Parents want their kids to take their advice. Friends want their friends to take their advice. Teachers want their students to take their advice. Journeymen want novices to take their advice. And they are all very often frustrated to see the other person or persons not making any use of the advice they were given. We can keep the advice but let’s get rid of the frustration.
Frustration is painful for you to experience and in cases like the ones above, a lot of frustration gets generated by your unmet expectation that the person would do as you suggested. But of course if you studied yourself you would know that you too have ignored most of the advice you were given. And it’s not that you or they are rude people. It’s that advice exists in the world of words. It’s an abstract mind-based concept. But we learn in the real world. But that isn’t to say that the advice is useless.
The simple fact is, we do need to go the wrong way before we can determine the right way. So it is often the heat of experience that germinates the seeds of advice. It’s when we’re suffering that we’ll recall advice we were given and—juxtaposed to our pain—we profoundly understand the advice. It is burned into our consciousness by the pain experience. That is the trade-off. Yes you experience pain, but in doing so you reduce your chances of repeating the same mistake.
When dealing with individuals, ideally I would wait for people to ask for advice before giving it, but there are obviously situational reasons where giving it is the only thing that makes sense—this blog being a case in point. But even if you do give it and the person appears to ignore it, you will have planted that seed. And in the right sun, with just the right moisture and fertile soil, that seed can suddenly take hold minutes, hours, days, weeks, months or even years later. These are the aha moments when we finally understand why something in our past was the way it was.
Don’t feel frustrated that your advice is rarely taken immediately. It’s a good lesson on how suffering is built on a bedrock of expectation. Just say whatever you feel a motivation to say and trust yourself. Then know that’s just the seed. Don’t even expect to see it for some time. Let it surprise you. And when it does, you’ll know you made a difference.
Lessons taught, lessons learned, and lessons understood are three different things. Too many times people want to immediately go from step one to step three with no gap in between. That is crazy. It doesn’t work that way. People need time to absorb new concepts. You’re no different. So we have to stop being in such a rush—just because we’ve made a new rule or got people’s commitments, things are still going to happen before we comprehend the advice well enough to be able to put it to truly good use.
Loving people is even better than advice, but caring via advice isn’t a bad substitute. Tell people what you want them to know. And then fully expect them to go bump into the universe in all kinds of ways that defy your advice. But if you are wise and if you’re not influenced by ugly past feelings, then the odds are people will pick up your advice and if anything, hone it further.
Care about people. Friends and strangers alike. This week I’m going to teach a new Canadian how to drive on snow and ice. It’s going to feel good knowing he’ll feel safer, and I might be able to save him from who knows what trouble. That sharing feels good. So share advice if you feel it’s warranted. Just don’t expect people to implement it until they can own it themselves, and the best way to do that is for them to have meditated on it long enough that they eventually see the same value you do. Now go have yourself an awesome day!
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.