Fred via Compfight
“If others tell us something we make assumptions, and if they don’t tell us something we make assumptions to fulfill our need to know and to replace the need to communicate. Even if we hear something and we don’t understand we make assumptions about what it means and then believe the assumptions. We make all sorts of assumptions because we don’t have the courage to ask questions.” ― Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom
The third agreement from Don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements is “don’t make assumptions.” This is a powerful reminder to leap into our best and highest self and live a life of great courage.
I have experienced the debilitating power of assumptions in my life many times in the past. In retrospect, I am now aware that I have stymied my progress and happiness by making assumptions just to make coherent sense of my set of beliefs and life.
You may have experienced similar situations where you may have made assumptions and later found out that you were not entirely correct.
We all have been conditioned to think and act in a certain way by virtue of our unique upbringing, circumstances and environment. And as a result, we developed deep-seated beliefs and assumptions over many ideas and concepts.
It gets to be a problem if beliefs and assumptions do not support our progress towards an amazing life.
How should you get around to recognizing and shattering the myth of these false assumptions? If your life feels a bit messy and neglected in some areas, it may be due to massive assumptions that you need to bust through. Here are some ideas that you can apply:
1. Recognition and awareness
“Research suggests that people are typically unaware of the reasons why they are doing what they are doing, but when asked for a reason, they readily supply one.” ― Daniel Gilbert
The first step in the process of getting past assumptions is recognizing that they are there in the first place. You may not be entirely aware of the framework of assumptions that you filter all decisions through. This might be because they are present just below the surface of your consciousness.
However assumptions surface up in our lives when we are confronted with important ideas and decisions. Everything that we input is filtered through our unique set of beliefs and preset ideas about how we view ourselves.
You may confront an event or input that is beyond your set of safe beliefs about what you can do. Your rational mind will jump into overdrive to provide justification of why it will not work for you.
Recognize that there are very few true limitations and most limitations are assumptions based on perceived outcomes and fears. Go back in time to look at how you might have stymied your own progress by assuming something was not possible for you.
Having a possibility mindset is very important in the early stage of your grapple with your assumptions. Why not at least start thinking that the impossible may be possible for you to achieve.
2. Overwhelming evidence contrary to the assumption: examples
You may be great at providing examples of why something will not work for you or why it is a bad idea. Your mind will also readily find examples from the past about how that has been true for you.
However, I am asking you to stop your rational thinking process at this point. Instead of justifying why you cannot do something, ask a different question. Ask if you can find evidence of others achieving something similar.
For example: You may assume that you cannot make a decent living outside of a 9 to 5 job and provide all the reasons why working for yourself, even part-time is a bad idea. Ask if there are people who you know who are doing just that. The answer is usually yes.
Provide evidence to your conscious mind that you might be assuming that something is impossible for you based on your beliefs.
3. Is it worth the time and effort?
The next step after realizing and providing evidence about assumptions is weighing for yourself and making a calculated decision based on your unique situation.
It is usually not a question of whether you can do something or not. It is a question of how much are you willing to sacrifice and how badly do you want something? Are you willing to commit and put in the time and the effort? Be realistic about how much time and effort something takes.
If you cast aside assumptions, you may be able to weigh the cost vs. benefits of doing something.
4. Taking action and testing it out for yourself: assume nothing
Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there- Will Rogers
The next step is to take action and get your feet wet. If you do not try it out for yourself, no amount of rationalization or imagination will cut it for you.
You may imagine something to be wonderful and right for you but when you actually step into taking action, you may dislike it. Making an assumption that you will like or hate something based on ideals may surprise you when you take action.
After a failed startup, Eric Ries wrote the book, The Lean Startup. The idea behind the book is to make as few assumptions about the market, build and launch with an initial product. The success and feedback from the product can be used as a method to pave the way forward and whether to persevere or pivot. Ries calls the method: Build-Measure-Learn.
You can take the approach of taking some quick initial action and put aside your assumptions. Based on the results, feedback and learning more, you can decide whether to persevere or to pivot and change something.
In science research, if you are testing the effectiveness of a new remedy for cancer, no amount of hypotheses will tell you conclusively if it will work. The only way to find out is to test it out for yourself using the correct controls. This means putting aside your assumptions and taking action.
5. Communicate the results honestly to yourself
The results if analyzed objectively will speak for themselves if some activity has worked in your favor or not.
It would benefit you greatly if you were completely honest with yourself about the feedback that you received. Instead of assuming what the feedback meant, test out some of the changes for yourself.
Too often you may assume the worst when someone gives you feedback. You may have to take all advise and feedback with the idea that you will allow it to improve you and not stop your progress.
6. Engagement, persistence and realistic expectations
Even if you are able to step out of the trap of assumptions, they will be ready to take you back into the old way of thinking after some initial failures. How realistic you are when you weather the storms or failures will determine if you will be successful or not.
For example, if you plant a seed, you may have to wait for a while till you reap the benefits of the fruit. In the same way, your ideas or actions or projects will need the time grow, ripen and mature. Assumptions may prevent you from giving the time and allowing that process to unfold.
It really helps to look at several others who have attempted similar projects. Overnight successes are the exception and not the rule. Even if you bust through assumptions, you will have to persevere and have a realistic expectation of the unfolding process.
Here is a visual summary of the post:
Over to you now! Do you currently make assumptions about why something is not right for you? Do you know anyone who makes assumptions and prevents their own progress?
Michelle Martin Dobbins says
I like these steps you’ve outlined. I’m pretty good at changing my assumptions once I’ve found them, but some like to be tricky. I guess that’s were always practicing awareness comes in.
Harish Kumar says
Thanks for your comment!
Yes, I agree. Assumptions can come masked as concerns or even be completely hidden from plain sight. It is like perfecting a tennis stroke. In order to do that, we might have to video record it to see where we can fine tune small details. Getting aware of hidden assumptions may involve having someone else look at them from a different perspective.
“Eventually everything connects –people, ideas, objects. The quality of the connections is the key to quality per se.” – Charles Eames 2