I like to create rules.
Boundaries and guidelines for living a healthy and principled life.
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve added two rules to my chart:
- I can only drink alcohol twice a month.
- I can’t give unsolicited advice.
I’ve changed my mind on both of these. Let me explain.
Let’s start with the second one: giving advice.
I recently read The Advice Trap: Be Humble, Stay Curious, and Change the Way You Lead Forever. (Here’s my review of the book if you want my quick summary.)
In short, giving advice isn’t always the best way to help someone. We usually provide solutions to the wrong problem and, while we don’t like to admit it, our solutions aren’t always that good.
I soaked this in. The last chapter is a reassurance that giving advice isn’t evil, it’s just not always the most effective option.
Despite this, I processed the whole thing as: I must never give advice.
So, when I inevitably did, I felt gross. I felt like a bad person who was hurting my friends and colleagues.
It didn’t take long for me to go, Yeah…I don’t think I’m supposed to feel this way.
As for my drinking, that rule came from puking two nights in a row while on vacation. Naturally, I woke up that second morning certain I would never drink again. I’m sure I’m the only person who has ever pretended to decide that.
But this weekend, I went to DC to have dinner at my friends’ apartment. They cooked a delicious meal and offered me a glass of wine.
I thought, You know what, I DO want one glass of wine. Maybe even two.
And that’s what happened. The three of us finished a bottle then drank water and played games for the remainder of the night.
I said out loud, “Ah. This isn’t the problem. Getting fucked up is the problem.”
Believe it or not, I just don’t enjoy getting wasted as much as I did when I was 20 years old. Go figure.
The next night, I got dinner at my other friends’ house and we each had one hard Kombucha (I know, we’re tanks). It turns out that when I only have one or two drinks I tend to not make shitty decisions.
I erased both of those rules from my whiteboard.
It’s a great thing to notice areas of improvement in our lives. We have the power to make changes in our habits and tendencies to create something better.
But it’s even more healthy to reassess those changes and course-correct if they’re not fully meeting our needs. We can ask: Is this really a problem? If so, is this the best way to address the problem?
Then when our needs shift we can adjust again. And so on.
I don’t really drink unless it’s a social event and I’m not rushing to preach my worldviews to people. But I will have a beer here and I’ll share some opinions there…
All I can do is try to be healthy and helpful and apologize when I overstep.
That’s the new rule.