Have you ever heard the old adage “It’s better to give than to receive”? As it turns out, it’s not just in terms of warm and fuzzies. A recent study has shown that people who have difficulties accomplishing goals are more likely to try harder, not upon receiving advice, but giving it.

One might expect the opposite to be true. In fact, in the study, the participants were asked whether they thought they would benefit more from getting advice than giving it. The majority thought that getting the advice would be more helpful, they were wrong.

The Barriers

What makes people abandon or come up short of their goals? It’s rarely an actual lack of resources or ability. More often, it’s a lack of motivation. Procrastination and self-doubt are some of the main barriers to success. When people come up against those barriers, they often seek the advice of others for help. However, knowing what to do is rarely the real issue.

The Power of Positivity

One of the experiments was conducted with middle school students. It found that the students who gave advice to younger kids were more motivated to get better grades than those who received expert advice. In adults, those who gave others encouraging and helpful words were more motivated to lose weight, save money, remain calm, and get jobs. The big question is why.

Be the Change

The study itself was more interested in why receiving advice is perceived as being more helpful, despite the fact that it isn’t true. I’m more interested in exploring why it isn’t true. My theories probably won’t hold up to the scientific method, but I’m not exactly submitting this to Discover Magazine, either.

Confidence seems like one of the biggest factors. When you give advice, for a brief period you are an authority on something. You have the power to help (or try to help) someone improve a facet of their life. When you think about it, it’s a fairly profound experience. This can motivate you to be better yourself so that you feel deserving of that responsibility. “How can I tell this fifth grader how to succeed academically if I’m getting C’s?”

Giving advice makes you think twice about your own decisions. It’s not just the feeling of being listened to that does it. It’s the legitimacy that comes with it; legitimacy that is destroyed the second you stop practicing what you preach.

Also, not for nothing; but the all too coveted belief that ‘we know everything’ (that we never admit to, but totally feel) takes one on the chin when we get advice, but is only bolstered by giving it.

Practical Application

So, how does this information help you in your everyday life? This is not meant to give you carte blanche to go around giving everyone you see unsolicited advice. That’s a great way to lose friends and alienate people. What you can do is make yourself a source of advice. Let those around you know that you’re there if they need you.

For an even more practical approach, start a blog. If there’s a goal you want to reach, write about it. Write about the challenges and the triumphs. Write about what worked and how you made it happen. Give advice to those who might wish to follow in your footsteps. It doesn’t so much matter how many people read it (unless you’re trying to monetize…I see you). The point is that you make yourself accountable. When you bend down to help others up, you get a pretty good workout yourself.