So, I’ll bet this has happened to you. When I was a kid, I liked a song called “Alone Again (Naturally)” – a little embarrassing, but what did I know anyway? The last verse started out with:
“Looking back over the years, whatever Ulstheiser clears…”
…at least that’s what I thought the second phrase said, as if it was about the achievements of some Olympic high jumper or pole vaulter. Well, I actually didn’t know what those words were, as I only heard the song on the radio and listened to the 45 (for those under 40, a 45 was the dark ages equivalent of buying a song on iTunes). There was no Google to look up the lyrics and know that the phrase was really “whatever else that appears.”
Now, this isn’t very important, but it made me think of a problem we all cause for ourselves all the time. We make too many assumptions and we don’t always wait until we can really get to the bottom of situations. My wife, Laura, is great at pointing out when I am jumping to conclusions (way too often), so I thought it might be valuable for some of you to think about this challenge in your own lives.
How often do we make assumptions and take action based on them before we have validated whether they are true? For most of my life, I was always afraid to ask what might be considered a “stupid question”, even one that might reveal the truth to keep me from having to rely on my assumption. I’ve wised up a little as I’ve gotten older – let me share a resource that might help you as well.
The amazing book by Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements, helped me along this path. One of these agreements (that we make with ourselves, by the way) is “Don’t Make Assumptions.” The book describes an approach to minimizing self-inflicted poison in our lives. It suggests ways to free ourselves from negative emotions such as envy, regret, jealousy, self-doubt, etc., by avoiding traps that we lay for ourselves by allowing, or even encouraging, negative situations and reactions that we could control by having the courage to ask questions and really communicate.
Well, although Ulstheiser seemed important way back when, it’s nice to realize that I’m still learning about things that are “actually” important, like holding back from potentially damaging assumptions until I can understand the reality of things. I wish you all that same peace of mind.
Thanks for sharing time with me; as always, I welcome your feedback. Please feel free to pass this message along to others who may find value.