The focus: Assumptions can be wrong beliefs that keep us stuck in the past.
The opportunity: There's something you can do about it.
The solution: You can consciously challenge your assumptions and let go of ones that don't serve you.
I ASSUME YOU KNEW
An assumption is an expectation that, because something has happened in the past, it will happen again. You probably already knew that. ← This is an assumption. Why? Because I expected that you would know this information based on my past use of the word with others. This expectation may or may not be true, but it's my belief that it's true that makes it an assumption. My belief came from the past, and that's what assumptions are all about. When assumptions like these go unchecked over time, they can create all kinds of trouble for us without us ever knowing why.
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE PAST
The assumptions that we have today are beliefs and expectations about reality which we developed at some point in the past. It could have been last week, last year, or four decades ago when we decided a certain belief was essentially as true today as it was the day that it happened. In many ways, we can be grateful that we have assumptions that we can rely on to help us navigate our complex lives. But, when we have unrealistic expectations that cause us and those we live and work with to suffer or stop growing, then negative assumptions might be the underlying cause.
It can be difficult to recognize assumptions because they tend to be buried deep in our subconscious minds where they become ingrained with our personal worldview. We can literally "assume" that our assumptions are just the way things are for us and that there's nothing we can do to change them. Fortunately, that couldn't be further from the truth. You have the power and ability to challenge and change your negative assumptions once you first learn how to spot these slippery tricksters.
ASSUME THE BEST
Let's start out by taking a look at a few examples of common assumptions:
POSITIVE ASSUMPTIONS (supportive, growth-oriented, affirmative)
► Every time a person makes a mistake, they are doing the best they can with what they know.
► Whenever one door closes in my life, another one opens.
► The world always provides what people need to survive.
► All obstacles in my business are opportunities.
NEGATIVE ASSUMPTIONS (unsupportive, destructive, deflating)
► When people make mistakes, it's because they're wrong for the task.
► When it rains in my life, it really pours.
► The world is dog eat dog and everyone has to take what they want or they won't have enough.
► Something is always getting in the way of my business success.
Now, let's consider the effects that these assumptions above might have on our experiences:
POSITIVE ASSUMPTION EFFECTS
→ If I truly believe that people are always doing the best they can, then I may generally trust people to do what they say they will even if they make mistakes. This frees me up to concentrate on my own responsibilities and make the most of my relationships.
→ If I believe that the loss of one opportunity just means that a new one is coming my way, then I may take it less personally when I don't get my own way. This allows me to move on more quickly and to stay flexible in my life.
→ If I believe that the world gives us what we need to survive, then I may feel that the world is a safe and good place to be. This gives me greater confidence that my basic needs will be met and that I can concentrate on discovering my passion, purpose and potential.
→ If I believe that every obstacle in the development of my business really contains an opportunity, then I may be significantly less stressed when things don't go as planned. This means that I have more room for maintaining clear vision and developing great communication with my leadership team.
NEGATIVE ASSUMPTION EFFECTS
→ If I believe that when people make mistakes it means they're the wrong person for the job, then I may be placing limits on others that are untrue and unfair. This narrows my perspective of what others are capable of doing and makes me judgmental and critical in my relationships, instead of supportive and encouraging.
→ If I believe that one bad experience in my life inevitably leads to another, then I may be taking events in my life very personally. This causes me to be easily hurt and to feel isolated, which then leads to overlooking important opportunities when they come up.
→ If I believe that the world is dog eat dog, then I may be distrustful of others and overly aggressive in my interactions with people. This takes effort on my part to stay on guard, ready to protect what I think I might lose, when what I'm really missing is purpose, passion and a sense of connection.
→ If I believe that something is always getting in the way of my business success, then I may be headed for burnout and overwhelming stress. This means that I stay in survival mode and that I rule over my leadership team instead of inspiring them to greatness and leading by example.
STRATEGIES FOR PUTTING ASSUMPTIONS TO REST
“Most of our assumptions have outlived their uselessness.”
- Marshall McLuhan
It can seem nearly impossible to overcome negative assumptions at first. But, there are steps you can begin taking today that will empower you to challenge and change the assumptions that are keeping you stuck in the past!
1. BECOME MORE AWARE OF YOUR THOUGHT LIFE.
The place to start is to simply become more aware of the thoughts that your mind is thinking on a daily basis. Most of us are so busy that we're running on unconscious "auto-pilot" mode much of the time. But just because we're not paying attention doesn't mean that our minds aren't still producing thousands of thoughts everyday! Begin by noticing more of your thoughts. You can ask: "What am I thinking about right now?", "What have I been thinking for the past several minutes?", or "What has been on my mind this week?"
2. TAKE A SIMPLE DAILY INVENTORY.
Now that you have started noticing your thoughts, it's time to gather more information. Start to keep a simple daily inventory of some of your thoughts that stand out to you each day. Make this as simple as possible, but also be specific. Try to list at least 3-5 outstanding thoughts for every day. Take note of any feelings that come up along with the thoughts and write those down too. You can use a journal or a mobile device to keep track of your inventory. We're not looking for anything else yet, just more awareness of thoughts and how they affect your feelings and ultimately your actions.
3. GROW YOUR INTUITIVE MUSCLE.
One of the biggest obstacles to overcoming negative assumptions is seeing them clearly when they come up in our minds. Most of us have a lot of clutter in our brains that distorts and clouds our inner vision. The best way to clear the clutter is to practice some form of meditation or intentional activity. When we stop and give our attention to something supportive and calm then we gain mental clarity and tap into our intuition, which bypasses our thinking brains and moves us much deeper into our conscious minds.
I've found mindfulness to be a very useful and meaningful practice to help develop more intuition and awareness. You can find great free resources on the Mindful Magazine website.
4. ALIGN WITH YOUR VALUES.
Values are the principles that we live by which we have determined to be important in life. They are central motivators for what drives us to do the things we do, both great and small. By making sure that you're aligned with your own highest values, you will get even more clarity around your thoughts and the feelings and actions that go along with them. When you're aligned with your values it means that you are walking your talk. When those pesky negative assumptions come up, they will raise a red flag internally because they are likely not connected with your values. Now we're making progress!
5. DEFINE A PERSONAL/PROFESSIONAL MISSION STATEMENT.
Next, take this a step further and come up with your own personal and/or professional mission statement. Having a mission statement goes even deeper to connect your sense of purpose and passion with your values and beliefs. Again, keep it simple but be specific. For a terrific resource to help you get started, check out WikiHow's article on how to write a personal mission statement.
6. REFLECT, REPLACE, AND REVIEW.
Finally, take some time to reflect on your work in the previous steps. By this time, you will have likely started noticing a few negative assumptions that are affecting you and those around you. What are they? Are you able to list them, or are they still a bit hazy? Make sure to include positive assumptions as well. What are they? Can you list them?
Do your very best to list 3-5 of your own negative assumptions, and 3-5 positive assumptions. Write a sentence or two next to each one describing how they affect your life and the life of those around you. Then consider whether each assumption is worth keeping to you. Ask yourself: "Does this assumption align with my values?", "Is this something I want to hold on to?", "What could I replace this negative assumption with?", "What do I like most about this positive assumption?", "Is this true for me?"
When you find assumptions that you no longer want to keep, make a conscious choice to let each one go and write down a concrete, supportive and growth-oriented assumption to take its place. When you've done that, practice using the new assumption and continue your daily inventory. Keep it up, review your progress, and make sure to celebrate the times you are successful!
If you would like help in challenging and changing your negative assumptions, CONTACT me to schedule a free 30 minute session to see if coaching could be right for you.
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