Trust Yourself, Not the Experts

June 1st, 2005 by Steve Pavlina

Time and time again, I’ve seen people rely on expert advice and find the advice doesn’t work for them. Then they beat themselves up that they must be incompetent because “it should work.” Almost every week now, I receive at least one email telling me such a story, often ending with a line like, “Am I just too stupid / broken / antisocial / undisciplined / weak?”

Don’t do this to yourself. Often advice doesn’t work because it’s bad advice. Of the hundreds of personal development books I’ve read, I’d say most of them contained bad advice, meaning that the ideas and suggestions simply did not work for me. They produced zero results or even negative results. But this doesn’t mean the author was lying. In most cases I could see a reason why the advice might have worked well for the author but wouldn’t work for me. We’re all different. What works for one person or even a group of people doesn’t always translate well to every individual.

As an example I’ve read many books that recommend daily affirmations. Maybe those do work for some people, but I’ve found that for me they’re an utter waste of time. Even when I believed they’d work, the results were lousy. What works better for me isn’t to recite my goals out loud but to shut up and get busy taking action on them.

Often when I mention an idea in this blog, for some people it will work great, but for others it will go nowhere. If something that works for certain people doesn’t work for you, don’t assume you’re broken. Assume that from your perspective, it’s just lousy advice.

It doesn’t matter how well-credentialed an expert is or what studies they have to back up their claims. Unless they’ve studied you personally, be suspicious of any advice that comes from “general findings.” If possible find out if it works through direct experience, but if it doesn’t work, simply say, “Next!”

How well do studies on “average” people apply to someone who isn’t average? Are you average? I’m certainly not. How many studies done on the general population would apply equally to a vegan, colorblind, left-handed, blue-eyed, ENTJ, college-educated, Vegas-residing father of two? For example, only about 1 in 500 Americans are vegan, so how could I trust any health study where my subdivision is lumped in with the other 99.8% who eat extremely differently than I do every single day? I’ve got to be initially skeptical that anything that applies to the 99.8% would still be true of the 0.2%.

Aren’t you unique as well? Do you completely fit the average mold in terms of your genetics, diet, upbringing, education, finances, family situation, residence, hobbies, etc? Or can you identify some manner in which you may be different than 99.9% of the population to such a degree that what applies to 999 random people will probably not apply to you?

Don’t worry so much about what the so-called experts say. Decades from now their advice will probably be proven wrong anyway. Study yourself as an individual, and use expert advice only as a general guide for new experiments of your own. Notice what works for you and what doesn’t. Trust your senses. If the experts say one thing, but your personal experience suggests the opposite, put more faith in your own experience. That will take you much farther down the road of personal development… certainly a lot farther than beating yourself up.



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