All Advice Can Be Bad Advice
Because life is not a highway
It was only a few years ago that I read Neale Donald Walsch’s Conversations With God. I remember nodding and a-ha’ing my way through the pages … until he started discussing the very real need for his readers to be of greater service to others.
I vividly recall the tension this advice created in my body; the resistance and fear that rose up from within me. Here I was, a card-carrying people-pleaser — someone who was constantly draining my personal resources and ignoring my own well being in a desperate drive to be “good”, “kind” and “helpful” — and I was being encouraged by this beloved and renowned man to give … more. ???
It took me a long time to realize that, perhaps, that particular piece of advice was not directed at me, or those like me. My experience was not, and never had been, one of self-centered behavior or lack of awareness of others. In fact, I have since discovered that my joy, health and well-being lies in understanding how to come back to myself and start valuing my own needs as much as others’.
I needed different advice.
It is easy to assume that life is a highway — that we all start life in a similar way and are bumbling our way to some shared ‘destination’ of happiness, fulfillment, goodness or godliness. This unconscious belief is silently ubiquitous in society and it’s what drives the desire in many for uniformity and conformity. It underpins the actions of those who believe their way of viewing life is the ‘right’ way; those who judge, demean and control others who see things differently. And it motivates many with good intentions to “change”, “guide” or “fix” others who appear to be straying from the path.
It drives the “one-size-fits-all” mentality (in lifestyle, diet, career path, finances, education, relationships) that we are encouraged to believe in.
But life is not a highway. We all start this adventure from differing perspectives and experiences. And, if there is some shared destination of happiness, fulfillment and wisdom, it is a point upon which we converge — each from our own direction, background and unique perspective.
Advice is a beautiful thing and it may seem natural to encourage (or demand) others to do things the way you do; to maintain that whatever is ‘right’ for you is right for others. But, it’s important for us each to understand that sometimes even our most well-meaning advice can be unhelpful, or just plain irrelevant.
We may walk alongside one another physically, but we are all ultimately travelling a different emotional, psychological and spiritual path.
One of the greatest things we can do for each other is to offer guidance and support … as long as it is done in terms of an invitation: “Hey, this is what worked for me”. But the other vital thing we can do, is give each other the freedom to experience and approach life in whatever way works for us as an individual.
- Take a look at the people who share your community; your life. Can you appreciate that they may have completely different strengths to you; different weaknesses?
- Are you willing to acknowledge that everyone you meet has already faced and conquered challenges that you have not?
- Can you accept that your experience of life is unique to you and understand that you possess wisdom, experience and insights that may not be relevant to others?
- Are you able to accept that others have values, principles and priorities that are different from, but just as valid as, your own?
- Are you willing to offer advice as an invitation, rather than a declaration?
Kim Forrester is an award-winning author, educator and intuitive consultant with over 15 years’ experience as a professional intuitive and spiritual teacher. She combines cutting edge science with traditional spirituality to offer the latest understandings of psi, consciousness and holistic well being.