“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won't come in.” ― Isaac Asimov
How often do you catch yourself making an assumption? How often do you just assume something about someone? Assumptions can get us in trouble, can’t they?
Assumptions are things we believe or accept to be true about someone or something without any proof. One problem with assumptions is that they can create a domino effect of other assumptions. As a result, these assumptions can quickly lead you down the wrong road of conclusions you would not have made otherwise. But, how reasonable is that? If you don’t know enough about something, how confident would you be in the decisions you make or the actions you take as a result?
If you were under medical care, would you want your physician to diagnose and treat you based on assumptions or the results of reasonable tests? Would you want a surgeon to jump the gun and open you up based on assumptions? Do you think removing a vital organ without knowing all the details in someone’s medical files is standard medical practice?
I know these examples may seem extreme, but are they? Making assumptions about people without knowing enough details from a credible source is foolish. And, the best credible source is the person you are judging or making assumptions about.
It happens all the time now with social media. People are quick to judge someone based on one photo, one opinion, or one comment. Many times these comments are taken out of context or get lost in translation. This happens for two reasons. The first is that people do not always communicate properly, especially when they’re emotional. They say don’t text when you’re upset. If your emotions get the best of you, they can also bring out the worst in you. When you’re angry or upset, you might regret the things you say next. You might also forget a word here and there, which can completely change the tone or intent of your message. Therefore, it might not be well received.
The second reason is that people attach their own preconceived notions and biases. Making assumptions feels safer for some people. They use their assumptions to their advantage. They choose assumptions and make conclusions based on those assumptions that best suit their own agenda or motive. As a result, people see what we want to see and hear what they want to hear.
This leads to another problem with assumptions: broken relationships. People shut down or end relationships as a result of assumptions, generalizations, preconceived notions, and biases. Assumptions are at the root of all fractured relationships in our society. Therefore, if we are to cultivate, build, and maintain healthy relationships in our lives, we must find a way to reduce or eliminate assumptions.
Eliminating assumptions starts with mindfulness. Your past has shaped your attitudes and actions. Mindfulnesss sheds light on your attitudes and actions as you actively engage them. Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations in the present moment while calmly acknowledging your surrounding environment. When you practice mindfulness, your thoughts are completely focused on the present moment and not on memories of the past or the possibilities of the future. Practicing mindfulness can help to ensure that your choices align with your goals for creating your best self and your best life. So, pay attention to your thoughts as you have them. Catch your assumptions as they bubble to the surface. See, where they come from and why. This is a crucial step in understanding your assumptions so that you can remove them if they are more harmful than helpful.
Another step in eliminating assumptions is gaining knowledge. Knowledge is power. To gain wisdom, we must first practice being open to learning. Be inquisitive and curious. Like the multi-instrumentalist musician Frank Zappa once said, “A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open.” You simply cannot learn if your mind remains closed. It is like a window with the shades drawn. You cannot grow in darkness. Instead, you will fall behind and get stuck in old patterns of thinking that will not serve you well in the long run.
The essential element to learning is listening. Listening leads to empathy, compassion, and understanding. We have to ask the hard questions and be willing to learn, no matter how uncomfortable we might get with the information we hear. Oftentimes, it is this discomfort that leads to the heart of the matter or the truth. In discovering all truths, we find solutions to our problems. Therefore, discomfort is the key to turning unreasoned judgements into understanding. Sometimes, we have to stand in the rain and get wet to truly appreciate the rainbow above us.
Open the windows to your mind. At least, be willing to clean them off to let the light in so that you can get a clear view of the world we live in. It’s nice to imagine living in a world without problems or fighting, but it would be just as nice to live in the world we have imagined.
Live, Love, and Lead with Aloha.