It’s not only a good line from a Fleetwood Mac song.
When my younger son was a baby, allowing babies to “cry it out” when trying to get them to sleep was all the rage. My son’s cries were horrifying blood-curdling screams that tore at my heart. I tried this technique for two days, and I couldn’t do it anymore. I suspended the technique that my pediatrician and some friends wholeheartedly recommended. It turns out that my son actually had an allergy to two milk proteins, and his blood-curdling cries were his communication to me that he was in tremendous pain. I tuned into my intuition and made a decision to do what fit for me and my son. He sleeps just fine now, and in fact sleeps harder than anyone else I know. The experts didn’t know my child, and I rejected their advice. It was a perfect decision for us.
How many times have you set goals or started a program based on what you read in a book or heard on a podcast? Probably most of us have done this a few times. Sometimes it is a good fit and we benefit from the suggestions and advice from “experts.” You may have followed a half-marathon program and hit a personal best, or you may have found a method to reorganize your home and it was a great success. But for many people, following advice from an expert can lead to frustration and feelings of failure.
Intuitively, you know what works for you.
A young male client, Jeff came to coaching because he felt he was not being productive. He had read a popular book in which the author outlined steps to help the reader live a productive and orderly life. Jeff was frustrated because as much as he tried, he couldn’t follow the steps outlined in this bestseller. Step 1 was for the reader to wake up every morning at 5 am and get started on a very structured and detailed schedule of proposed accomplishments and goals. Sounds great, right? Well, for Jeff, waking up at 5 am wasn’t right for him. Jeff, a self-described night owl, didn’t have to go into work until 9 am. He struggled when his alarm sounded each morning. He enjoyed working out and running in the evening, as this had been his natural schedule since college. For 3 months, Jeff set his alarm for 5 am, and 80% of the time, he switched the alarm off and went back to sleep. When Jeff came to see me, he felt like a failure because he couldn’t follow the expert’s schedule. In coaching Jeff realized that to be effective and happy, he needed to follow what he intuitively knew; he is a night person! Waking up at 5 am was not what was best for him. It was not “his way.” With coaching, Jeff was able to organize his daytime and nighttime hours to be effective for his schedule, not someone else’s. Once he acknowledged that he was in control of his life, not anyone else, he let go of the guilt and frustration for not being about to adhere to someone’s idea of an effective schedule.
In my practice, I’ve worked with intelligent and very motivated clients who have found themselves trapped in a cycle of “the expert knows best.” While it may be true that certain practices work for some people, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work for everyone. If what an expert outlines doesn’t work for you, it’s just that it doesn’t work for you. You’re not a failure or “less than” in any way.
If you find yourself feeling frustrated because what friends, family or experts tell you is their solution, remember that it is their solution! Find what works for you authentically! Think outside of the box. Once you are able to trust yourself and get in touch with your values, then you will find the right answer for yourself in many situations.
There are many examples of “shoulds” forced upon us from well-meaning friends and families.
“You should breastfeed”.
“You should send your child to X school”.
“Your child should be driving herself to school
“You should follow a gluten-free, vegan, Keto, etc. lifestyle.”
Any of the above can be exceptional choices, but is it a good fit for you? It’s up to YOU to decide. Set your boundaries based on your values, financial situation, and intuition. Stand firm and embrace your choices.
We live in a fascinating period when podcasts, blogs, and assorted advice is at our fingertips for essentially anything that we want to try. How wonderful it is to live with this available to us 24/7-and many times costs nothing. But at the same time, it is helpful to not judge ourselves if after giving it a try, it doesn’t work out. As Elsa says, “Let it go.” Move on to what feels right and authentic for you. It’s your journey and you have the power to make it your own.