much time spent on social media reading about fun, business, and life, when you need to be out working and living. Resist the urge to compare your progress to others. If someone is consistently negative and unsupportive, then consider limiting your exposure— prudently un-follow, un-friend, and unsubscribe.
Learning to take your own advice is only the first step. If you never follow through, you run the risk of missing out on opportunities and living with a low-grade frustration all the time.