This is part 4 of a 5-part series based on the work of Don Miguel Ruiz in The Voice of Knowledge and The Four Agreements.
True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand
Let’s say you have a friend who you talk to on a regular basis, at least once a week. It has been three weeks since you have spoken to her. During those three weeks everyone at your house has been sick at some point, you son has been struggling academically at school and you have been helping him at least 3 hours every night with homework, and just this past week you found out that your company is closing the office in your town and you may either be let go or transferred to another location. You have had little time and energy for the past three weeks and the stress has been building.
But…why hasn’t your friend called? You hope she’s okay. Maybe she has had a health scare. You always tell her she needs to exercise more and her diet isn’t very good. Maybe she found out her husband is cheating on her. You have always thought her husband has a wandering eye. Maybe she got fired. She never seemed to be enthused about going to work and didn’t put her best effort into it anyway.
But then, not only do you keep making assumptions, but you start to make things all about you and take things personally as well. Surely she couldn’t have had as much happen to her as you have. She has been your best friend since junior high, but now that you think about it, she has seemed distant lately and not as talkative. Maybe she has found someone else to confide in? You used to laugh with each other all the time but lately, it seems like all you do is complain about the trials of your lives and how bad everything seems to be. Maybe you said something that offended her?
Should I go on?
Besides taking things personally, there is another habit that gets us into a lot of trouble…making assumptions. So, the third agreement we need to make with ourselves in order to write our own story is “don’t make assumptions.”
How many times a day do we do it…10…100…1,000? We do it all the time and sometimes it’s about trivial stuff, but sometimes it is important stuff. The problem is not necessarily that we have these thoughts. Remember our thinking is the voice of knowledge but most of that knowledge is made up of lies. The problem is that we believe these lies when we make assumptions. Our perceptions are based on our own personal story. We see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear. Then we dream things up to fill in any gaps in the story. Someone tries to tell us that our perception is not the truth, but we have so much invested in believing our assumptions that we need to defend them and prove that the other person is wrong. But do we even know what we are thinking is true? It doesn’t matter. Because it is easier and safer to make things up to justify our assumptions rather than seek the truth.
According to Don Miguel Ruiz, “When we believe something, we assume we are right about it to the point that we will destroy relationships in order to defend our position.” We need to remember that everyone is writing their own story and seeing life from their own point of view. We have no idea how many of the lies from the voice of knowledge other people believe.
So we just need to communicate better right? Perhaps. Maybe you can relate to this scenario. You come home from getting a haircut that you think makes you look the best you have looked in years. After you have been home for about 10 minutes and your spouse has not made a comment you ask, “What do think of my haircut?”
Your spouse responds, “Oh…it’s nice. I like it.”
First, you make an assumption when there is no communication. You assume that your spouse does not care enough about you to notice your new haircut and how beautiful you look. Second, even after there is communication you make the assumption that she doesn’t really mean it because you had to ask her about it and when she did respond she was not very enthusiastic.
Then your spouse’s phone rings. She answers it and after a brief conversation hangs up the phone and looks at you with tears in her eyes. Her company is closing the local office and she is being transferred to San Francisco. You walk out and slam the door and start making assumptions about why your spouse did not tell you sooner and how this is her fault and it could have been avoided. Even when there is communication we often continue to make assumptions.
What is the solution to the problem? Ask questions for clarification. Even if we ask a question and get a response we don’t understand, keep asking questions for clarification. And when we do get a response don’t make assumptions, don’t take anything personally, and remember that everyone is seeing the world through their own perceptions and writing their own story. Also, it is important to understand that we always have the right to ask someone a question, but they always have the right to say yes or no. Just like someone always has the right to ask us a question, but we always have the right to say yes or no.
One of the keys to asking questions is to think gray when we are listening to the answers to our questions. This means not choosing to hear what we want to hear and fitting it into our pre-conceived ideas or to fit our own agenda. Thinking gray means not trying to make ourselves right or wrong or trying to make the person we are communicating with right or wrong when listening to the answer to our question. Rather, we need to listen to the answers with the intent of seeking the truth.
When we seek the truth, we gain awareness. Awareness gives us the ability to see things for the way they are; we do not have a need to justify the way we see everything and what we already believe. As Socrates noted, one of the keys to gaining wisdom is to first understand how little we actually know about ourselves, others, and the world around us. So, keep asking questions without making assumptions so that we can gain awareness and the truth will appear as a result of our new awareness.
This week, be aware of how many times you make assumptions. Ask questions for clarification, gain awareness by thinking gray, and seek the truth.
In part 5 we will look at the third agreement which is always do your best.
Part 1: Write Your Own Story
Part 2: Always Be Impeccable with Your Word
Part 3: Don’t Take Anything Personally
Part 4: Don’t Make Assumptions
Part 5: Always Do Your Best
The Voice of Knowledge by Don Miguel Ruiz
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
Inspiring leaders to Rise Above and Enjoy the Journey!
Success vs. Achievement
Chop Wood Carry Water
Would You Rather...
First Things First
Do You Have Trouble Sleeping?
What is Your Plan?
One Word: Blessed
The Pursuit of Happyness
You Win in the Locker Room First
What Are You Training For?
Winning Is A Mindset
Always Be Faithful in Small Things
Are You a Leader?
What is Your Why?
I Love Watching You Play
Keep on Failing
The Coach is the Student
The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership
Now They Know
Esse Quam Videri
Powered by Purpose
Are You All In?
The Eyes of Your Heart
Sunrise or Sunset?
We Need Boundaries
What is Right Over Who is Right
Carry Your Bobsled
Do You Have Any Suggestions for Improvement?
Sing Out Loud
Be An Eagle
The Power of One
You Are a Lighthouse
I Hate The Grind
Closing the Gap
The Big Time
What Profit Are You Seeking?
A Better Life
Don't Do It For the Applause
A Harvest of Impact
It's a Wonderful Life
One Word for 2018: INTENTNESS
Write Your Own Story
Be Impeccable with Your Word
Don't Take Anything Personally
Don't Make Assumptions
Always Do Your Best
A Second Chance