Assume the position
Life is full of assumptions. My life, your life, your dog’s life are all chock full of them. Some assumptions are so deeply ingrained that we don’t even notice them anymore – like the assumption that the sun will rise tomorrow, that we have to work to live, that kids should have a college education, or that if you leave your car doors unlocked downtown somebody will steal your stuff.
Some assumptions are not so deeply ingrained – like the assumption that the illuminati are controlling world politics, that humans can go weeks without eating without ill effect, or that fido can understand english.
Some assumptions have changed greatly – like the idea that only crazy people talk to themselves (thanks
The Assumption Cycle
What we might not always realize is just how large of an effect our assumptions have on our lives. They are like the behind-the-scenes movie directors in our heads, determining where to point the camera, how to make a scene ‘perfect’, and then reviewing the tape to make sure that the finished scene meets their standard.
It all ends up being one big cycle. Assumptions influence and create our perspectives. Our perspectives influence and create our actions. Our actions influence what evidence we look for. The evidence we find either enforces or challenges our assumptions.
This is the operating system that runs in our brains so that we don’t have to sit and spend a lot of time thinking about every single thing that happens around us, and it’s an AWESOME super-power.
Sometimes though our assumptions lead us to create a movie that isn’t that much fun to watch (or be a part of).
Two stories of assumption
John lives in a little town, has a good job, pays his bills on time, and is a generally good human. John has one major assumption that influences his life – that there isn’t enough. Enough of what you might ask? Enough of anything, John lives in a scarcity mentality. In some ways this serves John pretty well – he always gets to work early because he is worried about there not being enough parking, he saves most of his paycheck because he doesn’t want to overpay or ‘waste’ money on anything, and he is usually a top salesperson at work because he takes all the best leads and works hard to convert them.
There are some ways that his assumptions about not having enough negatively impact his life though. For one, John is pretty lonely. He feels like his coworkers don’t really like him because he doesn’t share the good leads. He doesn’t go out and socialize because he doesn’t want to waste his hard-earned income. He doesn’t have a lot of friends because he hasn’t found a lot of people that really offer that much for him. For another, John feels pretty locked into his schedule. He knows deep down that there isn’t enough time, and he has to make sure that the things which are most important to him happen before he can even consider doing something for somebody else.
Deep down John has this feeling that people are willing and waiting to take advantage of him. This means that he doesn’t generally open up to the people around him and ends up being the kind of person that people know is a good guy, but don’t really want to spend their time around. He feels it every time he doesn’t get invited to a party that a coworker is throwing, but decides that he’s better off pursuing a hobby that doesn’t require others.
Mary lives in a little town, has a good job, pays her bills on time, and is a generally good human. Mary has one major assumption that influences her life – that there is enough. Enough of what you might ask? Enough of anything, Mary lives in an abundance mentality. In some ways this serves Mary pretty well – she has a great group of friends because she is always willing to open up to them as well as listen to their troubles (and goes all out at potlucks, bringing in incredible food). She has a great reputation at work for helping others, and has gotten numerous promotions because of her ‘can do’ attitude. People love having her come to parties because she somehow always ends up being the life of the event, she seems to know everybody, and can somehow even remember their names most of the time.
There are some ways that her assumptions about there always
Deep down Mary has the feeling that she doesn’t have to fight to get what she wants, but instead will get any help she needs when she chooses to ask for it. Mary knows that some of the people around her think that she is naive, but she knows that she is happy overall and will make it through anything that comes her way. She knows that so far this has worked well, and so continues to do it.
Why it’s worth challenging your assumptions
So why are these two stories important? Because this is just one assumption, granted it’s a really deep one, that can make a huge difference in your life. Both of these people will make it through life just fine, and both will probably live to old age. Neither of them is ‘wrong’, but one of them seems to enjoy their experience more than the other.
If you want to work at optimizing your experience, and living the life you truly want, I can guarantee you that some of your assumptions are getting in your way.
How to challenge your assumptions
The nice part it is that it is simple to challenge your assumptions, but it certainly isn’t easy. All you have to do is write down one thing that you believe and then ask yourself what life would be like if that wasn’t true. How would your perspective change? And with that different perspective what action would you take? And with those new actions what kind of evidence might you find if you were right?
Take any label that you apply to yourself and challenge that assumption. Do you assume that you are an introvert or extrovert (because of the story playing in your mind)? Do you assume that you can’t gain/lose weight? Do you assume that you will always be poor, have a bad job, be lonely? How do those things impact your perspective?
Then work on the assumptions that you place
Change your assumptions, change your perspectives, change your actions, and a new life might just be the evidence you find at the end.