Balancing Guidance with Gut Instinct
I’m in my early twenties and I’ve found this stage in life is filled with the paradox of whether to grasp onto the guidance of those older and wiser or completely ignore them to go with your gut and ‘discover’ yourself.
On one end of the rope is the ‘things I wish I knew in my twenties’ lectures that keep coming my way. we all need a helping hand, and often the best ‘hands’ come in the form of a few wise words that give you the guidance you need. When you’re lost and confused, these wise words clear the fog and show you the path, especially if they came from someone who’s already travelled the route you want to go down.
But in a world that is so insistent on sharing their top tips, imposing a timeline, and preaching their ‘how to’s’ at every occasion, often that a ‘helping hand’ starts to feel like a dragging one, taking you down a road you’re not sure you want to be on. Not to mention when advice from different sources is contradictory, pulling you in multiple different directions.
Tugging at the other end of the rope is the framing of your twenties as your ‘selfish years’; your chance to ‘find’, ‘discover’, and ‘create’ yourself. It’s your chance to get to know yourself well enough to create your own map; to do what feels right for you and not caring what anyone else thinks. This is where the famous ‘gut instinct’ and ‘letting your conscious be your guide’ comes into the picture. But, while living to the beat of your own heart sounds idyllic, I don’t always know what I want.
So how do you take advice without blindly following someone else’s idea of how your life should be and losing yourself along the way? Here are five steps I’ve found help me find the middle ground between guidance and gut instinct when taking advice:
We often get set in our ways and think we know the best path to go down, so we close our minds to any suggestions that might change the track. But that’s the ego taking over and is not an effective way of making the most of the experiences of those around us.
Instead, when listening to advice it’s best to be open-minded; to leave preconceptions, ideas, and biases at the door. Don’t dismiss what the person says because your ego feels threatened, just listen without judgement and mentally record it.
You don’t need to anything with the advice yet, just take it in with a mind open to new possibilities.
Consider the Circumstances
Next, think about the source of the advice. The advice will be intrinsically linked to the person giving it: their lives, their experiences, their agenda, and their relationship with you. Ask yourself ‘why is this person giving me this advice?’, ‘what do I value in this person?’ and ‘how well does this person know me?’.
If the image you have of yourself, your life, and your morals is miles of the person advising you, then their guidance is unlikely to set you off in the right direction.
Don’t Assume Someone Else’s Opinion is Better Than Your Own
The reason the tug of guidance from others often wins is that we assume their opinion is better than our own, and so our gut instinct and trust in ourselves weakens and we’re pulled off balance.
Sometimes the entire reason we ask for another’s opinion it’s because we assume that their opinion holds more value than our own. Then, with a weakened sense of self, we take their advice as an order and neglect our thoughts to apply it. I think this is why so often people are stuck studying a subject that bores them, or in a career they hate.
Bring yourself back into the process. You know you best, and whilst guidance might be backed up with more life experience, it doesn’t override your knowledge of yourself and what you want from life.
Reconnect with Yourself
If you don’t know what you want and think the only option is to take the guidance that sounds dull and feels wrong, then take time to reconnect with yourself.
Spend time on your own to and visualise your ideal scenarios, write pros and cons, bucket lists, and simply think. Pay attention to feelings in response to these scenarios, whilst remembering that nothing is forever and with whatever decision you make, if it doesn’t feel right you can re-route.
Make it Work for You
Guidance is best taken not as a restrictive rule or demand, but as a pliable material you can mould and adapt to what you know about yourself and what your own values are in life.
If you decide to take the advice on, mould it to a perfect fit, and if it can’t be shaped the way you want, leave it and trust your own opinion.
Whilst others might know more about the world, you know more about yourself, and so with every choice, it’s important to have both guidance and gut instinct involved in the process. It’s hard to get them working in perfect harmony, but these stages can help balance these two decision-making essentials.