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A client of mine, Isabel, feels like her life is majorly in transition right now.
She’s looking for a new job, applying to graduate programs, and putting her house on the market simultaneously.
All of these things came to a head at the same time this past week: She got two job offers, an acceptance letter for full-time admission to a graduate program, an offer on her house, as well as someone interested in renting her home.
Quality problems, right? But problems, nonetheless.
She obviously can’t accept both jobs. Nor can she take on a full-time job and go back to grad school full-time. She also can’t sell her house, while also renting it out and keeping it as an investment property.
Oprah said it best: “You can have it all. Just not all at once.”
So Isabel has to make choices. Big choices. Choices between equally appealing options, in different ways.
TOO MANY COOKS
Because she’s so torn about what to do, she’s asking everyone she knows for advice.
She knows that she can’t possibly think through all the potential outcomes on her own, so she’s trying to combine brainpower with her brother, friends, mom, coworkers, old professors, barista, and dog walker.
And she’s gotten lots of opinions back (because, let’s be honest, most people aren’t shy about sharing their views). Everyone seems to have a really good rationale behind their advice, too.
Except there’s one glaring problem: Her mom’s advice clashes with her best friend’s, whose views are totally different from her officemate at work, who has tons of reasons why her sister’s opinion is flat-out wrong.
So she started out with one big question, and now she has 12 totally different, compelling answers … and still no idea what she actually wants to do.
Her search for a solution just exploded into an even more confusing mess than before. Plus, the more opinions she hears, the more she’s been second-guessing her own intuition about the right path to take.
QUIET THE NOISE
I asked Isabel to do two things to quiet all of the competing advice rattling around in her head and get clear on what she wanted to do:
1. Go on an advice detox for one solid week.
I challenged her not to ask anyone for advice for a week straight. And that didn’t just mean about the big stuff, like which job to take or what to do with her house — it applied to everything.
It was harder than she imagined.
The following week she told me how surprised she was by how many times she had to stop herself from asking for advice on little things, like where to go to lunch, or whether she should go on a second date, or what to wear to her cousin’s wedding.
Because she wasn’t allowed to get anyone else’s opinion, all she had to go on was her own desires and intuition.
She had to decide what she felt like having for lunch, and whether she liked a guy enough to go on a second date, and what dress she wanted to wear to the wedding.
Having to rely on only herself to make all of these smaller decisions, no matter how insignificant each one felt individually, gave her tons of insight into her own desires and preferences, which had been obscured by the cloud of other people’s input.
Plus, she was building her self-trust muscle little by little, so that when it came time to make the big decisions, she trusted herself to make the most authentic choice.
2. Take a long solo hike with no distractions (no music, no podcasts, no calls … preferably no phone at all).
Isabel loves to go hiking, but maybe you prefer walking or swimming or running or biking — that’s fine.
The point is to give yourself a long stretch (at least an hour, preferably longer) of uninterrupted solo time to just be with yourself and your mental tornado of thoughts.
If you’re into meditation, that’s a great option, too. I just find that, personally (and for many of my clients), rhythmic movement does wonders for clearing my head and soothing my overwhelm.
So at the end of her week-long advice detox, Isabel took herself on a 90-minute hike.
For the first 30 or so minutes, her mind was racing through all of the pros and cons of each option, replaying advice she’d gotten from friends and family, just like it always did when she considered her options.
But after a while, something shifted. Her mind got quieter, her senses got sharper, and she felt clearheaded for the first time in ages.
She was able to tap into how she felt about each option, beyond the logistics and advice. Her intuition — that inner voice we all have that’s constantly trying to guide us in the right direction — finally got a chance to speak, after being drowned out by all the competing opinions.
By the end of her hike, she had a clear sense of what she wanted to do.
I’M NOT ASKING YOU TO BE A HERMIT
Look, I’m not saying you should stop sharing your life with friends and family, or even that you should never ask for advice. There’s definitely a such thing as too much self-reliance. Plus, having the support and guidance of people in your life can be amazing.
But most people I encounter are leaning too much on other’s feedback to compensate for the fact that, deep down, they don’t fully trust themselves.
If you have an inkling that might be you, then I suggest you start to become hyper-aware of how often you’re asking for advice, and from whom.
Also, remember that when people give you advice — no matter how loving their intention is — they’re really only telling you what they would do in your situation. Their response may or may not line up with your values and priorities, and it very likely won’t be 100% authentic for you.
So when you have a big decision to make, consider limiting your advice-seeking to one or two trusted people who know you well. Or better yet, discuss it with a coach or other third-party professional who can bring you a completely unbiased view and help you get clarity about what you want (not what your dad or best friend or boss wants for you).
I’d love to hear from you now: Are you willing to try a weeklong advice detox? If so, leave me a comment saying you’re in for the challenge!
WANT HELP WITH THIS?
If you’re overwhelmed by all of the contradictory advice from people in your life that feels unhelpful and confusing (no matter how well-meaning it is), talking to a coach might be exactly what you need.
Coaching is NOT advice — it’s a proven process of helping you get clear on what YOU want, based on your goals, values, and unique personality, so you can make more confident decisions.
If that sounds like the kind of support you need right now, then 1-on-1 coaching might be the perfect thing for you.
Kristen (& Rachel)