Thursday, July 26, 2007

Real Life Q & A

© Tricia Goyer

Advice is like snow;
the softer it falls,
the longer it dwells upon,
and deeper it sinks into the mind.
–Samuel Taylor Coleridge

I don’t know about you, but I like reading advice columns. I especially like the ones in the morning paper that deal with everything from “handling a cranky mother-in-law” to “telling someone they have stinky feet.” Sometimes I don’t agree with the advice given, but most of the time I do.

Do you ever wish you had a direct line to an advice columnist? I have a problem . . . can you help . . .
My baby won’t sleep in her own bed.

My boyfriend gets jealous of my friends.

My parents want to rule my life.

Then, when you opened the next morning’s paper, the perfect answer would be there?

Thankfully, God has placed people all around us who can offer good advice. Sometimes the advice is given without us asking. (Okay, many times!) In other instances, we seek people out.

The key is knowing who to listen to . . . and when. Below are tips to help you do just that!

A, B, C’s of Getting Good Advice

1. A-sk away: It’s okay to ask for advice. No one knows it all!

2. B-e proctive: Remember, what you do (or don’t do) is your responsibility. It’s up to you to take the initiative and to make good choices. And remember, not making a decision is actually a choice too.

3. C-onsider your options: God brings people into our lives to help. Look around and consider: Who has God brought into my life to help me find the answer to this problem?

4. D-ecide who could offer the best help: Seek out different people for your various life issues. There are educational counselors, financial counselors, family counselors, employment counselors, legal counselors, and others, who are experts at what they do. Ask around and you can usually find help for free.

5. E-liminate extremes. Here are two: 1) being too independent, or 2) expecting someone else to be your complete authority. The only Person we should follow 100% of the time is God.

6. F-ollow God’s Word. The Bible provides great counsel. Check out the book of Proverbs. It’s a collection of good advice. Also skim through the last quarter of the Bible to find more good ideas.

7. G-ive special attention to those in authority over you. This includes parents (if you still live at home), older adults, employers, and church or group leaders.

8. H-ope for success. One of the worst things we can do is let things slide instead of dealing with them. Put your hope in the fact that things can get better. Having this mindset will make all the difference in finding a successful solution.

9. I-nvite the input of several counselors for bigger decisions. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

10. J-udge whether your issue is a matter of right or wrong. Is it a moral decision or a personal preference? Always strive for “right.”

11. K-eep yourself from asking advice from only those who agree with you. Listen and weigh other opinions, especially ideas from others who have faced some of the same life experiences.

12. L-isten to your heart. Novelist Erica Jong says, “Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn't.” Deep down do you already know the answer? Go with that.

13. M-ake sure you seek help from people who adequately know you and your situation. In most cases, it’s better to give more weight to the person who’s supported you for ten years, in comparison to someone you met last weekend.

14. N-ever rush into a decision you’re not comfortable with. Give yourself time to sift through all the advice and weigh your options.

15. O-pen your heart to God. God is the best counselor of all. He speaks through Scripture and through His Spirit’s inner voice. When it comes to seeking advice, go to God in prayer first.

16. P-ay attention. Does the person offering advice follow it herself? Does it work?

17. Q-uestion how your decision will effect your future. Ask youself, “Five years from now, how will I view this decision? What decision will I be most happy with at that time?”

18. R-equire mature advisors. Your kid brother or a crazy friend from high school might not be the best choices to turn to for help!

19. S-eek advice from someone you’d like to imitate. Baby birds learn to fly by imitating their mothers. We can choose whom to imitate—and if choose the right people, we will soar!

20. T-rust the advice of those who strive to follow God. Christians won’t always have all the right answers, but they often seek God who does.

21. U-se common sense. Don’t ask for advice when your common sense provides an adequate answer.

22. V-isualize the outcome. What are the pros of someone’s answer? What are the cons?

23. W-eigh your motives. What’s the deeper issue?

24. X-pect that not everyone who gives you advice will agree. Different people have different opinions. It’s up to you to choose the best one.
25. Y-ield to “good enough.” You may not find the perfect solution right away, but work on a solution that’s “good enough” while you continue to search.

26. Z-zzzzz Zzzzz. Sleep on it. Your problems always seem bigger and more overwhelming when you’re tired. A good night’s sleep does a world of wonders!

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