My Fortune Cookie Friday posts come in many forms. Some are about me and my life. Other posts are about health or politics. It’s not surprising that I should have a few on advice. Today’s fortune reminded me of an article in Forbes. Igor Grossmann, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Waterloo, wrote Why We Give Great Advice To Others But Can’t Take it Ourselves.Grossmann and his colleague, Ethan Kross, ran a series of studies to determine why we don’t listen to our advice. I won’t go into great detail about their research of “Solomon’s Paradox.” I recommend that you read their article, but it boils down to us looking at our situation from an outsider’s perspective. When solving a problem, it’s best to try to remove ourselves from the situation. Imagining ourselves not involved in the situation can help. They even found that when talking about the problem, changing the pronouns from “I” to “he/she” can make a difference.
Sometimes we need to depend on the advice of professionals like doctors and lawyers, but many times a layperson can give us useful guidance. I will admit; I’m guilty of the Solomon Paradox as much as the next person. I’m too close to the situation to see it for what it is. I will pull my hair out trying to solve a problem when the solution is right in front of me. I inevitably ask a someone for advice, and they tell me exactly what I would have said to someone else.
At times like this, I shake my head and think that it can’t be that obvious. My problem must be too difficult to be solved; otherwise, I would have answered it myself. It’s kind of like trying to lose weight. We complain endlessly about how we need to drop a few pounds but struggle with the accomplishment part. In reality, it’s simple: eat a healthy diet and exercise. We all know the answer, we just need to put it into practice.
Unfortunately, we don’t do well at coaching ourselves, so we seek out help from others. We look for people like boxing coach Mickey Goldmill from Rocky (1976), to inspire us—or tell us to get off our butts. Some people seek out real coaches to get through life’s problems. Other people utilize their friends. But what if we had a way to give ourselves advice that we would follow.
I thought about my writing, and the posts I create from my cookie advisers. What if we wrote advice to ourselves as if it was from someone else. These would be the general advice that we all know to be true but don’t want to accept for ourselves. Things like “be yourself,” “don’t sweat the small stuff,” “things will get better,” “being rich doesn’t require money,” and “communication is key”—if we have a problem with a friend or loved one, we should talk about it with them.
My advice to you, write these things down on index cards and keep them next to your bed. When you run into a problem, pull them out. Try using “you” instead of “I,” to give the impression someone else is helping. Of course, I’ll have to take my own advice and write my own cards.