If you missed part one in this series, you can read it here.

Radical Life Change Ingredient #2

Bring awareness to your assumptions.

For one of my witchcraft apprenticeships, we had to read The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, and the second agreement is “Don’t make assumptions.” It took a few months for me to see how powerful this agreement really is. Here are two passages in particular that really speak to me:

We create a lot of emotional poison just by making assumptions and taking it personally, because usually we start gossiping about our assumptions…Because we are afraid to ask for clarification, we make assumptions, and we believe we are right about our assumptions; then we defend our assumptions and try to make someone else wrong.

We make the assumption that everyone else sees life the way we do. We assume that others think the way we think, feel the way we feel, judge the way we judge, and abuse the way we abuse. This is the biggest assumptions that humans make. And this is why we have a fear of being ourselves around others. Because we think everyone else will judge us, victimize us, abuse us, and blame us as we do ourselves.

A Tale of Two Assumptions

I recently had an opportunity to witness this entire process of making assumptions in action in the lives of two different friends who were going through a very similar situation. Almost like a planned experiment with controls, many of the factors were identical in both situations but the difference in each of my friends’ approach was significant. We’ll call them Kevin and Lia.

Both Kevin and Lia were applying for an office job in the same exact field. They both needed to negotiate salary, work location, and a few other details that were the same in both cases.

Kevin had just come out of a long string of unhappy jobs that left him feeling burnt out and resentful. In each position, he felt like he wasn’t getting the support he needed. When it came time for Kevin to negotiate, he walked into the experience with a chip on his shoulder, assuming that his new officemates would deny him the support he needed.

He made few requests, assuming they wouldn’t be met, and the ones he did make were communicated in a rather, shall we say, demanding tone, and this was met with a lot of resistance from the administrators. He ended up getting the job, but he’s not excited about it, he feels like he’s getting the short end of the stick, and he’s convinced that his officemates are only looking out for themselves and will take advantage of him if given the chance.

Lia, on the other hand, has this infectious quality about her of always expecting the best in people and situations. She walked into negotiations with a list of requests, but she communicated them in a manner that conveyed how excited she was to be working there, and her officemates happily agreed with every single request. She’s also getting a higher salary and more perks, and she can’t wait to start working.

You might think I’m making this up, but I truly did watch my two friends go into identical job situations (and how weirdly synchronous is that? It’s like the universe wanted to make absolutely sure I could see that the difference lay in how my friends were handling themselves), and each of them came out with wildly different results.

Why Assumptions Keep Us Stuck

It’s my belief that our assumptions mirror our view of the world, and when we have a picture of how the world works, we will do everything in our power to maintain that picture–even if the picture totally sucks! We do this to feel some measure of safety and control.

Kevin feels safer when we thinks he knows what up, even if that means people are going to screw him over and he never gets what he wants. At least he knows what to expect!

Now, we can look at Lia’s situation and argue that she, too, is making assumptions–and she certainly is. But I think she has two things working in her favor: First of all, Lia’s assumptions are affirming. In essence, she’s choosing a storyline that works for, not against, her. But nonetheless, it is a story and she is making assumptions.

However, the second thing Lia has working for her is something I know through being her friend: She regularly challenges her own assumptions. I have seen Lia question her beliefs and worldview again and again and again. Even if something is working, she likes to look under the hood and ask, “Why is this working so well?”

In watching Lia do life this way, and in adopting this attitude myself, I have found that hidden within each assumption we make is a key, a key that unlocks the door to greater clarity and insight. If we never question our assumptions, we’re leaving all of these treasures lying around, and we’re walking around with cloudy vision.

So, just as our assumptions mirror our view of the world, they also contain the key to changing it.

If you’re unhappy with your world (or even if you are happy with it, and you want to know how to keep the good times rollin’), look at your assumptions. What do they say about your view of the world? And is that the kind of world you want to live in?

It’s as Ghandi said: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Most of us sit around waiting for the world to change first, and then we’ll change our precious assumptions. It’s time to turn that formula on its head. Why? Because it doesn’t work.

Change your thoughts and your world will respond in kind.

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