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Most people would like to think that they listen to good advice. We can get wisdom from books, conversations, television or even songs, if we choose the right ones. Just because advice is given, does not mean that it must be taken. Also, people who need good advice do not always want it. I am learning over time to value my words and wisdom, so that I try and offer advice only to those who will appreciate it. As a doctor, I see people who sometimes just want to talk about their problems, but are not particularly interested in finding solutions or making changes. I have also met people that know what is good for them, but choose not to do it. Change can be difficult, and it is easy to get set in our ways. The people who do best in life are those who never stop growing and changing. When people are keen to improve themselves and try to get good advice, it is important to be aware of certain things when deciding who to take advice from. 

Perspective: Most people speak from their own experience of life, which often shapes their world view and the advice they offer. Their current perspective of your situation (and how it affects them) can also affect what advice they give. For example, someone who thinks that owning two houses is ridiculous, because they never even bought one, will probably not be the best person to advice you on buying a second one, especially if they think it will make them look bad that you are achieving more. If you are unfortunate enough to have friends that want to squander your money, of course they will tell you that savings and investments are a bad idea! Though some people are able to detach themselves from situations and speak objectively to say the truth, it is always useful to think about where people are coming from when weighing up their advice. You can also try to get the right advice from the right person, because no one person knows it all. We have experts for a reason – do not take advice about everything from just one person. So don’t ask a lawyer about your medicines!

Example: You cannot really give what you don’t have. Some people can give good advice which they themselves do not practice, but you know the advice is good and practical when the giver actually tries to practice what they preach. It is good to check out the lives of those you look up to and see if they are actually doing what they say. It is will be difficult to take healthy eating advice from an obese person, or wealth creation advice from someone deep in debt. It is surely better to take marriage advice from someone that seems to have a happy marriage, than from a friend who has no spouse or plans for marriage. People doing what they preach also shows that they really believe in their own principles, have tested them successfully and want the best for you, because they cannot possibly love you more than they love themselves. 

Outcome: It is only a fool that will keep going back to get advice from someone who has led you into a ditch before. Another test of a good adviser is where they have led you or others in the past. If all your friends do things the same way and end up in failure, regret or shame, would it not be better to seek advice outside that circle, if you want a different outcome? Sounds like common sense, but it is amazing how many of us keep doing the same things and expecting different results. Despite having good intentions, some parents have been known to lead their children into untold problems with bad advice, which they may have given out of ignorance, but also sometimes surprisingly from selfish motives. There is nothing wrong with having mentors outside your family, if you see that they have the kind of life outcomes that you desire and truly wish you well. 

Finally, it is wise to step back often and take stock of the kind of advisers and influence we have around us. Are they people whose lives show what we desire for ourselves and our future? Do their values fit in with ours, or are they teaching us better ways of doing things? Are they holding us back with their views and fears? Or are they helping us to grow and succeed with good long term goals and a clear conscience. Choosing to take someone’s advice or not usually has no impact on them, except to maybe temporarily make them feel valued. It is ultimately you that will live with the consequences of the decisions and advice you take. No matter how close family and friends are to us, there are some outcomes that they can never really share. The good book says that there is safety in the multitude of counsellors, but we need to be wise about who we choose to listen to – it could mean the difference between happiness and stress!

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