How important is it for us to consider the advice of others before making a decision? Does consulting opinions make a difference in our decision making? When should we consult others and when do we determine that it’s too much?
As a general rule of thumb, I feel that life choices should be made as an individual. It’s fine to consult others for more information about the context of a particular decision. However, it may not be wise to depend on someone else to make choices for you. Of course, there are exceptions where the individual may not have the ability to make sound and rational choices (in the case of children, mental disorders such as dementia). That’s the only time when the circumstances justify having someone else making the decision on behalf of the individual with their best interest at heart.
The reasons can be summarised as follows.
1 — Responsibility
We are responsible for our lives, including the decisions and choices that come with it. Yet, there could be a grey area where some parents may think that they “own” us and they are responsible for our lives. Without going into the deep end of the debate, we do “owe” our parents for giving birth to us. Yet, it’s ultimately our life to live. We have our emotions, values, character and personalities that could be very different from our parents. Furthermore, we are the ones living and facing the consequences of each choice in life that was made. There could be spillover influences especially those close to us. The one that is responsible to face the majority of the impact and consequences is still ourself.
That said, it very much differs among families, culture, and circumstances. There could be times when we don’t have many choices to begin with. No safe path to take either. All the more, you should take things in your hands and try different “doors” to find a way out.
2 — Tendency to blame
Usually when things go well, we don’t feel the need to reflect on the choices at all. We tend to move on with life without looking back. Yet, when something goes wrong, we regularly look back to that particular decision point and think why and how was the decision being made. If someone else is involved in the decision, there could be a tendency for us to shift the blame to a third-party that had given us some advice or made the decision for us. Emotions run high and rationality is the last thing in our minds.
Depending on the individuals and consequences of the life choices, these emotions can last from a couple of days to even years. Yet, if you know that the decision is made by yourself personally, it tends to be easier to accept the consequences that come with the decision. It could be seen as part of the risks that you have chosen to take at that point in time. And just got unlucky.
3 — Internal considerations
It is wise to seek advice from others, especially relating to the context of the decision. You may not have the “perfect” information you need in order to make a sound and wise choice. This is when it’s useful to consult those who may have been through a similar experience or have good knowledge about the topic. While you heed such advice, it’s also important to note that each individual is different. They have their personalities, interests and values, which could be very different from yours. Their successes or failures do not influence yours (as that’s something that we’ll only know in future).
The point is, as much as it’s important to consider the facts and opinions externally, it also makes sense to consider your inner motivations and desires. That is something that others may not have full knowledge about, and only you know yourself best.
It’s useful to consider multiple perspectives when you are thinking through the costs and benefits of your choice. But it’s more important that you make that choice yourself (as much as you can).