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Our Advice: Don’t Follow Everyone’s Advice

I visited my mom over the weekend who’s now firmly in the grip of her Parkinson’s disease. As it’s continued its progression, my sister and I have reminded her, often, to exercise, since that’s been shown to have some benefit against the uphill battle she faces. She’s gone along reluctantly in an effort to slow down the rapid march of the disease. But as my sister says, she’s now in the twilight of her life. When we’re honest, we all realize that any change will have a limited impact.

At dinner I encouraged her to take one of the trainers from the gym up on his offer to help her use a special walker-type contraption to make water exercise easier, since that’s the one type she’s usually up for. She nodded that it would be a good idea… but something told me that she was just placating me. So I said to her, “Really? Do you honestly think it’s a good idea? And are you really going to do it?” And she looked at me, paused the couple of minutes it now takes her to respond, and said, “No.”

My initial reaction was to be annoyed. But I thought for a minute and realized that it took guts for her to claim what none of us wanted to hear. She wanted something different for herself than we did, and she was going to do what she wanted to do. I realized in that moment that to try to convince her otherwise would make me a hypocrite.

We talk to young adults regularly about the power of owning their own values, interests and skills and making decisions that align with them. Sometimes those decisions are in line with what others around them want them to pursue – and often they’re not. Their friends, family and bosses are largely well meaning – they want what they think is best for them.

Having the courage to own what’s important to you when it’s different than what those around you believe takes bravery, strength and clarity.

While listening to guidance and insight from those who care can be invaluable, sometimes it’s useful to remember that guidance and feedback is a gift – and comes with a gift receipt. For my mom, she’ll benefit from less nagging – which isn’t bad. But I think about what happens when all of us get to make decisions about jobs and careers that fit with us. When we balance listening to those we trust with putting at least as much trust in our own intuition. As Beyonce said: “Don’t try to lessen yourself for the world. Let the world catch up to you.”

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