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Why you shouldn’t always trust advice from an expert

expert

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I was sitting on the floor with my 4-month-old black lab puppy in my lap, sobbing. She was happily chewing a bone, oblivious to the fact that I was heartbroken because I was planning to give her away.

Scarlett, my puppy, was a bit of a hellion. She had a habit of attacking your feet when you weren’t looking, and she would bark at you for what felt like hours without stopping.

She didn’t care for kids, or scooters, or skateboards, or anything that darted around in an unpredictable fashion.

If you rolled her over on her back, she would shriek and fight like a chimpanzee being murdered (I swear I’m not exaggerating. I have witnesses!).

This dog was nothing like the sweet, loving, cuddly puppy I had imagined. She was completely unmanageable. So obviously I brought in professional help.

The dog trainer who came to my apartment only visited a few times before she pointed at Scarlett, who had been busy attacking my feet again, and said, “That is NOT normal. You will never be able to trust this dog. She’ll have to wear a muzzle around kids for the rest of her life.”

She suggested that I take my puppy to a shelter she knew of and then start over with a different breed; something more suited to me.

This woman’s advice broke my heart. I couldn’t imagine just giving my dog away, regardless of how difficult she was. But what else could I do? She was the expert, not me. If she said my dog was broken, then she was … right?

Well, not so much.

My parents encouraged me to get a second opinion. The new trainer rolled his eyes and said, “She’ll be perfect in 3 weeks. This is normal stuff for a smart, spirited lab.”

And he was right. After working with the right expert, Scarlett was a completely different dog than she had been the month before.

That was five years ago. She still doesn’t love weird things with wheels, but she happily plays with babies and kids of all sizes, and she loves rolling over and getting belly rubs. No screeching necessary.

Sometimes I think about how I almost gave her away, and I shudder. Because how many people did take that terrible dog trainer’s advice? How many perfectly decent dogs ended up homeless (or worse) because of her?

The truth is, this kind of stuff happens all the time. We put our faith in experts, simply because we assume they’re more knowledgeable and educated, and dismiss our own intuition — often to disastrous ends.

SOMETIMES PARTS JUST “WEAR OUT”

A few years ago my mom was experiencing consistent knee pain. It wasn’t debilitating, but it was enough that she knew something was off.

She went to her general practitioner, who took a look at it (without bothering to give her an X-Ray), and said, “Eh, it’s just old age. Parts wear out! Take some Aleve.”

My mom, even though she’s in her fifties and I’m in my twenties, is probably in way better shape than me. She’s a lifelong athlete who plays tennis competitively. To be told that her knee was just “wearing out” was a huge blow. It might mean giving up something she loves; something that makes her who she is.

Even though she was worried that her doctor was right, she couldn’t dismiss the feeling that something felt wrong, so she went to an orthopedic surgeon who took an X-Ray and said, “You’ve torn your meniscus. We can do a non-invasive surgery, and you’ll be recovered in no time.”

Today, her knees are fine. And she’s still playing tennis all weekend long — I’m pretty sure she’ll still be running circles around people on the court into her eighties!

YOU SHOULDN’T BE A HERMIT

Meg, one of the awesome people in our current PPVE cycle, recently sat down with a job coach, hoping for some advice about how to search for good employers and how to stand out to them when she does find a good one:

“When I brought up that I’d like to work remotely, the job coach suggested that because of my tendency to be a hermit and avoid people, I should work in an office with other people. Thing is, I’d really prefer to work from home or a public space and use my free time to socialize. BUT, I’m tempted to take the coach’s advice because now I’ve second-guessed myself.”

As a coach, there’s nothing that makes my blood boil quite like bad coaching. Actually, let’s be honest, what Meg experienced was not coaching. It was advice (and not very good advice, at that).

Advice is what happens when someone tells you what they think you should do, based on their worldview and experiences. It often doesn’t take your preferences, personality, or experiences into account at all.

Coaching is what happens when someone treats you as the expert on your own life, listens without an agenda, and asks you questions (often that you haven’t realized you need to be asking yourself) that help you tease out what’s right and aligned for you.

This job coach completely dismissed the fact that Meg is an introvert who feels genuinely good about the prospect of working remotely.

Instead of actually listening to Meg, she labeled Meg as a “hermit” and told her that her preference was wrong. All of which makes Meg unnecessarily question her own desires and feel ashamed of who she is. YUCK.

If Meg hadn’t been able to share this story with us, she might have ended up miserable in an office, feeling guilty and trying to ignore the fact that she’d rather be by herself. Crisis averted, thankfully.

IT’S SO EASY TO HAND OVER YOUR POWER

In a world where we’ve been cultured to always respect authority, bow down to degrees and job titles, and make decisions that are based in logic (rather than our intuition or feelings), it is REALLY easy to hand our power away.

And, to be fair, there’s an uncomfortable truth to all of this — it’s more convenient to dismiss your own intuition and trust experts, instead.

If we hand over our authority to an expert, we don’t have to think for ourselves. We never have to struggle with figuring out how we feel or what our intuition is telling us. We can outsource all of that messiness to someone who will just tell us what to do, which sounds way easier in the moment.

Except, if it isn’t clear by now, allow me to say:

No one is more of an expert on you than you.

It doesn’t matter if they’ve been to school for a decade, worked with thousands of people, or acquired huge fame and renown in their field — they will NEVER know you better than you do.

So, let’s not hand our power over to people who will never know what it’s like to be us. Let’s become our own damn experts. Let’s agree to the following:

  • You don’t have to trust an expert, ever. Regardless of their accomplishments. Titles and degrees don’t say a lot about someone’s character (or their abilities, for that matter).
  • If you get a vibe — you just don’t like someone, even if you can’t figure out why; or you feel something is off, even though there’s no “evidence” — then listen to it. Your gut instincts count MORE than someone else’s expertise.
  • It never hurts to get a second opinion, particularly when the stakes are high.
  • You don’t need to poll everyone in your life before you make a decision. You’re capable of making good choices all on your own (for more on this, read Kristen’s blog about making your own decisions)
  • If it’s a choice between doing what feels good, right, and aligned for you versus listening to an expert who recommends the opposite of what makes you feel good — always do what makes you feel good.

YOU are the authority on you. Period.

When have you trusted an expert instead of yourself? What happened? Come share with me in the comments!

IF YOU LIKED THIS, THEN YOU’LL ALSO LOVE …

One huge way that you’re giving away your power

How to access your most untapped source of wisdom

Are your decisions really your own? Or someone else’s?

How to get out of Analysis Paralysis

Much Love,

Rachel (& Kristen)

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Feel like you never have time for the stuff that’s really important?

important

If reading long blogs just isn’t your deal, you can listen to me read it instead!

(Click the orange play button to start playing right here on the page, or download and save it for later by clicking the downward arrow at the top right of the box below.)

 


 

On our latest coaching call, my client Renee started out by saying:

“I feel like every day at work, I’m just reacting to all of the demands of everyone around me. I can easily spend a whole day responding to emails, answering phone calls and texts, doing things for people who stop by my desk, and going to meetings. Which means I have hardly any time or energy leftover for the important projects that need my attention, but aren’t as time sensitive. I hate feeling so reactive like that, but how do I not get so caught up in putting out fires all day every day??”

Sound familiar? I know it does for me!

I always go into the day knowing what I most want to work on … but despite my best intentions, some days it’s easy to get caught up in emails, social media, texts, calls, etc., that feel like they need my attention or response right now.

And those bigger-picture, less time-sensitive projects? They tend to get put off until tomorrow … and then the day after that … and the day after that.

It’s not that I mean to procrastinate on those things, but that’s what ends up happening sometimes because other things swoop in and steal my attention.

I told Renee, “First of all, you are SO not alone! I’m pretty sure everyone gets caught up in this trap sometimes. The key to breaking this pattern is to know the difference between what’s urgent and what’s important, and get your priorities straight between the two.”

SO HOW DO I TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WHAT’S “URGENT” VS. WHAT’S “IMPORTANT”?

Let’s first define what the difference is between what’s “urgent” and what’s “important,” so we’re all on the same page.

You can tell when something is urgent because it feels like there’s a ticking time clock on it, waiting for you to do something about it.

When an email lands in your inbox, the countdown begins based on your (or your company’s) idea of an “appropriate” timeframe for responding. You know someone is on the other end waiting for a response, so it feels like you should answer ASAP.

When a coworker stops by your desk and asks if you can check on something for them, you feel like you should drop everything you’re doing and get them an instant answer.

When your sister calls to ask for advice about her kitchen remodeling, you feel like you should skip your evening yoga class so you can give your two cents right then.

Things that are urgent often come from other people’s agenda, not our own.

Important things, on the other hand, are most often your own dreams and goals, the things that matter most to you.

You might have a dream of writing a book … or a goal of working out more regularly … or a vision of side business you want to start … or a desire to start a new initiative at work … or an interest in starting a meditation practice.

Those things — the important things — aren’t as in-your-face critical in your everyday life. They’re the things you always want to make time for, but they end up getting pushed to the wayside.

THE URGENT STUFF CAN WAIT

What happens when you let the “urgent” things steal all of your time away from the important things? Burnout, resentment, and a lack of fulfillment.

And when you’re feeling that way, your motivation, energy, and inspiration take a nosedive. Which means you’re not able to support the people around you as well as you could, plus you have no energy leftover for the things you care about. It’s a total lose-lose.

Taking care of everyone else’s needs 24/7 is a form of self-betrayal.

The truth is, unless you’re an ER surgeon or your house is on fire, the urgent things in your life can wait.

Rachel and I always remind each other, “There’s no such thing as a life-or-death coaching emergency.” The same is most likely true of your industry, too.

{Hats off to all of our doctors, military servicemen, firemen, police officers, and all of the people who DO deal with urgent, life-or-death situations everyday. For them, urgent and important are the same thing.}

A while back, a client told me that they had a coworker who put this sign on their office door: “Unfortunately, a lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.”

Blunt, but 100% true! That’s a tough-love way of not getting caught up in other people’s “urgent” agendas.

THE IMPORTANT STUFF COMES FIRST

So how can you start to shift your life to focus more on what’s important and get less caught up in the urgent stuff?

This quote from author Steven Pressfield sums it up perfectly:

“I’m keenly aware of the Principle of Priority, which states (a) you must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important, and (b) you must do what is important first.

As in, you do the important things before all of the urgent stuff has a chance to swoop in and steal away your attention.

If you try holding off on the important things until after your urgent work is done, chances are you’ll never get to them. Because the urgent stuff? It never ceases.

Remember my client Renee I mentioned earlier? I asked her to try out an experiment for one week:

Each day when she got to work, she wasn’t allowed to check her email or answer the phone for the first hour of her morning. That hour was dedicated solely to the important projects that had been getting crowded out by all of the urgent stuff. She even told her boss about this experiment, so he wouldn’t wonder why she was digitally MIA for that first hour.

The next week, she came back saying she hadn’t felt so ahead of things at work in recent memory.

So look at your to-do list (or write it down if it’s just a running list in your head) and mark each one as urgent or important. Then do at least one important thing before dealing with the urgent stuff.

OTHER WAYS TO PRIORITZE WHAT’S IMPORTANT

Set up “blackout hours.” These are times when you alert everyone around you — either at work or at home — that you’ll be laser-focusing on something important and you don’t want to be distracted. Shut down your email, turn your phone on airplane mode, and get to work!

Schedule the important stuff. As online business guru Marie Forleo is fond of saying, “If it’s not scheduled, it’s not real!” I want you to think of the important things on your calendar as immovable objects. Everything else — emails, chores, errands, social plans — have to work around those fixed blocks on your calendar.

Get some accountability. Find a way to stay accountable for the important stuff you really want to devote more time to. If you want to write a book, join a writing group. If you want to get into shape, hire a personal trainer. If you want to complete a project at work, tell your boss what day it’ll be done. (Psst, coaches make for great accountability partners, too! My clients say that’s one of the main reasons they keep taking action — because they know I’ll ask about it the following week.)

Automate the urgent tasks, when possible. There are so many ways now to automate and outsource stuff you don’t want to do. Seriously, there are delivery services for just about everything nowadays. There are even automated virtual assistants who can do your scheduling for you. So don’t feel like you need to do all of it yourself!

This is what it looks like to set your own agenda, instead of waiting for it to be set for you. It’s time to take back control of your time.

Did this strike a chord with you? How will you start to prioritize what’s really important? Leave a comment to let me know!

IF YOU LIKED THIS, THEN YOU’LL ALSO LOVE …

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When you haven’t made as much progress in life as you wanted

Much Love,

Kristen (& Rachel)

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