When we’re in school, we’re taught to do our own homework, and solve the assignments ourselves rather than taking the solution from someone else, looking it up in the solution section of our workbook, or sometimes even asking for help.
It’s always very tempting to just cheat a little to get it done, but this behaviour is strongly discouraged. That’s a good thing because doing something yourself is the best way to learn it and develop a deeper understanding of the subject.
This doesn’t scale
Unfortunately, sometimes we can keep this habit for way too long, even when it no longer serves us. As we grow older, our lives become more complex and nuanced. It becomes much harder to come up with a solution, and even more so to come up with a good solution.
One thing doesn’t change however: our problems are rarely unique to us. Throughout the history of humanity, someone is bound to have faced a similar challenge - and likely already wrote a book or two about it.
You probably don’t even have to go so far back in time and read Seneca or Plato to learn how to live a good life - lots of people have already done it and created modern interpretations of these old classics. Same thing applies to reading the Bible, Quran or any other religious text.
Of course, the problems you’re facing are not always going to be that profound: sometimes you would just like to know what kind of career to pursue or how to pick an airfryer.
You can scale
Rather than trying to figure it out all alone, you can save yourself a lot of time and headache by asking around what others did in a similar situation. Use their time and expertise to inform your own decision.
Sometimes talking to a friend or a family member might help you see your problem in a way you haven’t previously considered and thus avoid a big mistake. The caveat is, we surround ourselves with people who think like us, which limits their life-changing abilities.
I’d argue that it’s always best to talk to several people with different backgrounds and personalities, especially ones that are not from your community. Everyone will have their own opinions and circumstances, and what they’re looking for might not be that relevant for you.
These days you can also use the power of AI such as ChatGPT to help you see what options are available. While some people consider it cheating, you don’t have to use it to generate things for you. You can ask it to provide alternatives to the problems you’re facing - perhaps it will come up with something unexpectedly helpful. Just remember to verify the answers, since we know that AI can be confidently wrong.
Knowing about different approaches along with their pros and cons is very valuable - it’s one of those things you just can’t come up with yourself, the unknown unknowns. It can help you understand which aspects are important for you, and which are just good to know.
It’s like choosing the airfryer: you wouldn’t only talk with one friend who has it, especially if they have a family of 5, and you live alone. You’d go online, check out multiple reviews and make your decision having information from various points of view.
It always depends
As with all life advice, it will all depend on your individual circumstances and problems you’re facing. It’s not always worth searching for opinions of others, sometimes you know you can just go with your gut.
Just be wary of listening to your gut, because it’s a product of the environment you’ve lived in. If you want to change your life, it might really not be the best advisor - unlike people who already live that life.
At the end of the day, good and bad answers are very rare in life. There are only answers that work for you and the ones that don’t.