Parents want their kids to take their advice. Friends want their other 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 our unmet expectation that the person would do as we suggested. But of course if we studied ourselves we would know that we too have ignored most of the advice we were given. And it’s not that we 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. Of course, none of this is to say that the advice is useless.
The simple fact is, we usually need to go off course and pay some consequence before we will seek a better path. 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, in our new context, we can suddenly and profoundly understand advice we’d previously ignored.
That advice was right, and that fact gets burned into our consciousness by the pain experience. And that pain, and the fact that the advice would theoretically have worked for us if we’d followed it, then we pass it on yet again to likely be ignored yet again. That is the trade-off. Yes we experience pain, but in doing so we reduce our chances of repeating the same mistake, and we just might be able to protect a loved one who listens.
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 we do give it and the person appears to ignore it, we will have planted that seed.
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. Those seeds of advice are often what germinates to spawn our aha moments, when we finally understand why something in our past happened the way it happened, or was the way it was.
Knowing all of this is how we can avoid feeling frustrated when our advice is rarely taken in the moment. It’s a good lesson on how suffering is built on a bedrock of expectation. Us offering advice should not have led us to create the expectation that others would take it. We are better to just be ourselves and say whatever we feel a motivation to say and trust ourselves from there.
The important thing is to always remember we’re just planting the seed. It is unwise to even anticipate seeing it sprout immediately. But it may surprise us either way. And when it does, we can know we 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. It doesn’t work that way. People need time to absorb new concepts. We’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. We can tell people what we want them to know. And then we can fully anticipate they’ll go bump into the universe in all kinds of ways that defy our advice. But if we are wise and if we’re not influenced by ugly past feelings, then the odds are people will pick up our 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. 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!
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.