Courage to Act
“Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn’t.”
– Erica Jong
Most of us desperately want to be told what to do yet simultaneously chafe under any yoke that limits the freedom to make our own choices. Erica Jong is right when she says that sometimes we already know the answer when we ask for advice. But we won’t take that advice unless it syncs up with what we secretly want to have happen, so that we can move forward with the certainty of having our own perspective confirmed by someone else or blame the outcome on the advice giver if it doesn’t work out.
At bottom asking for advice is a mechanism for lowering existential anxiety so that you can make a decision where action is required. When faced with a situation where one course of action is not only necessary but will also profoundly influence the direction of your life, you come to fully realize that alternatives exclude, that choosing one course of action means losing a lot along with what will be gained.
When you want to ask someone else for advice, it’s worth asking yourself if you already know the answer, and if your existential anxiety is really what is barring you from making a life decision that you know you need to make. Even though you know the endgame is something you need for your well-being, getting there will involve painful moments that you would prefer to avoid. A good practical example of this that most people have had experience with is knowing they need to leave a romantic relationship but not being able to disentangle themselves.
There was a great quote by the character Georgia O’Keefe in the movie by the same name about the famous female painter, who said “I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.” This has got to be your attitude if your existential anxiety is holding you back from making a decision that you know is in your best interest. Have the courage to move forward in spite of the feeling of paralysis and you will thank yourself down the line.