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9 Reasons Why Making Assumptions is Dangerous

“When you assume, you make an ASS out of U and ME”

I first heard these words of wisdom years ago when I was learning to drive. I’d made an assumption about what another driver was going to do. My driving instructor’s response told me my assumption was incorrect. He hit the brakes, and said those words. At the time, I didn’t fully understand what he meant, but thought it was intriguing enough to commit to memory.

These days, I get it. 

 

Why assumptions start

It’s easy to make assumptions. All you need is incomplete information about a situation. And an unwillingness to ask the questions you need to complete the information. In the absence of complete information, you have to fill in the blanks yourself.

You fill in the blanks with YOUR interpretation of what you see or hear. Your interpretation comes from past experiences that seem similar. It comes from your past experiences, and also from those you’ve heard about from others.

Armed with your information, you connect dots that aren’t there. You can’t help doing this because you’re missing relevant information. In trying to make sense of the situation, you make connections between today and the past. Connections that don’t really exist. You jump to conclusions that are wrong.

When I was learning to drive, I saw a driver doing something, and assumed he’d do x next. He didn’t. He did y instead, making it likely I was going to hit him. Hence my instructor’s brake-hitting. Had I scanned what was around me for more information, I’d have seen x wasn’t possible. He had to do y. 

 

How assumptions develop

If assumptions are incorrect when dealing with rational matters, ponder this. What happens when emotions come into play?

All hell breaks loose. You see, emotions arrive with many sensitive buttons. These buttons are the places where you got hurt in the past. Your memory has stored this past pain. And activates it whenever your nervous system recognizes anything that feels painfully familiar.

Once activated, you react as if you’re experiencing that same pain again. Your old pain feels as real today as it did when you got hurt. Your present situation doesn’t even need to be the same as the past one that hurt you.

When those emotional buttons get pressed, the resulting dot-connecting is rarely kind. The assumptions you make in this state have one thing in mind. Lashing out in some way. To repel or hurt someone with unkind and disrespectful words presented as fact. 

 

What assumptions do

Behind these harsh words lie the original hurt. And an unwillingness to step up and own your part in it.

This is toxic for the people you’re lashing out at, and for you. The negative energy expressed with this can take a toll on health. Theirs and yours. And by pressing your pain buttons again and again, you deepen your hurt.

 

Why you should avoid making assumptions like the plague

  1. They’re an easy out. The path of least resistance is also the path of least growth.
  2. They stop you from taking responsibility for your life. Assumptions allow you to hide behind your version of the story. This means you don’t own your part in the true story. You prefer to blame others for your misfortune, rather than look in the mirror.
  3. They keep you stuck in the past. Assumptions rely on old information to fill in blanks and connect dots. Instead of expanding your horizons, you retreat into the past. Into your painful past.
  4. It’s lazy behaviour. Instead of asking questions to get the information you need, you jump to conclusions.
  5. They foster a negative mindset. Most assumptions are derived from old, painful information. This reinforces your innate negativity bias that dates back to prehistoric times. And keeps you thinking the world is a fundamentally hostile place.
  6. It’s toxic behaviour. To protect yourself from more hurt, you use your assumptions to lash out at others. This is bad for them, and you.
  7. They become a bad habit. The more you make assumptions, the easier it is to continue making them. You find it easier to relive past hurts to get missing information than to ask questions. Go figure!
  8. They deepen your pain. The more you pick at a sore, the more painful it gets. And it doesn’t get a chance to heal.
  9. Assumptions are ALWAYS wrong. I have a perfect record with the assumptions I’ve made. 100% of them have been wrong. And it’s hard to believe that I’m unique in this.

Life beyond assumptions

These days, instead of making assumptions, I ask questions. Lots of them. Even if this means finding out a truth that might be painful to hear. If my default behaviour kicks in and I start to assume something, I notice it. And nip it in the bud.

Since I started asking questions and stopped making assumptions, I’m much happier. I’ve managed to release much of my past pain by not activating it constantly. I’ve grown a lot from all the information I’ve gathered through asking questions. I enjoy conversations more because I’m not worrying about protecting myself. I’ve deepened my compassion for others by understanding the fears that lay behind their assumptions. I’m more positive. I’m more fun to be around.

If you think you’re pretty assumption-free, try this. Make a note of every assumption you make during an average day. And double it to count the ones you don’t notice.

If you’re like me, you’ll be surprised by the result.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

wholeness-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

Do you walk your talk?

If you stop and ask random people in town what they think about climate change, chances are each one has an opinion on it. They all have a set of beliefs about climate change that they hold to be true.

If you then ask the same people to describe how they live day-to-day, chances are their descriptions don’t match their beliefs.

They talk the talk, but don’t walk the talk.

What do I mean by this? Well, say two women, A and B, have the same strong belief – that climate change is a serious global problem, which demands our attention. We might imagine that they have the same day-to-day lives. But do they? Woman A sort of recycles, uses her car all the time, loves shopping and buys new everything. Woman B practices the 5 Rs (reduce, reuse, repair, repurpose, recycle), walks everywhere she can, only buys what she absolutely needs, and shops secondhand whenever possible. With woman A, there’s a lot of talk, and very little walk. And woman B is walking her talk.

I make this point NOT to be judgemental.

I make this point, because it’s impossible for us to feel whole if we don’t walk our talk.

When we don’t feel whole, it can play out in a number of ways.

  • We can feel discomfort deep inside, a sense that something is wrong, even if we’re not sure what.
  • We can feel a lack of authenticity when we talk about our beliefs.
  • We can protect ourselves by labelling those who actually do walk their talk as inflexible or rigid.
  • Our lack of wholeness can also affect others. Those around us can get confused by our behaviour – they hear us saying one thing, and see us doing another.

We can get away with not being whole for a while. We can say to ourselves that we pretty much walk our talk, but make exceptions at times – because we’re spontaneous human beings, not robots. But exceptions are just a convenient way of hiding the truth.

And this is the truth. That, in order for us to feel whole, something has to give. Either we need to change our beliefs, or we need to change our actions.

It’s perfectly OK for us to change our beliefs. As often as we like. Yet we tend to feel so uncomfortable doing this, because we fear it makes us seem weak and indecisive. But here’s the thing. Given that we constantly receive new information about our beliefs, shouldn’t we constantly update what we believe to be true?

It’s also perfectly OK to change our actions. As often as we need, to make sure they honour our beliefs.

Ask yourself the question: “Do I fully walk my talk?”

And if you can’t honestly answer “YES!” to it, then it might be time to review your beliefs and how you live day-to-day.

Wholeness is our natural state. It’s how we were as kids before society started conditioning us. Wholeness leads to happiness – real, internal happiness. Which is what we’re all looking for.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

happy-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

You cannot be a perfectionist and be happy

I used to be a perfectionist. I would spend hours and hours getting something “right”, making sure that it was done to the very best of my abilities, that I had thought through every single angle and approach, either endorsing or ditching each one, and that I had every last scrap of evidence in support of my case. It was a completely exhausting process, and one which stressed me (and those around me) out big time. But, it was always worth it, I reasoned, because when I had finished with it, it was perfect. And perfect was great, right?

Only my academic life escaped this perfectionism – for some reason, I didn’t really care how I did at school or university, much to the dismay of my father. In all other aspects of my life, however, perfectionism reigned. I HAD to be the perfect daughter, granddaughter, friend, girlfriend, wife, employee, marketer, researcher – whatever my role, I had to be perfect in it.

You see, I grew up in a household that didn’t tolerate failure – being right and perfectionism were the only options. I got away with my lack of perfectionism around my school work only because I was judged to be pretty perfect in other ways. Lucky me. Being right and perfectionism were also sold as two of the key attributes of being successful. Which, of course, we were expected to be. The family formula was perfectionism ==> success ==> acclaim ==> happiness.

So, everything had to be perfect. Then I would be, too.

And, if I was perfect, I would live happily ever after. The End.

Except that I didn’t.

I didn’t live happily ever after. I was miserable.

The family formula was wrong. Perfectionism ≠≠> success ≠≠> acclaim ≠≠> happiness.

Even before realizing I was miserable, I had noticed a few flaws in the whole being-a-perfectionist thing. Being stressed out was one – it just didn’t feel good. Being irritable was another – snapping at other people wasn’t me. And then there was the ulcerative colitis, which descended on me in my late 30s. There’s nothing quite like losing control of your bowels to make you take a long, hard look at how you’ve been living.

After taking stock of everything, I had to acknowledge quite a few things.

  1. That I wasn’t actually Superwoman. That I couldn’t take on all of my problems and everyone else’s, too.
  2. That I couldn’t work endless hours at something I didn’t enjoy.
  3. That life wasn’t one big competition. That I didn’t have to be better than, or more perfect than, or more right than anyone else to be of worth.
  4. That being a perfectionist was a mask I wore to avoid facing other realities in my life, mostly fears. The perfectionist in me came from my inner critic.
  5. That I couldn’t be right all the time (i.e. perfect) AND happy.

Those last two points were biggies. They demanded nothing less than a complete overhaul of how I’d been living. Sure, I needed to make life changes in order to address the other points fully, but they were relatively small in comparison what I had to do to in order to resolve the last two.

So I devoted the next 15 years to making these life changes, and now I’m doing much better. I am no longer miserable, I’m happy – and enjoying whatever life throws at me. Whenever I feel myself defaulting to that perfectionist type, which I do from time to time, I stop, acknowledge it, and change what I’m doing.

Perfectionism makes you competitive, anxious and unhappy. This is not what life is about. The parts of your life that are within your control are meant to be fun.

Make whatever life changes you need to in order to be happy. It will take a lot of work, but, believe me, you’re worth it.

And they all lived happily ever after. The End.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

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How to gain your freedom

“Perfection is attained not when there’s nothing left to add, but when there’s nothing left to remove.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

One of my favourite quotes from one of my favourite authors. It celebrates taking away – simplifying, if you will.

I love it because it’s true on many levels. It’s true about creative projects, like writing, music and painting. It’s true about our homes. It’s true about our wardrobes. It’s true about our conversations. It’s true about our relationships.

It’s true because simplifying everything is good for us. It frees us to focus on what matters in life.

It’s true because clutter holds us back, like a dead weight.

Simplifying your life has many layers to it. There are the literal layers – getting rid of visible belongings that no longer serve you, aka decluttering. And then there are the figurative layers – getting rid of invisible belongings, like ways of thinking that no longer serve you, like ways of behaving that no longer serve you, like ways of being that no longer serve you.

Most people start with decluttering. Something or someone triggers the thought that “I have too much stuff” and, along with it, the notion that too much stuff isn’t a good thing. As in too much stuff makes it difficult to move home easily. As in too much stuff makes it hard to find anything. When you declutter, you usually feel a huge sense of relief  – in a ‘now I can breathe’ kind if way. You’ve lightened your load and feel almost liberated as a result.

And, for some, this new-found sense of freedom starts to have dramatic side-effects, shifting something more fundamental in them. As they see and appreciate the space created by the decluttering of their visible belongings, they imagine how other parts of their lives might benefit from some decluttering of the invisibles.

This is harder to imagine than visible decluttering, but even more powerful in its ability to free you. For example:

  • How do you declutter conversations? By listening more, and talking less. By not having an agenda before the conversation begins, and by being open to it going wherever it does and to responding authentically in the moment to whatever arises. You know how good it feels when someone truly listens to you.
  • How do you declutter relationships? By allowing people to be themselves, without judgement. By being respectful of who they are, and not trying to control or change them. You know how good being treated with respect feels.

Setting yourself free is the ultimate form of self-fulfilment, because it’s all about giving yourself permission to be you. The real you.

When you remove, one by one, the layers of clutter created by living in our socieities today, you take your life back to its roots, back to the way you were as a young child. And that’s the real you.

A happy, fun-loving being who sees the world with wonder.

That’s what freedom feels like.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).