Topic of the Day: Advice that Changed Your Life

I found this post the other day — 12 People on the Advice That Changed Their Life — and it got me thinking about what advice changed my life. A few bits of wisdom that stand out:

When I was about 22 and working as a copywriter in a radio station and healing from my first really broken heart, a DJ whom I shared an office with, and who quickly became like a surrogate big sister, told me to give all future relationships four seasons before planning a future together or making any big move to be together (I’d been with my ex-boyfriend nine months). This would prove especially useful years later after I met Drew and we lived in different parts of the country. I’m glad we took time — a year and a half — getting to know each other before I upped and moved to NYC to be with him. I felt much more sure about my decision than I would have had I moved much sooner than that.

Drew’s grandmother once told him that one of the secrets to a long and happy life was to make two new friends every year. Once he shared that with me, I’ve made it a point to do just that. I can’t say yet whether it’s increasing my longevity, but I do feel happier.

The last couple of years were pretty stressful ones for a variety of reasons — house-hunting, parenting challenges, sleep deprivation, worrying about friends, dealing with some health issues. I know online I tend to be very “tough love,” but in real life I’m a lot softer, and, as an empath, I feel other’s feelings pretty deeply and get very caught up in trying to “fix” things for people and help them find happiness and avoid pain and hurt feelings, etc. This leads to be trying to be more available to people than I have the emotional and physical energy to be, which… isn’t great for me or my family. Over the course of months, Drew told me in a variety of ways to cut it out, to set clearer boundaries, to say “no” more often, to worry less about other people’s feelings and to honor my own first, and to quit doing shit I really don’t want to do simply because I’m trying to make other people happy or I don’t want to offend others. I’m still working on this, but I’ve begun implementing this strategy of self-care (self-preservation, really), and it’s working. The world isn’t falling apart — ok, well, actually it is, but not because I’m saying no more often — and I have more emotional and physical energy for my family and the people who are most important to me.

What’s some advice or bits of wisdom that has changed your life?


  1. TheRascal says:

    Work will never love you back.

    1. Yeah. My mom’s friend told me once that her dad told her, a company is always going to act in *its* best interests, not yours, so you need to act in your own best interests.

      That often means asking for what you want. When I was a little kid, my mom was always bugging me to ASK, like if I went in a store and didn’t see what I wanted, she’d be like, did you ask?? Then later, she taught me how to ask for promotions and raises. I can only begin to estimate how much more money I’ve made in my career because I always asked, than I would have if I’d just waited for them to give it to me. But it’s a lot.

  2. jamie5015 says:

    Your baby won’t know/care/remember that you fed him formula. Your sanity and health is more important.

    1. I really wish someone had told me that. I got mom shamed for feeding my baby a little bit of formula in the hospital (she wasn’t having enough wet diapers on colostrum alone). I also had low pump output so I always felt like I didn’t have “enough” milk to go out without my baby (aside from work). I felt guilty for going to get a damn haircut because it meant 4 ounces of precious milk stash “wasted” on something non-essential.

      I am glad I breastfed, but if there’s a next time I definitely will supplement with formula.

      1. anonymousse says:

        Wow, was it a nurse or doctor or someone else who shamed you?

        One of my babes wasn’t gaining fast enough, and I had to (seriously felt like I had to OR I was a horrible mother) supplement with formula while we were still at the hospital.

        I love that my newest baby niece is formula fed, because it so nice to scoop her up and take care of her (she’s a super easy baby, in general) and give her mama a break.

      2. I’m sorry that happened to you SpaceySteph. People suck. That’s my advice… people suck. You do you.

        In reality, I’m similar to Wendy in that I’m extremely empathetic, to the point where I use to put others needs before my own. I always feared of being judged or disliked. Since then, thanks to therapy, I stopped worrying so much. Her advice, people are so wrapped up in their own lives, they don’t have time to worry/wonder about you, so you don’t have to worry so much about them. Since then, I’ve relaxed so much. I occasionally fall back into old patterns, but pull myself out.

      3. It was a coworker. We were pregnant at the same time, due a couple days apart, her with her second kid. We bonded over being pregnant at the same time and having babies the same age, but she definitely crossed a line on the breastfeeding stuff.

    2. Someone told me “your sleep is just as important as his” after I had a child. This was a revolutionary concept because my husband was working and I was staying home. I assumed that meant that, of course, it was more important for him to sleep at night.

      A women who was pregnant with her first was lecturing me about how she would never expect her husband to get up at night if she wasn’t going back to work. It made me realize how much I had internalized I had no claim to even suggest that my physical and mental self-care was allowed to be as important as the one footing the bills.

      1. jamie5015 says:

        My baby is still under a year and I’m coming around to realizethat being a new mom is a total mind f*ck. I had some of the same thoughts you had keyblade. Finally getting my sense of self back together, making time to go to the gym, evening events, etc. I matter too – and it’s helpful now that I’m not just a milk machine.

      2. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

        Oh gosh, I almost think parenting advice should be its own post. Maybe I will do just that!

    3. Yes! Breastfeeding challenges affected me deeply and kept me from bonding with my baby. At one point I was just like, who am I doing this for?? After switching to formula things got much better.

  3. Similar to Ktfran’s advice, “most people’s reactions to you aren’t actually about you at all.” I sometimes over self-reflect about what I might have done to prompt a reaction I wasn’t expecting to receive. But much of time the way other people react has a lot more to do with their own lives and conflicts than it has to do with anything I said or did that would warrant the reaction.

    1. Love this. It is so true. A person’s reaction has to do with them, not you.

    2. Thank you. I needed this today.

      1. You’re welcome.

  4. I don’t know if I have anything for this. I do have the advice I wish someone would have given me. Like…
    – Fighting with you is not the same thing as fighting for you. (corollary– it’s not actually that great that he doesn’t hit you, when he pulls back like he’s going to hit you but stops himself at the last second)
    – Chemistry is more important than what looks good on paper. (Instead I had a pile of people telling me to ‘fake it til you make it’ with the nice Jewish law student I was dating but felt no chemistry for)

  5. SDSmith82 says:

    “Don’t live your life to please other people that won’t live their lives to please you.”

    Best advice I’ve ever received- even if it took 30+ years to stick. It applies to work, home, friends, EVERY THING. It doesn’t give you free reign to be a jerk, but it helps empower me to say “no” when I need to and to do what’s best for me and my chosen “people”.

  6. “Women fit into three categories – Women who crave being Mothers, ones who love being Aunties, and ones that should never be near children. The tragedy of life comes when circumstance puts you in the wrong category.”

    1. I think the last part is true, but there’s at least a fourth kind of woman, like myself, who doesn’t want to be a mom OR an auntie but is fine with kids and can totally babysit or teach.

    2. anonymousse says:

      I don’t like this one. Why do we have to be in categories? Why is womanhood so often defined by ones’ relationship to motherhood?

  7. anonymousse says:

    I’m not sure where I saw or heard this, but:

    You have made it through 100% of your tough days.

    1. I have a pinterest board with uplifting phrases. It’s good to read through them.

  8. convexexed says:

    The best advice I heard was when we were children and one of my brothers said to the other, who was flipping out over some minor thing, ‘Okay, okay, save your batteries for later’. I think he was actually quoting a line from Toy Story, but that line comes to my mind so often when I start getting annoyed about the little things. We all have ’emotional batteries’, so to speak, that only hold so much energy before we need to recharge. If you use your emotional energy, your emotional power supply, up on petty things or things you can’t change, you don’t have any fuel left for the problems and cares that matter, that require your emotional attention.
    Like I said, I was probably about eleven when he said that (and he was probably 5) but it stuck with me and I return to it again and again when I feel myself over expending myself. It reminds me I need to choose my battles, and that I need to make sure to recharge.

    1. One piece of advice of heard recently and latched onto along that vein “energy goes where attention flows”. I try to pinch myself when I’m in a negativity spiral or worrying over things in the past or future that I can’t change.

  9. My 105 year old grandma had lots of valuable advice, but the best for me were ‘Start the way you intend to continue’, and ‘Learn to accept a compliment’.
    Best bit of parenting advice was that the first 6 weeks after having a baby are the hardest. That was true ‘til we got to the teenage years!

  10. “Never compare what you have to what others have.”

    My parents used to tell me this, but it didn’t hit home until I worked as a bank teller right out of school and saw that what people own (big houses, luxury cars, designer duds) does not necessarily correlate with how much money they had. In fact, it often meant they were drowning in debt. One VP was pulling down 12K bi-weekly but withdrawing it all from casino ATMS well before her next paycheque while racking up credit card debt to pay for groceries and gas.

    From my best friend, a fashion designer: “Buy simple, classic, affordable staples instead of shelling out for trendy brand-names pieces in fabrics you can’t easily wash that will look passe next year” and ” Buy clothes one size up. They’ll be flattering and more forgiving of small, natural weight fluctuations.”

    1. I wish I could get my kids to internalize this!

  11. All good advice that I have to remind myself about, periodically.

  12. Good enough is good enough and good enough done on time beats perfect, which can never happen. I know, probably too engineery, but it is a great help at work, because there is always a temptation to keep trying to make something just a little bit better and to never be able to be happy with things you do, your life, whatever.

    1. My grandfather reportedly always said that! He died before I was born, but by all accounts was a great, smart, evolved guy.

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