Have you ever gone to a friend or colleague seeking encouragement, and felt worse than when you came? Looking for support, mentoring or good advice can be as challenging as the problem you are facing.
Sometimes we hear advice and walk away questioning ourselves. We wonder if our expectations are too high, or perhaps wonder if we’d settled too soon. It can often feel like the people surrounding us have a very limited, boxed-in idea of our abilities and roles. Recently, a client absorbed a company reorganization. That’s just a nice way of saying that you don’t have a job anymore. Immediately he began working his contact list and let a few trusted friends know his status. By the time I talked with him, he felt confused about his next steps. Some thought he should retire, others were convinced that it was a launching pad, and still others thought that he’d be lucky to grab a lateral move, or maybe he should just take a step down in his position.
Others’ ideas about their own success, life stage, resolution, experience and beliefs often become a projection onto you. If you’re not careful, if you take it all in, your life becomes a reflection of theirs.
So how do you receive great support, mentoring and advice?
The first thing to remember is that all of us walk around with a narrative about life. We strongly hold onto these beliefs. In fact, they are so strong that we work hard to make them true, no matter what! If you believe the world is a fair, just place, you will filter for this experience. If you believe that people will stab you in the back, you’ll find the people who will. Your mind is incredibly powerful and wishes to prove itself correct, even to your detriment.
So if one believes that they are destined to be stuck in middle management, then they will not be able to give you advice beyond that idea. Conversely, if you’re talking to a hard-driving, “never-say-die” type of personality, then you won’t hear much about giving yourself space to retool, taking a step back or adjusting your lifestyle. Most advice is simply a reflection of the belief that the person holds for themselves. When you acknowledge this, you’re in a better position to hear them and weigh that advice based on their experiences. Remember that we become what we believe, not what we want. Advice is often a reflection of another’s personal beliefs. It’s not really about you.
It is important that you surround yourself with advisors, friends and colleagues who challenge you to your highest and ask you to be your best.
Don’t confuse that with a bunch of “yes” people who tell you that everything is warm and fuzzy. It is about surrounding yourself with people who ask you to demand the best from yourself. They will call you out on poor behavior and cheer for your achievements. They will encourage you to make moves that fit your life objectives and values. You’ll know that they are the kind of people who can do this for you, because they will hold themselves accountable and adhere to their values.
So the next time that you are seeking support or some great advice, try to filter what you hear. Ask yourself some vital questions as you leave the conversation. Did that resonate with me? Did it give me a sense of peace, even if it was hard to hear? Is this what I believe for myself? There shouldn’t be a judgment about what you need, just a sense of alignment with it. When you practice this approach, you free yourself from being the reflection of someone’s life projection.