3 Life Changing Pieces of Advice

You know I’m a proponent of holistic health. As well as the importance of keeping your body healthy and fit, a focus on the health of your heart, mind and soul is key for an overall healthy, happy life. Part of this is letting other people’s wisdom and experience into your life, sometimes even paying attention enough that it actually works to change our mindset for the better. Now, we’ve all been on the receiving end of advice we don’t want to hear – the unsolicited, unwanted, unwelcome kind of advice. But every so often, the right piece of advice is given at exactly the right moment and it sticks with you, in a life-changing kind of way.

These are the 3 pieces of advice that have remained with me and have definitely shaped how I approach friendship, relationships and dealing with people (particularly prickly people). I’m certain that most people, if they thought about pivotal moments in their life, could tie some of their decision-making and reactions to a key piece of advice they received at some point. What would yours be?

3 Life Changing Pieces of Advice

3 Life Changing Pieces of Advice which have shaped major decisions and reactions to others. What advice has had a big impact on the way you approach life?

1. You don’t need to explain yourself.

This wisdom was imparted to me by my then-boyfriend’s father. I was going out with an older boy in an off-again, on-again relationship (code for traumatic teenage angsty-sort of stuff). Someone in my class at school had just asked me to our senior dance. While I was pretty sure he knew I had a boyfriend, I didn’t want to either offend him by turning him down flat, or lead him on in some way by saying yes while I was in a relationship. I agonized over it with my boyfriend:

Maybe I could say that I have a boyfriend and he’s really jealous…no, that sounds like I’m full of myself. What about if I say I’ve already agreed to go with a group of girlfriends instead? But then I’d have to find a group of girlfriends to go with. I could say I’d love to, but my boyfriend wanted to drop me off and could I meet him there – maybe then he just won’t want to go with me?” My plans for saying no became ever more elaborate and convoluted. Trust me, I know (now!) how ridiculous I was being, but I really didn’t want to come off as a mean girl.

My boyfriend’s dad overheard the whole exchange. Finally, he interrupted. “You don’t need to explain yourself. All he needs to hear is ‘yes’ or ‘no’. All anyone ever needs is a ‘yes’ or ‘no’.” Boom, dropped the mike, left the room.

I doubt he knows the impact of that short and sweet advice he imparted. I’ve lived by it ever since. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not so literal that I decided that no explanation was necessary ever in life, but there have been many, many occasions when I’ve been asked to do something and I’ve said ‘no’ with no further explanation. And he was right. That’s all people are listening for in your response anyway – giving a long explanation is just confusing the issue most of the time.

2. Don’t take anything personally.

Okay, somewhat embarrassingly, this advice came from a new-age kind of self-help book I read. It’s a pretty popular book, so you may have heard of it, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. I remember when I was reading it, the whole thing seemed earth-shatteringly life changing to me. It’s four rules for living based on Toltec wisdom and funnily enough, the ‘don’t take it personally’ one is the only part I can even remember now. I truly can’t remember anything else about the book. (I’m also too nervous to look it up, because I don’t really want to know what the forgotten advice says about me!!)

It was one anecdotal image that cemented for me the idea of not taking things personally. The writer, in driving home his point about letting go of being offended and taking others’ actions personally, wrote something like, ‘You could be walking down the street, minding your own business and someone could come up to you and shoot you in the head, killing you instantly. And it’s not personal. It’s about what’s going on for the shooter – it has nothing to do with you.‘ Maybe it was because it was such an extreme example, but I started actively noticing when someone did or said something to me I would normally find offensive. Rather than taking it personally immediately, I’d spend a moment analyzing what that action or statement said about the person delivering it – and nearly every time, I ended up kind of feeling sorry for them and realizing it really didn’t have anything to do with me.

The takeaway for me was that you need to let go of ego a little bit for this advice to work, which is usually a good idea anyway. It’s easy and natural to think of yourself as the center of the universe, that everything that is directed towards you is incredibly important and meaningful. But sometimes someone’s just having a crappy day and you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

3. Not everyone has to like you. And the follow-up: not everyone who likes you will love you.

The first part of this advice was so simply put, it almost immediately ended me actively trying to be likable and all-things-to-all-people. Wondering to a friend about why someone just didn’t seem to like me, no matter what I said or did, she replied, “It would be awful if everyone you met liked you, because that would mean by default you’d also have to like everyone you met. And I can think of a lot of people I’m much happier disliking.” Yup. Being disliked by someone whose opinions or actions I don’t agree with is WAY more preferable than being liked by them. Cue sigh of relief – just be yourself.

The second part of this advice – not everyone who likes you will love you – was a trickier beast for me and it wasn’t until years later that I realized the two ideas are linked. It was also another lesson in letting go of ego (which apparently, I’m discovering as I write this post, is an ongoing issue for me!). I was in my early twenties, and I’d been dating someone I liked a lot, for a few months. He was funny, intelligent, witty and we had good chemistry. I had a great time with him, but I knew I wasn’t in love with him. You could have knocked me down with a feather when we were out for a drink one night and he announced he was breaking up with me, because he wasn’t in love with me and knew it would be pointless to continue the relationship.

I was pissed.

But we have such a good time together! We share the same ideas on life! We’re perfect for each other! How can you possibly not love me?” (I told you, ego!) He listened to me rant, then asked, “Are you in love with me?” It took me aback. “No, but that’s not the point!” Again, cool as a cucumber, he replied, “So you don’t love me, but you’re offended that I don’t love you? That’s nonsensical. You should be relieved!” I started laughing because I knew he was right and I suddenly recognized the crazy in my response. Incredibly enough for a break up, we ended up hanging out for the next couple of hours – as friends – and had a great time, both very much relieved it was over as a romantic relationship.

Those three pieces of advice are not the only things I’ve been told and agreed with, or have helped me. Lots of little pieces of advice and wisdom imparted to me over the years have been helpful in the moment. But those are the three that I always come back to – they had a lasting impact on the way I live my life.

What words of advice have made a difference in your life?

Do you want everyone to like you?


  1. i LOVE this Carly! SUCH good advice, especially for a monday morning :)I struggle with the not taking anything personally the most, as I tend to do that a lot, but I am working on it as much as I can. Thanks for giving more advice to help with that. As for advice that has been life changing for me, it would be; what you think about you bring about….whatever you focus on the most, good or bad, you will bring more of into your life, and although we can’t change our thoughts, we can chose what we dwell on 🙂
    Tina Muir recently posted…Meatless Monday- Superfood Eggplant LasagnaMy Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      Oh, I love that, Tina! It’s so true, we are in control of what we focus on in life.

  2. The second part of the third one is tough for me to, and I’ve never really thought of it that way but it’s so true. Just because someone LIKES you doesn’t mean you’re going to be their all out number one – this applies to friendships, relationships, even jobs! It’s okay to leave it at like.Thanks for making me think this morning!
    Ruthie@She’sWickedHealthy recently posted…Get Your Mind Right! Positive Mantras to Help You Rock Your DayMy Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      That was a hard one to learn, for sure. It’s almost harder than having someone just flat-out dislike you, right?

  3. Amazing, simple advice. My biggest thing on the planet is that we all learn these things at different stages in our life. While someone might learn any of these lessons early or late, I learned them all in my own time. I (and I know I’m not alone here) sometimes wish I could tell my teenager self so many things. That’s not regret; I just know that all of these lessons were hard-earned, and I am nowhere near mastering any of them. With time, though (which is another lesson altogether: Patience, hope, and lots of prayer). 🙂
    Tiffany @ The Chi-Athlete recently posted…Weekend Snapshots and Christmas Decorations (?!) – FIVE WORDS PER PICTURE. Also, I dare you find more pictures in one post. And a longer post title.My Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      I can’t even think about what I would say to my teenage self – so many things! So much advice! (All of it would be ignored, anyway). 😉

  4. Knowing that everyone will not always like you no matter how hard you try sometimes is just life. Especially I my job. I need to not take things personally. Even though it’s not my fault the flight is delayed when passengers act like it is.
    lacey@fairytalesandfitness.com recently posted…A Peek in Our Week and a little questionnaireMy Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      Oh Lacey, I cannot imagine what people must say to you in your job!! (I am always super nice to staff if my flight is delayed, because I know it’s just as stressful for the staff).

  5. Such great advice!! I think that first one is so hard especially when we are saying no – I always feel like I have to justify why I can’t do something.
    Kim recently posted…Sometimes a Race Ends up Not Being a RaceMy Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      I am so happy I learned that one pretty early on, because it’s my natural inclination to want to justify myself as well.

  6. Carly, I love being almost 30. Now when I get the sense someone doesn’t care for me, it’s hard to care, the way I used to (so much!!) when I was younger. Have you read this fantastic piece about the F***-Off Fairy? http://offbeathome.com/2014/01/fuck-off-fairy

    She visited me last year and it’s been glorious.
    Jessica recently posted…Receiving and Giving ComplimentsMy Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      Dear Jessica: Thank you so much for your introduction the the F***-Off Fairy. I love her. 🙂

  7. I think perhaps the best piece of advice I have ever gotten was simply to find things out for myself, and to live for the experience, not regret what might have been. I discussed this last year in a post on “regret,” but I had to come to terms with some decisions that I had made that I thought I regretted. But then I realized that I can only regret when I have acted immorally–everything else has led me here. And with all of its scars and pockmarks, here is pretty damn awesome
    Susie @ SuzLyfe recently posted…The Skinny Confidential Book : A Swift, Sassy Kick (Giveaway)My Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      I love that interpretation of regret, Susie – to only regret immorality. I think it’s harder to stop yourself from regretting what might have been rather than something that happened, as well.

  8. I love this Carly and this advice. I have had a really hard time learning these too (stubborn much?) but such important lessons.
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted…About That Shoulder Surgery…My Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      Trust me, there are plenty of other things I just can’t seem to learn because I can’t get past my own stubborn nature!!

  9. Hey Carly, really appreciate this post!

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      You are most welcome, dear Pony! I find #2 to be especially liberating. 🙂

  10. Ah…..so good…. happy you did this year-end summary and I got to read this post. I need to write these three things down and make them my mantra. What I am working on is that I can control what I put out in the universe, but I can’t control the outcome or response to it….. I am trying to put things in the universe and then let go of my expectations about what will happen from what I put out there….
    Paria@momontherunsanity.com recently posted…ToddlerMy Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      I like that idea, of letting go of expectations for others’ response. I think sometime if we do or say something in order to elicit a certain reaction from others, it’s easy to be disappointed if their response isn’t what we expect.


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