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Other people see your problems more clearly than you do

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I’ve been writing down my thoughts my whole life, although they were never very organized until recently. Often I’d write down an epiphany I had, in the middle of my science notebook or in the margins of a handout, unsure if I would still find it profound later.

I was always afraid of people finding these thoughts, I guess because then they’d know whether I was smart or just thought I was smart. So I’d put them in quotes, and attribute them to a fake name, circa a fake date. If anyone found it at least it would look like it wasn’t my thought. If an entry struck me as especially profound I might attribute it to a real person who was known for being smart. Oscar Wilde or the Dalai Lama.

This secretiveness was a persistent theme all the way through childhood and into my twenties. It gave me a sense of control over how others saw me. I was embarrassed to want certain things. I was embarrassed for other people’s desires. I felt like people’s wants should be extremely private because they reveal so much, and so I didn’t want to let other people in on mine. I didn’t want other people to know what was motivating me at any particular moment.

My parents were always sensitive to my sensitivities, even though I had a hard time being candid with them about my intentions and motivations. If I was dealing with something tough they’d always be willing to sit down at the dinner table with me and help think up solutions. But I hated hearing their advice, because they thought of my problem very logically and I knew they were right. The answers to my problems were always simpler than I wanted them to be.

More than any other aspect of life, I found the job-hunting process demeaning and embarrassing. The prospect of pavement-pounding alone always overwhelmed me, and so I sought the wisdom of my parents. Job hunting had always made me feel like a beggar. I hated asking people with jobs to give me a job. My Dad’s suggested approach was rational — decide how many businesses to apply at every day, then go do that every day until you have a job. It’s simple and it will inevitably put an end to your problem.

The thought of actually doing this terrified me though, as it almost guaranteed the occasional moment of stark embarrassment that I would do anything to avoid. So my approach always involved sidling around the most challenging part, and trying to land a job with emails and job websites. This isn’t very effective and made the problem last months instead of weeks, creating many times more pain than necessary, even though the whole reason I was doing it that way was because I wanted to avoid pain.

This is a theme I keep noticing in life. My problems are always simpler in the eyes of others, just like other people’s problems seem simpler to me than they make them out to be. If a friend came to me today with a dilemma and he didn’t know what to do, I’d have no problem telling him “What I’d do.”

Strangely, it’s almost always obvious what others should do, and less obvious what we should do ourselves. I’ve become increasingly aware of this phenomenon, both on the giving end and receiving end of advice.

The question is, who’s mistaken? Is it that others are always oversimplifying your problems, or is it that you’re always overcomplicating them?

I think there is, almost always, at least a bit of both going on. But I know that in my case, I’m normally the one with the more distorted view of my problem and I’d bet most people are that way too. It’s easier to be rational about other people’s problems than your own, because you’re much less emotionally invested in other people’s problems, so you can stay more rational about it. 

When you go to another person to help you with a problem you’re having, often you’re not putting two heads together towards addressing the same issue. The other person is trying to come up with a way to solve the problem, and you’re trying to come up with a way of protecting yourself from your fears surrounding that problem. Often this means your solution is more comfortable for you in the short term, yet it prolongs the problem, and overall, creates a worse experience for you.

The most effective solution usually resembles a straight line between where you are and where you want to be, and this path necessarily ignores the emotional landscape that path must cross. If the straight line brings me to a steep slope overgrown with brambles, then so be it — it might hurt a bit but the directness of the route ensures that it will be over soon.

When I think of my own problems, I tend to look for the easiest path from here, emotionally speaking, which almost always makes for a more circuitous route, and often that route doesn’t even go to where I’m trying to get.

I think this is a normal human tendency. We make problems harder and more complex when they are ours.

From Steve Pavlina:

I don’t think I’ve ever met someone that claimed they didn’t know what to do who wasn’t butt up against the most obvious solution, staring them right in the face the whole time. They claim ignorance in order to prevent themselves from having to face that solution, which is often quite clear to everyone around them. They think that other people are actually buying their excuse, but the reality is that there’s a whole gossip network around the person where friends and family keep asking, “Why won’t s/he just do X?”

I want to be clear that this isn’t always true, although I believe it is a strong human tendency. Sometimes others simply don’t understand what the problem feels like from the inside, or even what the problem is to begin with. Telling an anorexic woman that she just needs eat something is not indicative of a clearer, more rational view of the problem, it’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what the problem is.

Neuroses and chronic conditions aren’t the discrete problems I’m referring to here. I’m talking about situational dilemmas. Most of the time, a peer or friend is more likely to come up with a better solution than you are, but chances are it will require you to do something that makes you at least slightly afraid. We should be using this to our advantage.

In the 90s, bracelets that said “WWJD” became popular among Christian teenagers in America. It stands for “What Would Jesus Do?” and although I’ve never been a Christian I think it’s an excellent question to ask on a regular basis. It makes it easy to come up with an idea that’s probably healthier and more useful than you would have had otherwise.

And why limit this thought experiment to Jesus? There must be a hundred minds you admire, and it’s not that hard to at least guess how they’d deal with your current problem if they had woken up with it. What would your grandmother do? What would Gandhi do? What would Emerson do? MacGyver?

These are all ways of stepping outside your own, emotionally-derived view of the problem, in order to assess it again as if it’s still out there in the distance, isolated and finite. From the inside, problems tend to look interconnected to all of our other problems, and therefore they look endless. It is remarkably helpful to have someone else think about your problem, or even just to think about how someone else would think about your problem.

Readers who know me in person know that I don’t always take my own advice. I may know what the right thing to do is, and I might tell other people to do that, but when the sole hits the sidewalk I go and do it in some dumber way just because that’s how I’m used to doing it.

I am at peace with this apparent hypocrisy. I write about issues that affect me or have affected me in the past, and often I don’t realize what I know about something until I get it into words. Quite often I’ll break down a problem in a blog post, and suggest a solution, just so that the issue becomes clear to me for the first time. This is one more way of stepping outside oneself to get a longer view of something that’s too close to you to see clearly. Writers have been doing it as long as anyone’s been writing anything.

As I’m writing about this phenomenon right now, I feel that distance the clarity that comes with it, and so here’s what makes sense to me. I think we should ask our friends and loved ones what to do more often, and we should remember that their emotional distance from the problem gives them a kind of clarity about the problem that we often can’t achieve on our own.

There is a paradox to beware when it comes to rationality. We often feel more conviction about our actions when we’re riled up emotionally, but that’s when we’re least capable of being rational. In other words, we often feel more headstrong about a bad approach than we do a good approach. While you’re being swept away by something, other people are standing on the banks, where they can see where you are and where you’re trying to get to — something you can’t often see from your position — and if you ask them what to do they can tell you.

Try with a little help from your friends.


(Appropriate music)

 Photo by Petras Gaglias

John July 28, 2013 at 11:28 pm

John aise some true points David. I’ve often found it better to step away from a problem, say fixing a sink, when things get frustrating. When I leave it for a day or two and come back to it with a friend, the problem becomes obvious and easy to fix (a plumber I am not).

John July 28, 2013 at 11:30 pm

Don’t know how that first sentence got changed. It should read: you raise some true points….

Daniel July 28, 2013 at 11:41 pm

Great post David. I think the issue is that we tend to listen to our emotions too much, and think that the pain will last forever.

onebreath July 29, 2013 at 2:16 am

I have stumbled across the concept of a “dream team” recurrently in recent times… I think the idea can be applied here too. Using one’s own panel of experts/mentors/guides (who can be real life friends and family, great sages from afar, or pop culture icons – whoever you would want to offer wisdom) – if you pick well, they can help you to imagine and ponder how such a group would see your problem from different angles.

Also, for me, I don’t know that it’s that I don’t want to hear the advice of friends and family, it’s more that once it has been voiced to the universe, then I feel accountable for following through. Often I may be able to see the direct path and yet I want to buy myself some time (granted, that time is too frequently spent in endless rumination) before committing to action.

David July 29, 2013 at 5:14 pm

> Also, for me, I don’t know that it’s that I don’t want to hear the advice of friends and family, it’s more that once it has been voiced to the universe, then I feel accountable for following through

I think that’s why I didn’t want to hear it. Knowing what I had to do made me confront things I didn’t want to confront.

Ritah Nakyeyune July 29, 2013 at 2:16 am

I resonate with most of your posts. Its like you are thinking through me.
So many people forget to first remove the speck in their eyes–they tend to see the one in their neighbors eye.

DiscoveredJoys July 29, 2013 at 3:54 am

There’s a huge amount of advice available on the internet, some of it good advice. I read it, think ‘Oh that’s a good idea!’, and then forget about it, ignore it, sabotage it, quibble over small details, make excuses, and so on, until the threat to my comfort and peace of mind has gone away. There’s even advice about how to implement good advice, but that too gets the same treatment.

Is there some way to keep the good advice fresh and helpful without triggering the ‘current self’ protection features of our minds?

Yitzhak July 29, 2013 at 5:15 am

“… often I don’t realize what I know about something until I get it into words.”

Bingo :)

Great post, thank you for sharing.

Tobi July 29, 2013 at 5:23 am

Hi, I’m quite embarrassed at the last time I commented on here. I was having an emotional night and wasn’t thinking clearly about anything, and the comments here is no place to act like that.

Anyway, I’ll be quoting this article a lot, it is amazing as all of your articles are. And this is something that I think everyone is going through at all times, no matter how hard they try to eliminate problems. And then if they DO manage to eliminate all problems they want to kill themselves to get away from the boredom (I have actually seen this).

Random thing….The one time I spoke to Steve Pavlina he was very… sarcastic toward me. You inspired me to message him after all this time but I seriously doubt I will hear back, but I know you like him so he can’t be all bad.

David July 29, 2013 at 5:32 pm

I have never met Steve Pavlina but he does seem to be a very sarcastic guy. Some of his work is truly fantastic content and has led to major improvements in my quality of life. This blog would not exist without his. I think he’s doing a huge amount of good in the world, but he can come off as judgmental and sarcastic, and many others have said so.

Tobi July 30, 2013 at 6:38 am

He actually responded to me and apologized. I am kind of shocked, I didn’t think he would have time. I still remember that first impression, but it’s clear he has a good side.

This blog wouldn’t exist without that one… that’s pretty amazing and makes it worth a second look on its own. I guess sometimes you can’t hold things against people, not even first impressions.

SwanHuman July 29, 2013 at 5:29 am

I was intrigued by the beginning of this post because I’ve been doing the same thing (concealing motivation) for similiar reasons. I have not been able to share my emotions or plans with my family or friends since I was 8 or 9. I don’t really know why. They have always tried to help. Perhaps this is the reason why.

I guess I just don’t like the reactions I get, because it’s almost always trivializing the problem or ridiculing it. So I tend to keep things to myself. But it became so severe that I can’t be myself anymore around others.

I think an advice that is only ‘logical’ but is not charged with the right emotions isn’t really helpful, especially when you have to face your fears. The advice should be inspiring, not condemning or condescending.

Oh look at me, I’m giving advice on how to give advice. What a smartess I am.

David July 30, 2013 at 6:32 am

I does depend on the people you talk to.

David July 30, 2013 at 6:33 am

It does depend on the people you talk to.

Sanger July 30, 2013 at 6:58 am

“I guess I just don’t like the reactions I get, because it’s almost always trivializing the problem or ridiculing it.”

If I may, I’ll spin it a bit from my perspective. In my experience, there are those who routinely couch their advice or how-to in terms of gaining the biggest ROI and neglect (or negate) any reasons/ motivations I have.

I don’t go to my job just to have more stuff, for instance. “Oh, you can just buy this Widget from XYZ Company!” Is rarely a motivating factor, and I don’t always feel like re-explaining my unusual horizon (minimalist/non-consumerist/etc.)

D von Wilt July 29, 2013 at 6:58 am

The more experiences i collect, the more i recognize the value of my gut feelings. Our feelings arise within a certain culture and then labels them accordingly. I observe an overall over-validation of objectivity and logic. But no logic and objectivity will solve your feelings.

To use your example… when you say you experiences an extreme difficulty in asking for a job… there’s a million good reasons why you wouldn’t do it and they’re all ok. Not in the meanwhile, when you’re thinking “what’s wrong with me?”, but in the end you’re doing something by yourself, without having to ask anyone for it. Call it life calling, call it fate, call it intuition… but then the question becomes “what’s wrong with the world?” and we can rearrange ourselves around that, looking out for alternatives. Imagine if every job depended on being created by someone else? So many amazing things wouldn’t have happened.

The point is: stick to your guts, people. They’re also showing you the way.

David July 30, 2013 at 6:38 am

I have had gut feelings that were right and gut feelings that were wrong. There are a lot of feelings a person could attribute to their gut. Sometimes the most visceral feeling is an irrational fear. In any case I would take the gut feeling as just another opinion about what might make sense to do.

Jaimi July 29, 2013 at 7:19 am

This sounds so much like my husband :)

Cherry Odelberg July 29, 2013 at 8:04 am

Great wisdom!
I like that you think so much – and that you are able to articulate wise thoughts into pleasant, comprehensible, reading.

Chris July 29, 2013 at 8:10 am

This happens to me when my wife comes up with a proposed solution for my dilemma. It will often times anger me, initially, that she would be so simplistic about my “complex” situation. Somtimes I take the advice, most times stubborness wins out. I think perhaps I will try and give this advice a bit more consideration in the future. Thanks for the perspective…again!

Tonja July 29, 2013 at 8:34 am

Great musical follow-up! Young Joe Cocker–Thanks for that!

David July 30, 2013 at 6:39 am

Best performance from all of Woodstock, imho

Tiva Joy July 29, 2013 at 8:44 am

I agree with you… writing things down helps me, brings it all together, forming a more complete thought. Sometimes when it comes to advice, I abhor other people’s unsolicited advice, but I have learned recently that when 2 or more people have the same type of advice, maybe there is something to that. I think in those situations, I need to remind myself to pay attention to what they are actually saying, rather than my thoughts about their giving advice to me when I didn’t really want it. It does always help me to see my problems a bit clearer when I am discussing it with someone else, so thank goodness I have friends and family that care about me.

*Great post, David. I really enjoyed reading this one. As with the other comments above me, it resonated with me as well. :)

Terri Lynn July 29, 2013 at 9:54 am

Thanks David. I’ve been practicing this with tea leaves. I resisted it for a long time because I associated it with fortune telling, which doesn’t interest me. But what I have been realizing is that it can be just another way to take me out of my head and notice new possibilities and perspectives. I am having a lot of fun with it and that has kept me neutral and not so serious. Its a great place to navigate from. :)

David July 30, 2013 at 7:27 am

This has become my position too. I used to dismiss it all completely, but I’ve met some pretty intelligent people that pay attention to tea leaves and astrology, and most of them say they do it because it makes them think about possibilities they wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.

nrhatch July 29, 2013 at 12:20 pm

My experiences don’t support your thesis, David.

I’ve found that when people offer me advice, they are merely saying what they would do if they were in my shoes.

Only they are not in my shoes ~ I am.

I am in a unique position. I am the only expert on my life, my dreams, my motivations, my preferences, and my priorities. I have the best vantage point to decide which choices are right for me.

I also am the one who has the most at stake and who must live with the consequences of the choices I make.

That’s not to say that I don’t bounce ideas off friends from time to time, but I don’t even consider implementing their “solution” unless it resonates with me.

If you’re interested: http://nrhatch.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/i-know-what-you-should-do/

kid August 11, 2013 at 4:28 pm

I’d vote for this comment. It’s not that I think this post is wrong, in many situations it’s good to hear somebody saying the obvious thing you can’t seem able to say to yourself. But people usually give advice based on their values, which can be in complete disagreement with what you value the most. There’s a limit to the pain you can allow yourself to feel in these situations, when instead of analysing what you find most difficult about the solution you rationally accept, you have to put all your efforts into defending your values and you know you won’t be understood (introvert vs extrovert ‘controversy’). Perhaps it is just that I still have to learn a lot, but I hate being judged (a weirdo) for not wanting cool things, because in a way you have to keep up with others when you want to achieve something important for you (earning your freedom for example).

Dragline July 29, 2013 at 12:22 pm

“In the 90s, bracelets that said “WWJD” became popular among Christian teenagers in America. It stands for “What Would Jesus Do?” and although I’ve never been a Christian I think it’s an excellent question to ask on a regular basis. It makes it easy to come up with an idea that’s probably healthier and more useful than you would have had otherwise.

And why limit this thought experiment to Jesus? There must be a hundred minds you admire, and it’s not that hard to at least guess how they’d deal with your current problem if they had woken up with it. What would your grandmother do? What would Gandhi do? What would Emerson do? MacGyver?”

The idea of imagining what invisible counselors would tell you about a particular problem was pioneered, with some controversy, by Napoleon Hill in “Think and Grow Rich.” See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVWuxghIFUw for a description (although forget about the stuff in the last couple minutes).

But I think asking real people who know you well is probably just as good, if not better, so long as you choose someone who can be honest with you!

As you note, many of our problems come from simple procrastination — we already know what to do, but don’t because something about it makes us feel uncomfortable. It’s a particular problem for introverts when the recognized solution is contacting or asking strangers for something.

Jo July 31, 2013 at 5:46 am

I always joke that I am going to get a bracelet made with the letters WWAA (A for Anne, my thereapist. The second A for ask, because the way she helps me solve my problems is by asking me the right questions- the ones that really make me think).

What really caught my attention though, about your comment, was the remark about introverts. I feel that whatever problems I have in my life can generally be solved by contacting people and asking for things. I have gotten better at this over the years but it is still not easy. I think it will always be a chore. My instinct is to ignore. Ignore, ignore ignore. If I just pretend like the problem does not exist, then I do not have to make that call. I am almost 30 years old. I know by now that, eventually, I always have to make that call. And by the time I finally do, it’s usually multiple calls and a ridiculous amount of money. I can see what other people see. And I am the one who suffers the most from it. Yet, I still attempt to avoid the unavoidable.

chris walter July 29, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Wow! Reading the first few paragraphs of this post was like reading a synopsis of my gradeschool/highschool mindset. Always hiding and protecting myself from imagined fears.

Stacey July 29, 2013 at 1:35 pm

So true , so true and so very honest. After all, true loved ones who have always been there for us really have our interests at heart .

Kellie A July 29, 2013 at 1:40 pm

David, I had to chuckle when I read your anecdote about Dad’s job hunting strategy. My own father said the exact same thing to me 20+ years ago when I was lamenting my inability to find a part time job in high school. He had a heck of a work ethic, and I must admit, that probably is a strategy that today’s younger generation could benefit from.

Edward July 29, 2013 at 2:40 pm

I should be embarrassed to admit this, but I’m not… Years ago I came up with my own WWJD and it’s: “What would Batman do?” This always involves doing the right thing but often involves summoning more courage than I’d normally have. Batman doesn’t ignore the bad guys or speak platitudes and hope a situation resolves easily. If you see abuse going on, you often have a moral duty to step into a situation instead of turning the other cheek. Batman doesn’t steal, he doesn’t let other people get hurt or bullied, he doesn’t let himself get abused, he doesn’t cheat on his girlfriend, he’d help old ladies cross the street… You know–he’s just an all around awesome, stand-up guy!

Alejandro July 30, 2013 at 9:00 am

Dude! Edward that was exactly what I was thinking, What Would Batman Do, or Iron Man Do? Haha.

Kate Elizabeth August 1, 2013 at 2:04 am

I love that!
I think the missing ingredient in a lot of our decisions/actions is simply that – courage. And batman takes advice from his butler, but then just does what he thinks anyway!

Kate Elizabeth August 1, 2013 at 2:08 am

I love that!
I think the missing ingredient in a lot of our decisions/actions is simply that – courage. And batman takes advice from his butler, but then just does what he thinks anyway!

And you can’t imagine batman procrastinating about a work phone call can you?!

Jim July 30, 2013 at 1:41 am

When the questions get deep and personal, you’ve got to really trust & love the person you are asking – else your defense mechanisms will shut them out. If you’ve got one or two people that you can really trust – trust to help you see past your blind spots, without judging/hurting you – you’re doing well.

Alejandro July 30, 2013 at 9:09 am

Hey David,

I come from a background of always asking people for advice, but somewhere along the line I noticed that this sometimes can get addicting, and can be a problem all on it’s own, what’s your thought on that?

Also though it can be a bit premature, about a month ago I started keeping a daily record of the “career” activities I do during the week. For example Web design and Design. This discipline to write down 1 thing I need to accomplish has led me to other discoveries. One of these discoveries is that as long as I have proper meals, and plenty of sleep, all my issues: Not paying attention, procrastinating, feeling bad about myself, not having a core group of friends etc, sort of disappear. And thankfully I am a happier person because I’m eating more fuller meals and sleeping more.

Do you think that sometimes that is all it takes? Just getting enough sleep and eating fuller meals? Or is this a delusion that has helped me have a pretty successful July?

Geraldine August 21, 2013 at 12:55 pm

I think you are onto something. Those things you mentioned are big deals and they were disrupting your life. Everyone is different, for some, like my husband, it is lack of exercise. I like him less when he doesn’t exercise, it is what makes him feel good and as a result, the rest of us are in better mood and his life just flows better. I know when I don’t get to bed on time wether I want to or not, I am terribly tired the next day and my chronic pain hikes, even if I felt good the night before while I was up and getting stuff done. The next morning, with pain and fatigue, I can’t get stuff done, then it is too late, the kids come home and then I don’t feel i spent enough time on the kids or what really needed to be done. Then I put other stuff off because now I am hurting, and tired and I don’t want to see anyone either in that condition, so I want to just crawl back into my bed and the sense of everything flowing well, just disappears. It feels like a wasted time and now I don’t give myself permission to do the “fun” stuff or relax. Sometimes just one or two habits makes or breaks a day and cumulatively, a life. It is just what you need, and sometimes you figure that out, and sometimes, others can help you out. I try to help my kids notice their habits. For one it is lack of food, for other, it is lack of sleep. For both, it is too much computer time. They are learning to notice what they need themselves.

Munmi Sarma July 31, 2013 at 9:44 am

You write epic content. jotting down your thoughts is a great tip for leading a systematic life. you articulate all your thoughts very well.

Genevieve Hawkins August 1, 2013 at 12:20 am

Great post as usual. What’s funny is as I read this I was thinking about a friend who has a problem (she has a persistent complaint about how much she wants to get married/have a baby and can’t find anyone datable) and thinking “God she should read this.” It was at that point I realized that I was passing judgment on her problem, in short being part of the gossip chain that says “why doesn’t she just do X?” instead of reading it as an insight into my personal problems and how I view them. It is an extremely human tendency to look outside ourselves…I suspect I am not the only person who read this thinking of somebody in our lives that this applied to…without realizing consciously that we as the observer are guilty of trying to solve other peoples problems without wanting real insight into our own. Like eating Doritos!

Nikriosity August 1, 2013 at 10:45 am

Lots of this resonates with me and my train of thought. Beautiful writing as usual.

Martin Poldma August 1, 2013 at 10:58 am

It is true that a lot of times when other people are constantly giving us advice on something, then there is a reason why they are doing and that could really help us along the way, even if we don’t want to hear it at times.

Thanks for sharing.

Carl Klutzke August 4, 2013 at 8:56 am

I’m a big fan of the Heath brothers, and their latest book, _Decisive_, addresses this point somewhat. In their WRAP mnemonic for how to make decisions, the A stands for “Attain distance before deciding,” and they give examples and strategies for how to separate your short-term emotions from the problem. My favorite example from the book was the story of the two business executives that were dealing with a difficult problem, who finally said to each other, “If we don’t solve this problem, we’ll be fired. When our successors come in, what will they do?”

Ashley Pennewill August 7, 2013 at 5:17 pm

This is great wisdom, this is definitely very true to me. Great writing.

Michael August 8, 2013 at 10:19 pm

Hi David, love your work. Just wondering what personality type you are? You strike me as an INTP.

David August 10, 2013 at 10:55 am

INTJ all the way.

Hallmarks of the INTJ include independence of thought and a desire for efficiency. They work best when given autonomy and creative freedom. They harbor an innate desire to express themselves by conceptualizing their own intellectual designs. They have a talent for analyzing and formulating complex theories. INTJs are generally well-suited for occupations within academia, research, consulting, management, science, engineering, and law. They are often acutely aware of their own knowledge and abilities—as well as their limitations and what they don’t know (a quality that tends to distinguish them from INTPs). INTJs thus develop a strong confidence in their ability and talents, making them natural leaders.

Gunhild August 12, 2013 at 2:47 pm

I feel so connected and “seen” whenever I read your posts – like you are somewhat like me. Now I know at least some of the why: same personality type :D

Emily August 9, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Love the post, it really resonates with me. For as long as I can remember, I have always shared whatever struggles I’m facing with my mother. Whenever she gives me advice I always shoot it down – some version of ‘I can’t do that’ or ‘You just don’t understand the situation. That won’t work’. After struggling with the problem for much longer, I usually come around to the exact solution that my mom initially suggested. And of course, state it as my decision and don’t give her credit. Because I happen to have both an exceptionally smart, and humble mother, she has never called me on this. But I have matured to the point which I will admit this habit – even to her. I may not take her advice initially still, but I’ve learned not to discount it, just say I have to think on it. I think part of it is that her solutions always seem so simple to what appears to me to be a complex problem – but it also is that I have many fears which I am trying to work around that allow her, as you say, to find the straight path to the goal.

Ragnar August 27, 2013 at 7:50 am

Hmm, while I definitely agree with the general concept, I have to say that this really depends on the problems you are having. If your problem is something that is quite abstract and hard to explain, getting useful advice and be difficult. But in many cases, you can end up with real eye openers. I was told just get a job, just make a CV and start sending them out. Sometimes your own overestimation of a problem can make it that much harder to just get started, a second opinion helps clear up that mess.

I am definitely also guilty of giving good advice and then not following it myself. I recently had a long discussion with my friend where I advised him on how to actively choose between career paths, and I have yet to do anything of the sort.

makincaid September 6, 2013 at 9:55 am

People all have different areas of strength and weakness. If you are having a problem in one area, it is because you have a weakness in that area. Chances are your friend won’t have that particular weakness, so your “big problem” won’t seem like a big deal to them.

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It Calls Me Onanon September 15, 2013 at 3:08 pm

People avoid being intellectually honest about themselves because it’s easy to get swept up in the same habitual patterns when dealing with life that they always have. There’s a long string of “reasons” people have that influence why they move in the progressions that they do. Nothing in their life is compartmentalized.

As a different person there is no choice but to see their issue compartmentalized – you have no idea about their logic, their feelings, their motives or their past reasoning… unless you make it your business to pay attention and capture those things for yourself to consider fully.
The problem is that most people aren’t vulnerable so they don’t pursue intellectual honesty. They get so headstrong instead of vulnerable that they overlook facets and excuse the disparity instead of disarming or questioning themselves in observance of absolute truth. Most are never confronted about it because most people don’t know what the hell they’re looking for in reality. Most haven’t thought as intently about it or been as serious about being vulnerable/ receptive to it.

“The most effective solution usually resembles a straight line between where you are and where you want to be, and this path necessarily ignores the emotional landscape that path must cross.”

I couldn’t agree more and all another individual can do as a separate individual “being” is to sincerely care by pursuing everything that will absolutely enable the other person to be understood, down to their very core. In this circumstance, there has to be a resolve with pursuing absolute empathy for another human being. All other “fixation” will not achieve success.

This post is interesting to me. It’s a good example of what your blog is all about–you guide people through their experiences by offering means of dealing with the facets of themselves. It reminds me that one can inspire change through hand-holding but it will go at a snail’s pace because one has to consider all of the temporary limitations of a society made of humans. It reminds me of why the person who desires change the most must be the absolute example of change and develop into a representation of greatness because people will struggle to follow that example regardless of any personal hang-ups. Progress has always been made the fastest when a movement had a great leader to aspire to. That’s just the truth of a history made up of the human “being.” Greatness inspires greatness and it necessarily can’t hold the hands of others or else it is enabling mediocrity. I need to do something better with my life. I think I’ll go do that now.

Charlotte October 7, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Since I’ve started blogging, I feel so much more concious about my decisions, thoughts, life choices…! I think it’s refreshing to write your thoughts openly knowing that other people will seem them, incredibly nerve racking to open yourself up to criticism, but refreshing at that! I’d love you to have a look at my blog : http://sheepishlyshameful.blogspot.co.uk/ and comment away!

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