Should you listen to life advice? (And the best advice I’ve ever found)

I’ve always been very reluctant to listen to other people when it was about my life. It was easy to understand that my Math teacher knows more about Math or that my colleague with 20 years longer experience knows tricks I don’t.

But when they – parents, relatives, teachers, friends, colleagues, preachers, girlfriends, religious leaders, moralists – told me how to live my life I’ve always had a strong feeling to shout at them: “FUCK OFF FROM MY LIFE!”
When they pushed me I’d ask back: “How would YOU know better what I need!?”

The usual answers relied on authority. “I’ve lived longer than you.”, “I’ll beat you if you don’t do it!”, “I’ve lived through most of this century.”, “I know a lot more people than you do.” and similar.

It often seems to me that to be a successful “life-adviser” / self-help person giver I should try to emphasize my authority. “How much money I make / how independent / happy / satisfied / motivated I am / how much I’ve traveled, etc. But I hate authority figures. So I won’t bore you with my life-advice. Anyways, I haven’t met anyone to whom it would really work.

So, it’s an easy enough message: Don’t listen to anyone!
But the thing is that we all listen. If you don’t want to end up like a guy living in his room with no connection to reality, believing to be of an alien species, the smartest guy on Earth or the unrecognized leader of the world, you’ll have to listen. To the stupid politicians, anchormen, neighbours, friends, colleagues, your father’s repetitive advice to become a lawyer and your average Tuesday afternoon Brazilian soap opera star too. And even if you don’t like it, they’ll all affect you.

And we listen for a reason. Most of doesn’t even have the vaguest idea what to do. We rather watch TV shows that we know are stupid rather than taking an effort to hunt down some first principles and “your way”. Even your local priest’s or next door self help advice might be more apt than the bullshit that comes to your mind when you are bored on those lonely afternoons.

 

So there are two distinct parts to the self-help story.
1, you are unique snowflake. Unique in a way that no one really knows (possibly yourself included)
2, you are utterly average. Not just an average 2017 man or woman – but an average human being: living just like all those people did in the last couple thousand years, to say to least. So you can clearly rely on all knowledge brought together about how to live life from 5000 year old religions to last year’s self-help bestseller. Including your father’s advice.

And number 3, that disqualifies all poor and great life advice: any advice is only good for people who can use them. Sorry, most of humanity.

I like life advice because I’m interested in the individual. And I’m always surprised about the sheer simplicity of the advices I’ve received. “Do the most secure job.”, “Never start a business!”, “Life is struggle for survival. If you enjoy it, it’s not work!”, or self-help people: “Start a business!”, “You can do whatever you want to do!”, “Be filthy rich!”, “Be really famous!”, “Lose a lot of weight!” or religions “Don’t lie!”, “Don’t kill!”, “Don’t commit adultery!”

I mean, I know people are simple. But… …really?! Guys! Life is a bit more than this, wouldn’t you think!?

So, I’ve been looking. Quite a lot in the last about 15 years for good advice. And not long ago – surprise, surprise – I’ve found some. Here it goes. This is the closest description of how I want to be:

1, a fully functioning person (Carl Rogers), including

– A growing openness to experience (move away from defensiveness)
– An increasingly existential lifestyle (living each moment fully)
– Increasing organismic trust (trust own judgment and ability to choose the right behaviour)
– freedom of choice (believing of playing a role in determining own behaviour)
– creativity
– reliability and constructiveness
– a rich full life (experience joy and pain, love and heartbreak, fear and courage intensely)
(Rogers, Carl: On becoming a person: A therapist’s view of psychotherapy)

2, the autotelic person / person of flow of Csíkszentmihályi “who seem to enjoy situations that ordinary persons would find unbearable.”
(Csíkszentmihályi: Flow)

3, and Maslow’s self-actualizer:
– efficient perception of reality
– comfortable acceptance of self, others and nature
– reliant on own experiences and judgement
– spontaneous and natural
– task centering
– autonomy (resourceful and independent)
– continued freshness and appreciation
– profound interpersonal relationships
– comfort with solitude
– non-hostile sense of humor
– peak experiences (feelings of ecstasy, harmony, deep meaning)
– socially compassionate
– few friends

What do you think? Do you know how you want to be? Do you take life advice seriously? If yes, based on what?

Let us know in a comment or on our Facebook page!

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