If there’s one constant in the universe, it’s this: everybody has an opinion, especially when that opinion concerns someone else.
When I started my weight loss journey, I immediately had to change the way I functioned in public. If I went to a restaurant, I had to ask for special orders. If they couldn’t accommodate me, I declined to eat. If I went to a family reunion or other family gathering, I would bring my own food. In each case, I got a lot of questions, as well as my fair share of unsolicited opinions and advice.
“You know you aren’t getting enough protein, don’t you?!”
“Oh, my gosh! It is so expensive to be a vegan!”
“Wow, isn’t that a little bit extreme?!”
“Don’t you know that you’re simply at the mercy of your genetics? Eat what you want in moderation and you’ll be fine!”
In his book, The Work of Art, Steve Pressman forcefully reminds us that when we attempt anything worth doing — anything that will change our lives for the better — we summon the enemy he simply calls, “Resistance.” This resistance comes in many forms, even in the form of friends and family, but it’s main job — it’s single-minded mission — is to destroy our efforts and leave our worthwhile missions broken, wrecked and unfinished.
Bad advice, even the well-meaning kind, can steal your excitement, your enthusiasm, and at worst, your resolve. It can plant a tiny seed of doubt into your life, which, if left unattended, can bloom into resistance-kudzu, worming and spreading its unstoppable vines into every area of victory in your life, strangling them until there’s nothing left. I don’t want that for you, my four faithful readers, so let’s break out our machetes and start hacking at this growth, shall we?
Here are five things to remember when dealing with bad advice:
- You Are The Decider
George Bush said it best, didn’t he? “I am the decider.” You are the decider for your life. You’re the CEO. You’re the navigator. You’re the research analyst, the consultant, the Committee on Committees and the Grand Poobah, all rolled into one. You are the gatekeeper of all information that comes your way. You’re the security guard that keeps people out and the concierge that escorts people in. Don’t let someone else take that from you.
- Listen Like A Professional (Because You Are)
When someone is determined to give you advice, and after you’ve remembered your place as CEO of your life, listen like a professional. You’re the CEO, sitting at your desk, listening to the pitch of a salesman. You don’t have to take it personally. This person’s evaluation of your decisions is one lone opinion, and you can accept it or reject it at your leisure.
- Don’t Get In The Ring
You can spend the rest of your life debating trolls. Just ask anybody who handles social media for a living. There are people who absolutely love to debate, no matter if they’re right or wrong, no matter if they make sense or not. You can’t let yourself get caught up in that. When someone is trying to lure me into a debate, I’ll say things like, “I see,” or “I hear you,” or even “That’s interesting!” I won’t get into the ring with them, though. When they put on the gloves, they aren’t looking for information, they’re looking for a fight.
- Evaluate (The Advice and The Advisor)
Because you’re the Grand Poobah of your life, and because you listen like a professional, you’re free to evaluate the benefit or detriment of both the advice being given and the advisor giving it. Is this advice useful to you at all? Is there a nugget of truth that could work for you? What about the advisor? Is this a person whose life you want to emulate? Are they succeeding in something you aren’t? Keep what’s useful and discard what isn’t, just like a boss.
- Restate Your Goals
When someone has planted a seed of doubt in my head, no matter how insignificant, I find that it’s important for me to restate my goals — out loud — in order to speak against the bad advice. Usually it will be as simple as saying, “Thanks for sharing that. That sounds interesting. I’ve chosen to eat this way specifically because research has shown that it will stop the progression and possibly reverse my heart disease. I’ve never felt better and I love the food I eat.” It’s a polite way of saying “thank you,” while taking some brain tweezers and plucking that bad seed right out of my head.
Always remember why you’ve decided to change your life. Whether it’s following a plant-based, whole foods lifestyle or taking up a new hobby, don’t let the opinions of others dictate your commitment to your life change. Don’t believe me? Check out this quote from a guy who changed the world a time or three:
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. — Steve Jobs
No one else but you is responsible for making your life great. No one else but you will reap the direct consequences of bad decisions based on bad advice. Make sure you’re making the decisions like a boss.
What bad advice have you gotten on your way to life change?