Advice, defined

Advice: what you ask for when you know what you’re supposed to do but don’t want to do it.

That came to mind when reading David Brooks’ column about the value (or lack thereof) of introspection. Too much introspection leads to a lack of perspective, which is why it’s often easier to give other people advice than to give it to yourself.

We’re better at giving other people good advice than at giving ourselves good advice, so it’s smart, when trying to counsel yourself, to pretend you are somebody else. This can be done a bit even by thinking of yourself in the third person. Work by Ozlem Ayduk and Ethan Kross finds that people who view themselves from a self-distanced perspective are better at adaptive self-reflection than people who view themselves from a self-immersed perspective.

I found that thinking of myself as a friend or colleague with a problem, then asking “What would I say to this person if she came to me for help?” opens up my thought process. For people who are grade-A stress cases, it also helps to get some emotional distance from the problem.


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