We are all guilty of it. We’re much better telling people what to do than actually doing it ourselves. My wife is awesome at this (don’t worry, she’s well aware). Here motto truly is “do as I say, not as I do.”
But it’s not just her – and me for that matter – but so many other people out there. Why do financial planners preach no credit card debt but have credit card debt themselves? Why do politicians have extramarital affairs but preach family values? Why do prosecuting attorneys put people in jail but then break the law themselves? Why do doctors preach good health but are overweight and smoke? So many questions!
What about people who actually get paid for their advice? Do they practice what they preach? Does Tony Robbins really practice what he tells everyone else they should be doing? Do business coaches really pay as much attention to their income statements and balance sheets as they tell their clients?
Again, I would guess not. But why? Why are we so good at giving sound advice but so bad at actually doing it in our own lives? Is it because it’s hard? Are we wired to tell people the right thing to do, but then not do it ourselves? Is it because we don’t think it applies to us?
Well, I did a little digging and found out some good information to answer my endless amount of questions. According to Ben Dattner, psychologist and executive coach, “it could be that they give this advice or chose that profession in an area of temptation as a defense mechanism in an attempt to protect themselves from their inner flaws. There can be deep psychological reasons for that. The areas that fascinate you can also be year areas of weakness.”
“Someone who can’t consistently apply those strategies in their own life can still understand their clients’ struggles and give them useful advice. We’re often best at doing for others what we’re worst at doing for ourselves.” BINGO!
“When evaluating a professional who doesn’t practice what he preaches, the key question is to ask whether he slips up once or twice, or if he perennially violates the rules he says you must follow – with no sign of reforming. The latter individual is a hypocrite who should be avoided, but the former might actually have more insight and wisdom to offer. After all, would you want a dietitian telling you how to lose weight if that person had never struggled to stick to an eating plan?”
“I’d rather have somebody who has the issue themselves; that makes them much more credible,” Dattner says. So, according to Dattner and his research, it doesn’t make you a horrible person if you don’t practice what you preach. It makes you human.
We have all given great advice to people in our lives that we know we should be doing ourselves. However, knowing the right thing to do and telling it to someone is way different (and much easier) than actually implementing it in our own lives.
So, to wrap it up. It’s okay to tell others what to do even if you don’t do it. It doesn’t make you a bad person. Just because your doctor is a little overweight doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to him when he tells you to lose some weight. Just because you attorney gets speeding tickets regularly doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to him when he tells you to ease up on the gas.
It just means they can relate and know it’s much easier said than done. So, keep giving good advice even if it’s something you struggle with as well.
Contributions from Katherine Reynolds Lewis at Fortune and her article When Professionals don’t Practice what they preach.
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