Solving life's problems - how do you do it?
October 24, 2012 1:31 AM   Subscribe

Where do you turn for advice in solving life dilemmas? I know about therapy (been there, done that) and asking the hive mind (and you guys are great btw!) I love my family dearly but I feel like I know what they are going to say before I even ask. So tell me: -- where else can I turn for new, fresh advice on big life issues (career, jobs, relocating, relationships etc)? -- how can I really shake up my way of thinking and challenge my own perceptions? -- how can I help myself solve my own problems with needing to ask other people? hope that makes sense!
posted by EatMyHat to Grab Bag (17 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Bus drivers. Seriously. They love to talk, and they've seen and heard it all.
posted by mannequito at 1:53 AM on October 24, 2012

"Where do you turn for advice in solving life dilemmas."


Fiction literature has taught me more about people, life, emotions, situations, than any single person or philosophy on earth.

Read hard books. Read literature. Read the classics, the moderns, the brand new. Read anything that speaks of real life and emotions. Read outside your comfort zone. Read. Don't watch. Read. It's the most enlightening experience one can have by oneself on the couch, on the bus, in bed.
posted by the fish at 2:07 AM on October 24, 2012 [10 favorites]

Talking to people who live very different lives from yours.
posted by bardophile at 2:42 AM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Travel always gives me new ideas that have a way of transforming how I live. I think it's a combination of absence of work/life stress, new scenery, seeing how other people live (with a lot less than most in the US), perspectives of the locals, perspectives of fellow travelers.
posted by valeries at 3:17 AM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Self-help books can be a great way for getting some fresh input on your life situations. There are books on every conceivable personal topic. Some are better than others obviously, and sometimes even a good one will turn out to be not quite right for you. But you'd be surprised at how often you can take away something valuable: a fresh perspective, a piece of advice, a new way to approach a stubborn problem, greater self-understanding, inspiration of one sort or another. Sometimes even the "not quite right" ones help you to clarify what it is you don't want to do in a situation, which can be an extremely valuable insight when you're stuck.

Spiritual books of various sorts can provide similar benefits from yet another angle, whether Christian, Buddhist, Tao, New Age, etc.

Some of my favorites:

Barbara Sher is great for figuring out what you want to do with your life and helping you create a path to get there.

Mira Kirshenbaum's books offer extremely practical, common-sense advice on relationships and general life improvement.

Michele Weiner-Davis is all about approaching things from a practical, "let's approach this differently" standpoint.

Books on the Enneagram are great for learning to understand yourself and your personality type better, and for using that knowledge to guide your personal growth. I like Don Richard Riso and Helen Palmer but there are tons of other great resources out there if you look.

Spend a couple of hours checking out the self-help, psychology and spirituality sections of your local library or bookstore and you'll find more ways to shake yourself up and straighten yourself out than you ever imagined.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:23 AM on October 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm with valeries. Travel--especially in non-English-speaking countries--has been a huge impetus for change during my life. Getting out of your every day routine for extended periods of time, not having access to your normal go-to comforts, being challenged by not knowing the language...this will change your life. If you don't have the ability to travel--and you really need to be in a place for a few months to get any kind of real shift in your thinking and habits--I would suggest moving into a group house, like with 2-4 other people. That was a big shocker for me, I made friends and learned to be more tolerant, way more tolerant. Plus, I saved a ton of money. I know several people who have done this later in life, but even in college it is a helpful experience. Just don't fall back on partying to much to cope, as any benefit will not be so noticeable.
posted by waving at 3:25 AM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Talking to people who live very different lives from yours.
posted by bardophile at 5:42 AM on October 24 [1 favorite +] [!]

This a thousand times. Of course it depends on your comfort level with talking with people you don't know, but I'd look at it as a long-term process of change: don't expect quick and easy answers to specific questions you might have. Approach your purpose obliquely. Learn anything about anyone in any way, and you'll find perspectives you might never have known to have existed.

It'll be like Venn diagrams: circles may overlap a lot, but there are areas that don't. With time you'll learn about those parts, and your own circle may grow. Consider and be considerate. And read lots of MetaFilter.
posted by herrdoktor at 4:27 AM on October 24, 2012

Maybe identifying people (real or fictional, but preferably real) who are where you want to be and determining how they got there. Then, assessing if what it cost them is a cost you'd be willing to bear. (This response is a little tangential, but it's relevance to your question is that good answers are often publicly visible. You are seeking a repository of reliable guidance. Who is more reliable than someone who is already where you wish to go? No one person is going to have the best response to every field of inquiry you list, any more than a Chicago resident can give you the best answer to a NYC-centric question.)

The keystone is determining what you want, a task at which most people are demonstrably colossal failures, partly because we are processes, not points, and what we want changes in specifics and in priority. If the rate of change in our desires is faster than the rate of accomplishing them, it leads to wasted effort and life. If the rate of change is slower, there are growth dead spots. Regardless, the constant exercise of assessing your wants solidifies them to a point where you know what they are and reflexively make decisions that can put you closer to achieving them. "Know thyself" and all.
posted by FauxScot at 4:36 AM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Morning Pages as described in The Artist's Way are a great way to find out what you really think about something. In the morning, very first thing, you get up and write three pages. You do this with pen and paper, not a computer. You just start writing and continue, very stream-of-conscious like. When I do it, I invariably figure out the root of a problem I may be having, order and prioritize my day and just feel so much better.
posted by dawkins_7 at 4:57 AM on October 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

Find somebody who is living the life you wish you had, and ask how they got there.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 7:08 AM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I like either having my tarot read or reading it myself. Not because of "magic" or anything like that, but because it gives you a different perspective on your life, depending on how you interpret the cards. Similar to how dawkins_7 feels about Morning Pages, I think that reading tarot is a way to find out how you really feel about something.
posted by dysh at 7:20 AM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

... random people I meet while far away from home.

Travel is awesome. Being open to meeting (and talking to) new people while you're traveling- that's magic.

If nothing else, sometimes it's just easier and more fun to talk to people you're not likely to see again.

(this is how one of the best conversations I've had was in a Sake bar in Shanhai with someone whose name I can't remember).
posted by Cracky at 7:34 AM on October 24, 2012

When I'm in a dilemma it helps me avoid stressing out if I remember that the only reason this is a dilemma (rather than an obvious choice) is because the options are rougly equivalent (in terms of goodness) from what I can discern with my present knowledge.This is most important after the fact. That is, when I make a choice and things turn out badly I remember back to the decision and forgive myself because I just didn't have enough information at the time.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 7:40 AM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

A mentor. Find someone who is doing what you would like to be doing, or is how you would like to be, and ask him/her how he got there and overcame various types of obstacles. At some point you may even be able to share some of your own problems and get specific advice.
posted by Dansaman at 9:10 AM on October 24, 2012

I have a few friends that are the best for advice. They don't answer my questions ("Should I stay with her?"). They ask me relevant questions back, instead, that I often don't want to answer ("This is how she behaves towards you. Do you want to spend your life with someone who behaves that way?").
posted by IAmBroom at 11:30 AM on October 24, 2012

I like

I've shared it on the blue before.

Check out some of her best advice:
posted by fantodstic at 7:06 PM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I love my family dearly but I feel like I know what they are going to say before I even ask.

I think everyone needs someone (or ideally, a few someones) who is less of an advice-giver and more of a sounding board. I have a few friends who, indeed, I know what advice they'd give me if I asked for it. But more importantly, these people are good listeners, who will ask me important questions about the issue.

Because when you're facing a dilemma, you don't typically need more information or opinions - chances are, you know more information than is helpful. What you typically need is a way to figure out what you actually want to do. A person who is willing to act as a sounding board without telling you what to do is invaluable for that.
posted by lunasol at 7:03 AM on October 25, 2012

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