Moving Past The Obstacles to Change – Part IV

Asssumptions….The Mother of All F*@k Ups?ObstaclesIV

“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off once in a while or the light won’t come in.”

Alan Alda

Many personal ‘dilemmas’ that clients present to coaches can be addressed by helping the client to change the beliefs that created his or her “reality”. Last time we learnt about Interpretations, the opinion or judgment that we create about an event, situation, person or experience and believe to be true; otherwise known as the stories that we tell ourselves.

As promised, this week we’re going to explore Assumptions. At iPEC Assumptions are defined as:

“An expectation that because something has happened in the past, it will happen again”

So, here’s where it gets a little tricky, because if we’re in a vicious cycle (we keep having a similar experience no matter what job, relationship, living situation we’re in) it’s certainly possible that we could experience another unwelcome outcome, but the good news is that it’s not an inevitability. Sure, life can throw some situations our way that look on the surface to be strikingly similar to something that’s happened before in our lives, but the reality is that no two situations are EVER exactly the same.

Assumptions can be particularly debilitating because if you come from a place of thinking that you already “know” something won’t work, you are far less likely to even try it as a possibility. Even if you do try it, you might even move in a counter-productive direction.

An example of an assumption at work could be this:

You ask someone out on a date but you get turned down. As a result, you might consider that when you next ask someone on a date, you’d meet with the same rejection. Since it happened once, you conclude that it’s always likely to be the case and as such, the assumption might prevent you from asking anyone out again.

Typical assumptions that coaches will often hear are:
  • I’ve never been good at ‘x’ so I’m not going waste my time trying now;
  • Last time I pushed myself it blew up in my face, so I’m not going to risk the humiliation again;
  • It’s hard to teach old dogs new tricks.

It’s funny when you think about it, because if everyone stuck tight to their assumptions then innovation would never happen. Edison would have given up on his light bulb long before he made it work and the Wright Brothers, well, they would have never even bothered past the first prototype.

Challenging assumptions are often more involved than challenging limiting beliefs because limiting beliefs are usually created from what we’ve been told, whereas assumptions come from our own repertoire of personal experiences. As a consequence, assumptions are usually more internalised and emotional for us. The result may be that we resist letting go of the assumption more strongly.

A coach’s role is simply this, to have a client recognise the assumption for what it is, question it and consciously choose to let it go and take action. The main question for a coach looking to challenge an assumption is simply:

“Just because that happened in the past, why must it happen again?”

When resistance comes up, it’s helpful for a coach to validate the individual’s experience and perspective to lessen the emotional attachment to the assumption. For example,

“It’s completely understandable why if you asked a guy out and were turned down that you would have been disappointed and felt rejected by that. It also makes sense why you would be reluctant to step out and take that risk again. Anyone in your situation might feel that way. But just because that happened before, why must it happen again?”

The key here is in recognising that every single moment in time is different from the previous one. Just that teensy weensy bit of awareness has the power to crack open the door of your mind to the possibility that next time, it could be different, thereby increasing your motivation to take the step that you were previously unprepared to take.

So before next time:
  • Observe what things typically prevent you from moving forwards towards your goals;
  • If you catch yourself not progressing because of a fear that something you’ve experienced before will happen again, an assumption has most likely been triggered;
  • So ask yourself, “Just because I couldn’t do it last time, what’s to say I can’t do it this time.”

Until then I invite you to check out our Facebook page to learn more about ways you can cultivate your self-awareness and increase your level of consciousness. Stay tuned for the next post on Gremlins, the grand daddy of the four Energy Blocks.

About the author

Anna Margolis is our Mastering your Mind blogger. She is a revitalised former city lawyer turned freer of minds. Find out more: iPEC London, Facebook, Pinterest

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