HOW TO EVALUATE ADVICE TO MAKE THE WISEST DECISIONS
by Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© December 2018, L.D. Wilson Consultants, Inc.
All information in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.
At times, we are all faced with making decisions that, at least to us, seem difficult. This article discusses some ways that may help you to make these decisions wisely.
TRAPS TO BE AWARE OF WHEN EVALUATING ADVICE
Traps that make decision-making more difficult are confusion having too much information, not having enough information, having your emotions pull you in one direction while your logic tells you something else, or having different influential people in your life giving you opposite advice. For example, your mother may approve of your marrying a person, while your friends think he or she is awful. A job may earn you good money, but you know inside and others tell you the job is hurting your health and perhaps even your self-esteem as it is not right for you.
Here are some suggestions that may help in these cases:
1. Beware of your emotions. This often influences decisions, and emotions are not always a good guide. Women, in particular can be pulled by their emotions against their better judgment. If you have had sex with a person, the problem gets even more complex. However, men can be influenced by emotions too much as well.
Emotions are often about what “feels good”, and not necessarily what is best for you. At the very least, try to use logic to evaluate a situation in addition to your feelings about a person or a situation.
2. Beware of the messenger versus the message. This means that some people who give you advice will be sweet and loving, and perhaps very convincing to talk with. However, this does not mean their advice is correct.
Other may be rather harsh and abrupt, and seem uncaring. However, they may be much more grounded and much more correct. Try to separate the guidance or advice you receive from the personality of the messenger because otherwise you can be trapped by the “comfortable people”, who are just as likely wrong as they are right. This is a common problem among people who think that people must talk, look or behave a certain way and if they don’t then they don’t know anything. It is not true.
A related trap is to listen to friends, but not to parents or others whom you secretly or openly resent in some way. For example, some women will only listen to women. This limits your options and can skew your guidance badly. Try to listen to many sources without bias or prejudice.
3. Beware of selfishness when making decisions, and instead attempt to do what is best for everyone involved. For example, some people take the path that makes them the most money. Others take the path that leads to more sex. Others take the path that leads to more fame or power. All of these paths might be correct, but beware that you are not just being ruled by your lower passions or desires. This trips up millions of people when choosing a mate, finding a job, or even choosing where to live.
Better ways to think are what will bring health, peace, loving service and lasting joy. These are less selfish motives for making decisions and usually lead to much better decisions. Especially focus on service to others, as well as service to your Creator.
4. Beware of fixed ideas. They may also be called your biases or prejudices. This one is tricky and usually one is not even aware of one’s neuroses or fixed ideas. They lead to many wrong decisions.
Fixed ideas can be things like “working for a man is better than working for a woman” or vice versa. It can be “blondes are more fun” or perhaps brunettes are more fun. It can be that one must earn $50,000.00 a year or I simply cannot afford the job. Hundreds of fixed ideas run through most people’s heads all day long. Most are incorrect because they are generalizations.
The problem here is identifying your own fixed ideas. They are often easier to spot in another person, so you might want to ask trusted friends or others if they think you might be tainted by fixed ideas. You will have to tell the other person not only the decisions you are facing, but how you are feeling and thinking about it.
5. Beware of flattery and ego-stroking. This is another trap of the lower passions. We all want to feel loved and admired. Sometimes this works against wise decision-making. For example, someone who wishes to marry you, or even to employ you, may make a strong pitch, telling you how much he or she really adores you and must have you, or something like this.
Meanwhile, another person may not flatter you as much. This does not mean they are not interested in you, and it does not mean that you are not loved by them. So beware of ‘sales pitches’ that involve flattery and intensity, as this can skew wise decision-making and often does.
6. Beware of looking for signs. A common practice is to say to yourself: “If this job, person or situation is for me, then please, God, give me a sign to let me know”. The problem with this approach is that you don’t know what sign you are looking for, in most cases, and too many people can be swayed by simple accidental or coincidental happenings.
Beware of attaching special meaning to a phone call, for example, or a coincidental meeting on the street, or anything else. It could be an accident, and that is all. In fact, beware of even wanting God to give you a sign. This is just too sketchy and prone to falsehoods.
7. Try to be aware of your own issues and traumas, and do your best to let them go. At times, people around us will play upon our weaknesses or biases to manipulate us into a decision that is really not the best for us. An old sales trick is to find out a person’s weak spots and then “tell them what they want to hear”.
For example, if you feel a little inadequate or inferior in some way, some people or forces can use this against you. If you think you are too smart, this can be used against you, perhaps. The only defense against this kind of thing is to try to become aware of your own weaknesses, strengths, prejudices, etc.
8. Try to stay very grounded when making important decisions. While not always the case, this will usually result in better decisions. This is because those who talk in ways that are less grounded, such as vague feelings, “awesome”, “spiritual”, or other words or phrases may be playing on your emotions.
This does not mean to ignore your feelings and your gut. Just make sure that the cold, rational, cool-headed method of making decisions agrees that a decision is wise and safe.
9. Safety. An important consideration, especially for women, should be safety. This does not mean you should sit home and do nothing because you might run into trouble. However, many young people, especially, make decisions that are not safe. These often include world travel, hitchhiking for fun, getting into relationships with “fun” men or boys, and taking jobs that may pay well but may expose you to people, places or situations that are unsafe.
I know safety sounds boring, especially to young people looking for adventure. However, many people end up with diseases, adrenal exhaustion and worse by not thinking enough about their safety when making important decisions.
10. Stop and consider all the guidance together. If you speak with or consult different people or methods to make decisions, try to sit down quietly and compare them, and consider all the guidance you have received, rather than just discard some of it because you don’t like it. If possible, have a friend review the options with you. Take the time to do this.
11. Ask in prayer for help. However, be careful to always ask for the highest and the best, not just what will make you rich, or give you a comfortable life, or the most fun. These are often though not always, just selfish.
A safer and excellent way to ask for help in prayer is to always ask for Thy Will Be Done in this situation. This tends to separate you from your lower impulses and desires, and can help clear your mind.
12. Get more facts about each possible choice. In other words, ask questions, make phone calls, check the internet and so on to obtain more information about each possible choice. Many times this will help you rule out some guidance and follow other guidance. This is called checking your guidance. It does not always work, but it works most of the time and is a very good idea.
The principle of it is that if you have enough facts, you will make the right decision. However, if you do not have enough facts, you will often make the wrong decision. Facts are defined as items of information that can be easily verified or checked upon. Facts are not speculations, wishes, desires, fears, etc. These are emotional aspects of following guidance, which are often incorrect, by the way.
13. Feel your way forward. One technique for evaluating guidance is called learning to feel your way forward. In this technique, you ask in prayer, get as many facts as possible, and then move ahead slowly and gently, asking at every turn whether this is the right choice.
This method is not foolproof. For example, the first six months of a relationship might be difficult, and then it might turn around. So if one just moves ahead slowly, it may appear that the relationship is an incorrect decision, at least at first. However, in many cases this method works well and is successful.
14. Use your will to move through obstacles to a course of action. This method is basically to set a course and use your will to push through or push ahead, even if things are not working out for a time. It is good in some situations, provided you set limits for yourself and you stay in touch with your body and your feelings. It can work well but is not nearly as safe as the method above. Therefore we do not generally recommend it.
If you choose this method, you must set time limits and stress limits, and you must attempt to stay in touch with your feelings. Otherwise, if things do not work out you are likely to become ill, depressed, burned out and discouraged.
Another danger of this method is you can harm others. If others are involved in your decision, such as your children, your husband or wife, or even your boss at work or employees, it is wise to be sensitive and if a situation appears to be harming others to be sure to consider carefully whether to continue.
For example, let us say you hire someone to work in your business. You know it will be rough going for a few months because the person lacks experience. However, you like the person, so you hire him or her anyway.
For this type of decision to work out, you must set limits on time, and you must review the situation because you are basically using your will to push through difficulties. If the person does not learn the job or doesn’t get along well, you must act or it can ruin the business.
15. Improve your health and your awareness, and develop yourself. The key to this method of making decisions is to keep working on yourself. Many people cannot make a good decision because they are too tired, have a foggy brain, or have other biochemical or other imbalances that prevent them from holding a job, holding on to a relationship, etc.
Rather than ask for clarity and wisdom, if you begin and continue a development program, eventually you will gain clarity about situations. This author uses this method all of the time. If he cannot decide on something, then he works harder on himself more to undo imbalances, traumas, prejudices and other blockages to wisdom and clarity. For details, read Introduction To Development and other articles about the programs offered through this website.
16. The pulling down exercise. This is part of every development program. We list is separately because it is so important. It helps empty the mind, grounds and centers a person, calms the emotions, reduces fears and desires, and has other impressive effects. The result is always more clarity of mind and more wisdom.
This is different from some prayer, but not too different from a correct way to pray, which to “bring heaven to earth”, meaning to move energy downward from heaven to earth through your body.
17. “Following a leader” method of making decisions. Many people choose to take direction from a counselor, a priest, a minister, a rabbi, a good friend, a parent or someone else.
This works excellently if the one you choose to follow is bright and aware. A great benefit of the “follow the leader” method is that if you have picked a wise guide or mentor, then you can make some wonderful decisions that would be difficult to make on your own. There are wise people in the world, though not that many.
If you develop yourself, eventually you will get your own “internal” guides, although that path is fraught with danger today. For details, read Guidance.
The danger in this method is getting bad advice. The mentor may not really understand your needs, or perhaps may not understand your situation fully. Even worse in a few cases, the guide or leader might be mischievous or mean-spirited.
A common example of this kind of following the leader occurs in cults. The leader seems to be benign and even benevolent, but has a hidden agenda that is not benign at all. Cults or cult-like behavior is not just found on the television news. It can occur in churches, politics, families, and in schools.
To minimize the danger factor with this method, we suggest always use the other methods above to check on your counselor, mentor or guide. Also, set some limits so that if following the guru or counselor is not working out, one can decide that you have had enough, and you must make new choices. This is the only way to protect yourself from incorrect or evil guides or counselors.
For example, never lose your personal respect or dignity. Never lie for someone or to someone for any reason. Never allow your body to be used for sex or other negative purposes. Unfortunately, too many people do not set limits, or they do not realize where they are going until it is late in the game.