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The best advice I ever got

Apr 19, 2017

Don't eat the yellow snow. Just kidding. Well, seriously don't...but as far as the best piece of life advice I ever received, not eating the yellow snow (however valuable it may be) doesn't even come close. In today's post we discuss what advice is, how to receive it, and I share with you the one strategy that has changed my life.

If you have lived on this earth for one day you have likely received advice.

My coach used to tell us this to get us running in -25 degree weather. Fun times.

My coach used to tell us this to get us running in -25 degree weather. Fun times.

If you have lived on this earth for two days you have probably given advice. Think of your morning, did someone caution you against the rising gas prices? Recommend you wear a sweater because it "might get cool later"? Not great examples of earth-shattering, life-changing, jaw-dropping advice but advice all the same.

Advice, as defined by the Cambridge dictionary, is considered "guidance or recommendations concerning prudent future action, typically given by someone regarded as knowledgeable or authoritative". This definition interests me because I have certainly received advice from people I would not consider knowledgeable nor authoritative.....more like extremely opinionated and outspoken...but I digress. As humans we like to share our knowledge and impart our wisdom with those around us. It's a way for younger generations to learn from their elders, the rookie from the more experienced player. 

You probably give and receive advice more than you realize.

If you have a significant other, chances are you give/receive (unwanted) advice constantly. Isn't that what marriage is? Offering free, unsolicited advice to your partner about how to do things the way you'd like them done? Perhaps not. Most of us have a favourite source of advice. It may even be a stranger, like a favourite website, book, or podcast we go to for answers. Otherwise advice usually comes from a friend, coworker, or family member. The bigger your social support network the more likely you have multiple contacts you go to for advice.

We are all familiar with the following 3 scenarios:

  1. The time(s) you were given really awful advice
  2. The time(s) you gave advice you would have never followed yourself and, 
  3. The time(s) you were given the right advice at the wrong time, or the right advice but from the wrong source

If you are exceptionally lucky you may experience a fourth situation: getting the right advice, from the right source, at the right time.

For advice to have a profound impact:

  1. You must be receptive to hearing it. Not all of us are ready to hear advice when it is given to us. Sometimes all we want is a shoulder to cry on, and that's ok! Just know, that when you come to someone with a problem, their first instinct is to help you solve it. No one who cares about you wants to see you struggle, so when you come to them in despair they want to help! Help usually comes in the form of advice. If you're not ready, say so. If you can, open your mind and listen carefully knowing that whatever they tell you comes from a good place and hopefully, a similar experience.
  2. You must respect the source of the advice. If not in the moment, you must come to respect the source in time. If someone gives you a piece of unsolicited advice, it's not always an easy pill to swallow. You may wonder who they think they are to being offering you advice! Again, try to appreciate the advice for what is is, advice. It's not a command or an order you must follow. It's another human reaching out to you to share their wisdom and/or opinion on your situation. What you do with your newfound knowledge will always be your choice.
  3. You must reflect on the advice. You may not even realize you have already received the best advice you will ever get. Part of the problem is that advice must be internalized to really take root and affect our lives. Reflect back on some of the advice you have received, has any of it changed the way you think or the way you see the world? Believe it or not, advice given to someone else can be the best advice you ever got! ...If you apply it to your own situation. You may have read, heard, watched, or listened to someone giving great advice, go ahead and grab it for yourself! Write it down, say it out loud, share it with someone you care about. Whatever it is, think back on it often and reflect on how it has shaped you. 

For me, the best advice I ever got was from my Dad:

Choose your attitude.

The meaning behind this phrase is simple, in any situation you always have the power to choose your attitude. For an extended explanation, just watch the movie Unbroken...that man chose his attitude for a whole lifetime. Basically, no matter where you are or what you are doing, you can choose your reaction. The power to choose your attitude is greatest when you are facing adversity. When you are feeling challenged, frustrated, angry, or resentful you will always have the power to choose your attitude. There are few liberties that can't be taken away, your attitude is one of them. 

The next time you are faced with a difficult situation or challenging problem, focus on what you can control.

There will always be things in your life that are beyond your influence.  It takes discipline to ignore concerns you have no control over. A dedicated practice of choosing your attitude is necessary. To read more about the circles of concern and influence, a must read is Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

The moments that challenge us aren't always life-altering events.

The mundane day-to-day practice of choosing your attitude will get you through slow traffic, long family gatherings, awkward social situations, tough workouts and more. The next time you are stuck in a situation you'd rather not be in....say running a marathon.....focus on your self-talk. One of the best strategies I have learned for getting through a tough time is to ask myself, "Can I evolve from this?". This question is just one of many things I have learned vicariously through Tim Ferriss's podcasts and books. Not surprisingly the answer is almost always yes, I can. When you shift your focus from how to get out of this situation to what can I learn from this situation you take back control. You have "grabbed the bull by the horns". Now it is within your power to choose what this test means for you.  

Ps. you don't always have to choose to be happy and delighted by every problem you come across.

In fact, you'd be more robot than human if that were true. The point is to realize that you can choose and to own that power. Choosing my attitude has been something I have worked on since my Dad shared that advice with me at age hasn't gotten any easier, but it's success rate is nearly 100%. 

I'd love to hear the best advice you ever got and why. Share below in the comments or send me an email to continue the discussion.


Coach P.

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