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Why Asking for Advice Doesn’t Help You Make Better Decisions (and What to Do Instead)

Why Asking for Advice Doesn’t Help You Make Better Decisions (and What to Do Instead)
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I used to consider myself a great advice giver and I thought that that is what makes me a great friend, sister, daughter, and partner. People used to say that I am a great listener and that I always helped them to make the best decision. The same goes other way around. Whenever I was facing a problem, or a dilemma of any sort, I would ask my closest ones for advice. In the end, they are the ones who know me best and want what is best for me, right? As I am getting older, and a bit wiser, I am beginning to realize that I was wrong the whole time. Let me tell you why.

Seeking Advice May Make You Feel Reassured But It Brings About These 5 Problems

It has been a common practice for people to ask for second opinion of a friend or a loved one when facing a big decision in their lives. It makes us feel less alone when facing harsh circumstances, or more assured in the rightness of our decision when our closest ones share the same opinion. Yet, if we take a closer look at the process of advice seeking we would soon realize that asking for advice doesn’t in fact help us make better decisions.

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  • We often tend to ask for validation rather than an advice. When you, for example, say “My job is giving me a lot of stress, I should quit it, right?” you are not exactly asking for advice, but you are just seeking for someone to validate your opinion and a decision you have already made.
  • The people you usually turn to for advice are not always the most competent or knowledgeable ones about a problem at hand. Most of the times, you will turn to your closest ones for advice, yet asking your best friend who is a professional hairdresser to give you advice on job in accounting, would be ineffective in most cases.
  • If you decide to ask a close friend or a family member to give you some advice regarding the situation they have had faced earlier, doesn’t always result in the most appropriate solution. This is because we are rarely objective. Therefore, asking a parent to help you decide on a major at university, could lead to them deciding on a subject that they consider best for you rather than you choosing a subject you are most passionate about.
  • We usually seek advice from a couple of our closest ones, and then make a decision. Yet, in most cases a small group of people usually isn’t enough of a sample to help us reach the most optimal choice. For example, if you are planning a vacation and you ask a couple of your friends about a place they have visited, you might not be able to get the most objective picture of a place. A larger group of people on a tourist forum is much more reliable source of information.
  • Sometimes when we are not really sure about the decision we are about to make, we tend to let other people’s opinions guide us in one direction, just so we wouldn’t feel the responsibility if things turned out to be wrong. Most of the time, we do this unconsciously, yet it is a mechanism that helps us be free from responsibility, but it also leads to a great number of bad decisions.

When Seeking Advice Is Not an Option, You Can Do These 4 Things to Make Better Decisions

Question your beliefs

Our beliefs are what leads us to trust the person giving us advice, since most often we share the same beliefs. Even if we don’t, the advice that resonates with our beliefs the most is the advice we would most likely take. In order to not fall into the trap of belief bias, make sure to question our beliefs about a specific topic, and then analyze the facts.

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Ask for information but not advice

Consider the idea by Ryan Holiday, an author who suggests to look for information, rather than advice.[1] He explains the method as analyzing your problem or dilemma, and deciding on the most influential points which you can find more about by asking for information by people who are knowledgeable about it.

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Look at the whole picture before forming your opinions

In order to avoid another the confirmation bias that leads us to only consider the proof for our ideas and beliefs, while completely ignoring the opposite, we should take enough time to analyze the facts that contradict our initial opinion. By doing this we are being mindful of the possible negative results, and as a result, our point can even become stronger.

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Check the numbers to have a more objective judgement of the situation

When making decision we tend to get blindsided by somebody’s success story regarding the issue we are dealing with. Of course you are going to expect the same outcome for yourself, yet you need to get a bigger picture and actually check the statistics before deciding on a whim.

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Reference

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Ana Erkic

Social Media Consultant, Online Marketing Strategist, Copywriter, CEO and Co-Founder of Growato

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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