Our Own Best Advice

Why is it that we so often have wisdom for others, but ignore our own advice when it comes to ourselves?  We offer a sympathetic ear, weigh the person’s dilemma with a heady dose of objectivity – our friend’s best interests always at heart, and present morsels of insights…bits of wisdom or advice that might help another through their pain or struggle.

The problem is that we rarely do the same for ourselves – whether the mundane or the serious.

“You need carve out time to take care of yourself” (even if I don’t do the same for myself);

“Don’t eat that cookie” (but I’m going to sneak one when you’re not looking);

“You need to do what’s right for you and your family” (even if I’m forgetting to put those things first);

“You need to take care of your schoolwork and chores first, and then you can play” (even though my own chores and bills are stacked up);

“Don’t let the situation get the better of you – you have the power to choose a different course of action” (even though it’s easier for me to slip into feeling victimized by my own struggles).

The last few months of my life have felt like being in a fun house, chock-a-block full of mirrors hidden behind smoke screens, all of which seem to reflect a distorted version of what I know to be true, housed in a maze that has left me feeling lost, confused, and disoriented.   It is also fair to say that sandwiched between moments of hope, enthusiasm, and the promise of what could be, I have felt angry, disappointed, and at times victimized by a series of unfortunate circumstances that I could not have foreseen.  The memory of the good, and at times even amazing, has been overshadowed by the weight of my own emotional response to the rest, the capacity to remain rationally objective compromised.

I could see it, but I couldn’t step out of it.  I kept fighting what is, yet going nowhere.

And then it happened…

Someone hit a button.  Flipped a switched.  Gave me pause to reflect instead of react.

In that space of reflection, I was reminded of all that I already know and write about…that we needn’t be a victim in life and can always choose an attitude of ‘what ifs’ and ‘only ifs’ over ‘if only’; that ego is always rooted in fear, which we should never allow to stand in the way of the light of love; that it is the struggle itself that contain’s life’s lessons and enables deep growth; that an attitude of gratitude can carry us through even the most challenging times and often opens the door to new paths and possibilities; that the hallmark of real leadership resides in the true spirit of service above self, though sacrifice towards no meaningful end is simply another form of vanity; that deep inside of us, we all have the courage to handle whatever comes our way, and the integrity to do what is right; that we must honor the gifts we have to offer the world as a reflection of our most authentic selves.

In a moment of grace, I remembered to let go.  To surrender to what is.  To live and love fully in the moment.  To embrace the uncertainty of all that is yet to be.

I’m curious…

Have you ever found yourself ignoring your own best advice?  Have you ever found yourself needing to step out of the muck for a while, so that you step back in, a wiser leader and learner in the process?  What is the best piece of advice you offer others but routinely ignore yourself?

4 thoughts on “Our Own Best Advice

  1. Great blog. Well, the best example I can offer is related to Golf. We can always tell what our partner is doing wrong and most of the time offer advice, just so we can go out and chunk one right after that advice was given.

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    • Hi Art. Thanks for stoping by Heartpath! I always like sports analogies because we’re usually playing with or along-side someone else, and from that vantage point, it becomes all too easy to see and constructively advise on mistakes others make, while staying blind to our own. When I truly feel stuck and unable to find my own best advice, I often close my eyes and consider the advice I might give someone else, but from my own value base. By shifting perspectives away from my own ego and emotion, I’m often able to arrive at a better decision.

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  2. What a great challenge you have highlighted. How do we remind ourselves of what we already know, what we have already learned, what we have already written and what we have already offered as advice to others? And, how do we so easily enter the role of counselor for others yet fail to recognize the need to place ourselves in the role of the one to be counseled — whether it be from some third party or from our own memories or our own learnings? Part of the answer must reside in what you discovered — to periodically and perhaps more consistently review readings and writings, making it part of our quiet, reflection time. Grab those books off the shelf and re-read the highlighted parts. Pull those previous writings out and re-read them. Seek-out that 3rd party counselor who can so easily see what we sometimes cannot, while we’re head down and deeply into our own quagmire. And finally, perhaps we have to remind ourselves to keep it simple. To remind ourselves of our purpose here on Earth. To remember to love one’s God, to love ourselves, to love our neighbors as ourselves…and to serve.

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    • Great answer(s), Chris! Sometimes our own ego, emotion, and suitcase full of past experiences color and taint our perspective and our ability to give and receive our own best advice. In those cases, where a third party perspective or advice is still not enough, I come back to my core values, purpose, and priorities, from which I can always make a better decision. The trouble comes when we don’t invest time to know who we most authentically are and allow ourselves to thrash around in a state of reactive emotion, instead of remaining flexibly anchored in our own core Truth.

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