So many people in midlife and beyond have a fear of aging.
Society hasn’t helped this.
Ageism is still a factor in our experience and advertisers
keep telling us we need to be using products that are anti-aging.
I don’t know about you but I’m NOT ANTI – aging….
In fact, every day I experience new growth when I look at
what the aging process is teaching me.
I’m excited to tell you that my new E-Book is now available. It’s all about the
reflections I’ve been having on the aging process itself. Rather than bemoan
the fact that my bones are creaking and my memory waxing and waning,
I decided to look at the meaning behind it all. And, low and behold, I began
to discover that the Aging Process itself is not a matter of continual
decrepitude – but an opportunity to grow spiritually. WOW!
That changes the game considerably.
If you are in MIDLIFE or BEYOND, this is an important issue
to consider right now.
I’d love to share this e-book with you and get your help in fleshing it out
even further into a full manuscript. Please comment when you have read it.
Get your copy here
Book Feature by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
A “senior boom” is happening in American life, and it’s getting bigger by the day. Until very recently, most of the attention paid to this phenomenon has focused on retirement options, pension plans, health care challenges, medical ethics, and research on the biology of aging and the prolongation of life. Surveying recent books, films, and spoken-word audios about later life, we have noticed a number of hopeful signs that signal a broadening and deepening of the way we see the senior years. The added element is an interest in their spiritual dimensions. Here’s a sampling of these new views of aging. (Click on the link to read the full review.)
Age Power: How the 21st Century Will Be Ruled by the New Old by Ken Dychtwald (Tarcher/Putnam, 1999)
Here is a wakeup call intended to offer preventative solutions to the age-related questions we face as individuals and as a society. “How we decide to behave as elders will,” writes Dychtwald, “in all likelihood, become the most important challenge we will face in our lives.”
Another Country: Navigating the Emotional Terrain of Our Elders by Mary Pipher (Riverhead, 1999)
This informative and salutary work is designed to help forge ties between the baby boom generation and their parents, who are now residing in the country of old age.
The Force of Character and the Lasting Life by James Hillman (Random House, 1999)
This imaginative, compelling, and always thought-provoking volume turns conventional ideas about aging upside down. In three bold sections, the best-selling author of The Soul’s Code shows how our characters are enriched, deepened, and made meaningful by long life.
From Age-ing to Sage-ing by Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and Ronald Miller (Warner, 1997)
The Jewish elder who coined the term “spiritual eldering” presents his thoughts on the last stage of life. This is a time to for men and women to “contemplate their life journey, harvest the wisdom of their years, and transmit a legacy to future generations.”
Gray Heroes: Elder Tales from Around the World by Jane Yolen, editor (Penguin Books, 1999)
The editor has gathered a fascinating batch of stories from different cultures about “elders who wear their years well.” The tales are divided into four sections: wisdom, trickery, adventure, and a little bit of love.
On Women Turning 70: Honoring the Voices of Wisdom by Cathleen Rountree (Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1999)
Sixteen extraordinary women tell their stories and share their feelings on turning 70.
Passion for Life: Lifelong Psychological and Spiritual Growth by Anne Brennan and Janice Brewi (Continuum, 1999)
With the doubling of life expectancy since the beginning of the twentieth century, men and woman are challenged to become “architects of their own aging.” The second half of life has become an arena for continued growth and development, i.e. soul-making.
Spiritual Passages: Embracing Life’s Sacred Journey by Drew Leder (Tarcher/Putnam, 1997)
The author taps into all the world’s religions for insights into qualities which can be unfurled by elders. He presents a substantive and sacred model for aging that celebrates self-exploration, change, service, suffering, transformation, and facing death.
A Time to Live: Seven Steps of Creative Aging by Robert Raines (Plume, 1998)
The former director of Kirkridge Retreat and Study Center has written a bright and buoyant volume about the art of creative aging. He masterfully sets anecdotes from his own life alongside poignant illustrative material from contemporary novels, films, and political events.
Toward Holy Ground: Spiritual Directions for the Second Half of Life by Margaret Guenther (Cowley, 1995)
The author uses St. Anne as a model and wisdom figure for later life when ambiguity, service of others, and wonder are given free play.
Understanding Men’s Passages: Discovering the New Map of Men’s Lives by Gail Sheehy (Ballantine, 1999)
The bestselling author presents a rounded portrait of the different stages of “second adulthood” for men including “the fearless fifties” and “the influential sixties.”
I’m Not Rappaport (MCA/Universal, 1996)
This feisty drama revolves around an 81-year-old Jewish radical who is a modern-day Don Quixote fighting injustice. He and his best friend have to stand up for themselves in a society that seems determined to treat elders as if they were invisible.
Men With Guns (Columbia TriStar, 1998)
A common task in old age is to secure one’s legacy. A wealthy physician in an unnamed Latin American country who is nearing retirement decides to visit the medical students he trained to serve poor villagers in the countryside. His quest opens and softens his heart.
Nobody’s Fool (Paramount, 1995)
This movie shows that the last stage of life can be one of personal renewal. A crusty and cantankerous handyman in a small town discovers that it is never too late to stir the ashes and light up your life with the glow that comes from love of family and friends.
The Shell Seekers (Republic Pictures, 1994)
A 63-year-old Englishwoman suffers a heart attack and is compelled to review her life and her view of happiness.
The Straight Story (Walt Disney Home Video, 1999)
Alvin Straight is a stubborn and highly principled 73-year-old Iowan who sets out on his John Deere lawnmower to visit his estranged brother who has suffered a heart attack in Wisconsin. His deep yearning for reconciliation gives him the energy and strength he needs to fulfill his mission.
Strangers in Good Company (Touchstone, 1991)
A group of long-lived women take shelter in an abandoned farmhouse when their tour bus breaks down. While they wait for other transportation, they share the stories of their lives with each other.
Waking Ned Devine (Fox, 1999)
In this comedy set in a small village in Ireland, two of the town’s elders creatively expand the possibilities for community life.
Conscious Aging: A Creative and Spiritual Journey by Various Speakers (Sounds True, 1992)
Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Marion Woodman, Maggie Kuhn, Ram Dass, and Bernie Siegel present their ideas on elders as bearers of wisdom, healing, creativity, and vision. This audio program was taped during a conference at the Omega Institute.
The Second Half of Life: The Blossoming of Your Creative Self by Angeles Arrien (Sounds True, 1998)
This teacher and cultural anthropologist explores the three major themes of elderhood: generativity, intimacy, and creativity. This six-cassette package is filled with soul-stirring stories and spiritual practices from indigenous peoples and Greek mythology.
by Brian Azar salesdoctor.com
Modern psychology has placed most of its focus on human development in the early years with the implied suggestion that our development stops at a certain point. For example, the work of Piaget, Havinghurst, Kegan and Loevinger ends in adolescence or early adulthood. While Jung and Bühler have explored adult development throughout the life course, the most relevant work comes from Erikson and Levinson.
Erikson describes eight stages and yet his treatment of the mature adult years is sparse. The seventh stage from age 40 to 65 is a period typified by the individual’s desire to leave their mark, to contribute to the world and to feel productive and involved. If these goals are achieved, one will attain a sense of generativity, a feeling of meaningful contribution. If these goals are not achieved, a person will be left with feelings of stagnation, a disconnected, self-absorbed sense of loneliness. Erikson’s eight and final stage is defined by the quest for integrity and a growing awareness of death. In his later life, he acknowledged that psychosocial development may continue in later life, but his work was left incomplete.
Levinson explores the life cycle as a series of “eras” or “seasons” that are composed of stable periods where life’s choices have been made, and transitional periods in which one season ends and a new one begins. His research, originally conducted only with men, highlights the importance of choice in midlife. It argues that the structure of development through the life course follows an underlying pattern for each individual that is a mix of development and socialization.
While Erikson and Levinson’s work offers an excellent basis for understanding the life cycle, it is incomplete for our modern era. Both psychosocial and neurological development has been found to continue to progress throughout the life course. The current demographic and cultural realities put forth new pressures and provide new opportunities that change an individual’s ability to design his or her futures. Building on these giants, we propose a new life course theory that recognizes life as longer, more complex and less predictable.
PART I: The new life phase
In our construction of this new theory, we suggest life phases that are more fluid and dynamic than previous academic, because we recognize that individuals vary and that physical age and psychological age might not match at every point. The traditional view of life conceived of our development in a semi-circle with its peak at age 45 or 50, followed by a quiet decline to death on the other side of that milestone birthday. Incorporating a new life phase of possibility and continued growth changes the trajectory rather than beginning a precipitous decline, our productive, generative years have been extended, allowing us to reimagine our lives differently, to embrace second careers and to continue to thrive throughout the life course.
The need for a new life phase is bolstered by the latest research in both neurological and psychosocial development throughout the life course. Research has shown that psychological resilience–the ability to adapt to stress, transitions and adversity–increases throughout midlife.[i] One possible reason may be that by middle age, the brain has learned to accentuate the positive.[ii] Another possibility may be that by middle age, we’ve had our fair share of life experiences and have gained some perspective about the relative importance of events. Indeed, psychologists find that well-being follows a U-curve, with self-reported happiness at its lowest in the 30s and 40s and increasing steadily beginning at age 50.[iii] This is in keepingwith longitudinal research that finds that our lives continue to evolve in our later years and often become more fulfilling than ever.[iv]
PART II: The Need for a New Framework
The new life phase has emerged because of demographic and cultural changes and has created uncharted territory for those who are living it. Four main factors contribute to this new life phase: Increased longevity, increased productivity, the rise of the therapeutic culture and a focus on purpose-based generativity.
Midlife and older Americans are living longer, healthier[v] lives than ever before.[vi] Some call it “ageless aging.”[vii] These added years are enhanced by increasing and continued educational attainment, making this generation more educated than previous cohorts.[viii] The spike in health and education attainment breed a new sense of optimism about the future: Midlife adults anticipate that their lives will be better in five years than they are now.[ix]
While their parents considered retirement to be a time of travel, relaxation and enjoyment,most Baby Boomers consider some sort of paid work to be part of retirement. In fact, a significant percentage of Baby Boomers report that they will never consider themselves retired.[x] Looking toward their future, 7 in 10 experienced workers plan to work during retirement, and the vast majority list social and psychological fulfillment—along with current and future financial security—as the primary reason.[xi]
Indeed, older workers increasingly see their job as an integral part of their identity, with 83 percent in 2013 reporting that their job is an important part of who they are, up 6 points from 2007.[xii] A desire to feel useful and to create meaning is increasingly important for this cohort as well.[xiii] For those who have other ambitions for their new life phase–in addition to work, or in lieu of paid work–travel, improving health and fitness and simply enjoy their lives, friends and families top the list of goals for the new life phase. Isolation is fatal: While some mention hobbies, spiritual pursuits, and home projects, few want to relocate or “go it alone”.[xiv]
USA Today asked adults what they would ask a god or a supreme being if they could get a direct and immediate answer. The most popular question from the list they offered was not, “Will I have life after death?” (that was No.2), or “Why do bad things happen?” (that was No. 3). The top question adults would ask God or a supreme being was, “What’s my purpose here?”[xx] In fact, it’s the question of the new life phase and is very much in keeping with Erikson’s previous research on the importance of generativity in midlife.
Living with purpose means connecting to something bigger than the self and pursuing goals that are valuable and important toward achieving that end. There is increasing research pointing to the importance of positive emotion, engagement, healthy relationships, a sense of meaning and a sense of accomplishment as being crucial to overall wellbeing–not just immediate gratification, money and happiness.
Seekers in the new life phase might be searching for a new language to discuss their transitions, a sense of identity around their next steps, reassurance of their choices and a community with whom to share information and from whom to receive encouragement. Lichterman finds that self-help users “are seeking not so much a perfect self as a new language for personal life.”[xxiii] Putting words to feelings is crucial for both personal understanding and sharing your journey, and that is a valuable gift in the new life phase. In addition, those seeking self-help might be searching for hope of change and rebirth, research finds. Developing a new sense of identity can be part of this process.[xxiv] Others may be seeking reassurance or confirmation that what they are feeling and doing are normal.[xxv] Life Reimagined provides this in a framework, community and shared language for the new life phase.
Life Reimagined is grounded in the belief that “the good life” evolves over the life course, and that development may occur at any point in time. Life isn’t linear, and our journey could be one of stuttering steps, leaps, falls and plateaus as a result of a mix of internal choice and external influence. We are each on our own journey, each an experiment of one, and Life Reimagined embraces the idea that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to life. Yet at the core of our quests in a variety of different aspects of life–relationships, stress, career, learning, resources and leisure–is a focus on purpose and meaning.
PART II: Bringing “the Good Life” to a Wider Audience
Longevity, technology and changing culture have created a new life phase that is uncharted territory.Previous generations could model their adult years by the behaviors of their parents, but increased longevity means we are outliving those generations. Our cultural ideas of retirement continue to change, encouragingus to forge a new path.
Americans are rejecting the idea that opportunities are shrinking as they get older. We want to reach even higher, explore and pursue dreams and passions that may have been left behind in earlier years. But we can’t do it alone. In an age of possibilities, a growing number of people are looking for guidance to search for and discover new opportunities in work, family, health, fun and purpose in life.
This model provides an unprecedented opportunity to help people navigate life transitions—and Life Reimagined believes these opportunities should be available on a massive scale. However, policy must evolve with this new life phase as well: Navigating transitions cannot be done in a vacuum, and our social structure will need to understand, react to and reflect these shifts.
There is much work ahead, and many questions are unanswered: What is the new experience of growth in midlife and beyond? What are the building-blocks of such growth? What will inhibit it? And what advantages will be realized during this new life phase?
We embrace the idea of a new life phase with hope for a time when everyone will be able to pursue their best lives and embrace their full potential, regardless of age–that is both the opportunity and the challenge of the work ahead.
Lerner, Richard, Concepts and Theories of Human Development, (Mahwah: Psychology Press, 2001) 22.
 Lewis, John David, Solon the Thinker: Political Thought in Archaic Athens, (London: Bristol Classical Press, 2008) 79.
 Confucius, The Analects, (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 1992).
 Mortimer, Jeylan T., and Shanahan, Michael J., ed. Handbook of the Life Course. (New York: Springer Science+Business Media, 2006).
 Mortimer, Handbook.
 See: Guinee, James P. (1998). Erikson’s life span theory: A metaphor for conceptualization the internship year. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 29(6), 615-620. doi:10.1037/0735-7028.29.6.615; Cherry, Kendra (2014). Generativity versus stagnation: The seventh stage of psychosocial development. Retrieved from http://psychology.about.com/od/psychosocialtheories/a/generativity-versus-stagnation.htm Accessed: 4/25/2014.
 Guinee, Erickson’s.
 Erikson, Erik H, The Life Cycle Completed, (New York: W.W. Norton & Company 1998).
 See Levinson, Daniel J. (1986). A conception of adult development. American Psychologist, 41(1), 3-13. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.41.1.3; Levinson, Daniel J., Darrow, C. N., Klein, E. B., Levinson, M. H., & McKee, B. (1978), The seasons of a man’s life. (New York: Random House, 1978).
 Metzler, Christopher J. (2013). Fifty Is the New Thirty: unpacking myths of the New Life Phase. Unpublished Manuscript, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.
 See: Almeida. David M., Horn, M.C. “Is daily life more stressful during middle adulthood?”
In How healthy are we? A national study of well-being at midlife, Brim,O.G., Ryff C.D., Kessler, R.C., ed. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2004) 425–451.
 van Reekum, Carien M., Schaefer, Stacey M., Lapate, Regina C., Norris, Catherine J., Greischar, Lawrence L., Davidson, Richard J. (2011). “Aging is associated with positive responding to neutral information but reduced recovery from negative information,” Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, April; 6(2): 177–185.
 Stone, Arthur A., Schwartz, Joseph E., Broderick, Joan E., & Deaton, Angus (2010). A snapshot of the age distribution of psychological well-being in the United States, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 107 (22) 9985-9990. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1003744107
 Vaillant, George, Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study, (U.S.: Belknap Press 2012).
 Vaupel, James W. (March 2010). Biodemography of human aging. Nature. 464, 25 doi: 10.1038/nature08984
 “Aging Statistics.” Department of Health & Human Services, Administration on Aging. Available at: http://www.aoa.gov/Aging_Statistics/; Accessed: 4/25/2014.
 Shmotkin, Dov. “The Pursuit of Happiness: Alternative Conceptions of Subjective Well-Being,” Understanding Well-Being in the Oldest Old. 1st ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. 27-45.
 “ACS Educational Attainment by Degree-Level and Age-Group (American Community Survey): Percent of Adults 45 to 64 with a High School Diploma – 2005.” NCHEMS Information Center for Higher Education Policymaking and Analysis. Available at: http://www.higheredinfo.org/dbrowser/?year=2005&level=nation&mode=map&state=0&submeasure=234; Accessed: 4/25/2014.
 Fisher, Linda L. (2010). Sex, Romance and Relationships: AARP Survey of Midlife and Older Adults. AARP, (7) Retrieved fromhttp://assets.aarp.org/rgcenter/general/srr_09.pdf
 Love, Jeffrey. (2010). Approaching 65: A Survey of Baby Boomers Turning 65 Years Old.” AARP (4) Retrieved fromhttp://assets.aarp.org/rgcenter/general/approaching-65.pdf
 “Staying Ahead of the Curve 2013: The AARP Work and Career Study, Older Workers in an Uneasy Job Market.” (2014). AARP (6, 57) Retrieved from:http://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/research/surveys_statistics/general/2014/Staying-Ahead-of-the-Curve-2013-The-Work-and-Career-Study-AARP-res-gen.pdf
 Ibid, 7.
 Ibid, 11.
 Love, Approaching 9.
 Whelan, C. Self-Help Books and the Quest for Self-Control in the United States 1950-2000 (Doctoral Thesis) University of Oxford, Oxford, England, 2003. U187685
 See: Rose, Nikolas, Inventing Our Selves: Psychology, Power, and Personhood (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996); Bellah, R. N. et al., Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life. 1996 ed(Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1985); Giddens, Anthony,Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991); Moskowitz, Eva S., In Therapy We Trust: America’s Obsession with Self-Fulfillment (Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 2001).
 Veroff, Joseph, Kulka, Richard A., Douvan, Elizabeth Ann Malcom, Mental Health in America: Patterns of Help-seeking from 1957-1976 (New York: Basic Books, 1981) 68.
 Bellah, Habits 121.
 Marketdata Enterprises, Inc. (2012) The U.S. Market for Self Improvement Products & Services. December 2012, 5.
 USA Today asked adults what they would ask a god or a supreme being if they could get a direct and immediate answer. Among the top three questions were “Will I have life after death?” (19% of respondents) and “Why do bad things happen?” (16%). However, the highest proportion of those polled, 34%, wished to know the answer to the timeless question, “What’s my purpose here?” (USA Today, May 28, 1999).
 The Futures Company. (2012). American Express LifeTwist Study. 2.
 Lichterman, Paul. (1992) “Self-Help Reading As Thin Culture,” Media, Culture & Society, 14 (3).
 Simonds, Wendy, Women and Self-Help Culture: Reading Between the Lines (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1992).
 See: Englis, B. G. et al, “Where Social Perception Meets Reality: The Social Construction of Lifestyles,” in Values, Lifestyles and Psychographics,Ed.Kahle, Lynn R., Chiagouris, Larry(Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1997); Starker, Steven, Oracle at the Supermarket: The American Preoccupation with Self-Help Books (New Brunswick: Oxford, 1989); Fried, Stephen B., Shultis, Ann, The Best Self-Help and Self-Awareness Books: A Topic-by-Topic Guide to Quality Information (Chicago: American Library Association, 1995).
The Learning Journey
audio by Pat Carrington
Don’t Make Assumptions
When people say things like: “The ocean is beautiful” or “There’s nothing more breathtaking than a sunset” do you ever find yourself robotically agreeing with them without consciously thinking about their statements? This is a common practice.
What if, when you really think about it, you discover you prefer mountains to ocean views, or would rather watch the sun rise than set? Do you know your own opinions? How easy it is to just agree than to be thinking all the time and even more to be feeling and to know what you are feeling? It’s even easy to say, “never allow others to tell you what to think, who you are or what you should be doing with your life”. And yet, we all do it.
The Four Agreements are a spiritual practice based on the ancient wisdom of the Toltecs, a Mexican tribe of wise and knowledgeable people. These agreements teach us a way to be self-directed and ultimately free. So far, we’ve covered – well, actually, we’ve touched on – the first two agreements – they are: Be impeccable with your word –teenagers I once taught summed it up for– only say nice things about yourself or others. Don’t take anything personally – not even the nice things others say about you!
And now we focus on Don’t make assumptions. Most of us don’t think we make assumptions. That’s the trouble; assumptions are assumed… they are not usually conscious.So, today, I’m going to share several examples of assumptions with the intention that we will all become alert to finding our own. Then, I’ll tell you a little bit about what to do with them when you find them.
I’ll start with an old joke: A 70 year old man went to his doctor for a check up and the doctor was amazed at his terrific physical condition. Looking for an explanation in genetics, the doctor said to the man, “how old was your father when he died?”
The man said, “Don’t assume my father is dead. In fact, he’s 90 years old and he still plays golf every day and he walks the course!”
The doctor said, “Well then, how old was your grandfather when he died?” “Don’t assume my grandfather is dead. In fact, he’s 110 and he just got married.” The doctor said, “Why would a man of 110 want to get married.” “Don’t assume he wanted to get married?”
Not all assumptions are funny. False assumptions occur everywhere, and can even be deadly. I believe this story is a true one.
“The confusion began at 6:18 P.M. Monday, when the woman’s landlord called 911, saying he had found her body in her basement apartment. Two technicians—E.M.S. employees with less training than paramedics—arrived within minutes and pronounced her dead at about 7 P.M. They notified the Medical Examiner’s office, which sent an investigator, a doctor, who assumed the woman was dead because the technicians had said so. The investigator had been in the apartment for more than half an hour when he heard what sounded like a single faint breath.”
Needless to say, she was alive.
Now, maybe the doctor should have known better than to assume the technicians’ information was correct, but most false assumptions don’t seem like false assumptions. They seem perfectly logical and reasonable at the time—so logical and reasonable, in fact, that you don’t even realize you’re making an assumption. Which is why it’s so easy for assumptions to create havoc with your good intentions.
Next is the story of a runaway cat – this is a story told by a friend of mine, Naomi Karten, during a seminar she was presenting to a client company. We were discussing how easy it is to make false assumptions and how they can lead you astray in solving problems. Suddenly, a secretary appeared with a message for Tara, a manager in the group. The message was from Tara’s neighbor who had called to say that Tara’s cat, Panther, had gotten out of the apartment and was running around in the hallway of her building.
“Not again!” Tara exclaimed. She said the cat probably dashed out when her cleaning lady opened the door. I told her this was the first time I’d ever had a class interruption caused by a fleeing feline. Fortunately, Tara lived only a few blocks away from work. Her secretary was most accommodating and, as she’d done in previous runaway-cat episodes, offered to go to the apartment, retrieve the cat,
and return it safely to Tara’s apartment.
Which she did and didn’t. That is, she did go over to the apartment. But she didn’t retrieve the cat and return it. Why? It seems it wasn’t Tara’s cat. She’d met Tara’s cat before, and she knew this wasn’t it.
Tara had made an assumption. She had assumed it was her cat. It sounded like her cat. It was the sort of thing her cat had done before. There was no reason for Tara to question the situation before leaping to conclusions. As a result, the idea of calling her neighbor back and asking a few questions to validate that it was her cat never occurred to her. So she didn’t ask what the cat looked like. She didn’t ask where, exactly, it was found. And she didn’t bother to ask if it responded to “Panther.” The odds were that it was her cat. Except that it wasn’t.
The fact that Tara lived nearby eliminated the need to analyze the situation more carefully. It was easy enough to just check it out. If it had been her cat, the problem would have been quickly resolved. And even though it wasn’t her cat, no one had been seriously inconvenienced.
But what if Tara had lived further away? Or her secretary hadn’t been available? Or as accommodating? Or what if the temperature had been 30 below or raining you know what and dogs? Would any of these conditions have caused Tara to challenge her assumptions, or ask some questions, or avoid allowing strong circumstantial evidence to lead her to a false conclusion? Who knows?
False assumptions can create havoc when you assume that you and others mean the same things by what you each say. In important situations, the safest starting point is to assume that they don’t mean what you think they mean and vice versa — until you’ve asked questions, sought clarification, and offered explanations. That way, you are more likely to identify some of the false assumptions that could interfere with a successful outcome.
The next story is from a couple that does relationship seminars. “We just got back from a very powerful workshop on Spiritual Partnerships with Gary Zukav, author of Seat of the Soul, and his spiritual partner Linda Francis.
The great thing about attending a weekend workshop like this is that you get to learn a lot about yourself and your partner. We got to learn about how making simple assumptions can damage relationships very quickly. Simple assumptions that we make about each other and situations can lead to resentment, distance and emotional separation if left unaddressed.
During our 12 hour drive to the workshop, Susie had an apple as a snack. She asked Otto if he wanted an apple. He looked at the apple and saw only one and assumed that that was the only apple in the food bag. Since he wasn’t hungry in that moment, but knew he would be soon, he mistakenly assumed that Susie was about to have the only apple.
A short time later Otto had tortilla chips for a snack instead of the apple he would have preferred. Now he didn’t resent Susie for eating the “last apple” but he silently wished there was another apple to eat instead of the chips. Susie was unaware of his assumption and desire for an apple, and it wasn’t until the food bag was taken to the room and unpacked that three other apples appeared.
If Otto hadn’t assumed that there was only one apple in the bag, he would have had what he really wanted to eat instead of the chips.
Isn’t this what we often do in relationships?
We silently want our relationships to be more passionate, more connected, more loving but we don’t know how to communicate our needs to our partners, our families or our friends.
We assume what we want isn’t available or isn’t possible, without attempting to make the connection and speak our needs in a way that they can be understood.
Sometimes we know what our needs are but don’t express them because we are fearful what the other will say or how he/she will react. So it’s easier to keep silent.
If we don’t communicate consciously and constantly, we start to make assumptions about how the other will react in a given situation and those assumptions are usually dead wrong.
When we make assumptions, we’re not living in the present moment–we are either in the past or in the future.
I suggest that you not make assumptions about how someone else is feeling or thinking in any relationship–no matter how long you’ve been together and how well you know that person.
We are all constantly growing and changing. If we want to grow together instead of growing apart, the most important thing we can do is to constantly communicate, one moment at a time. Decide to consciously create life the way you want it to be instead of allowing it to happen to you. The apple is there if you want it.
So — How do you Steer Clear of False Assumptions?
Keep in mind the one assumption you should always make; namely, that you and others don’t understand each other. Assume that others interpret what you say differently from the way you do, and that they mean something different from what you think they mean. Until you’ve gone through a process of information gathering and assumption challenging, it’s wise to assume that even if the words sound familiar, you’re speaking two different languages.
#2 Don’t minimize the importance of assumption-checking Become more aware of the fact that you and others (customers, partners, ministers, whoever) are making assumptions. One way to develop this awareness is to ask yourself what these assumptions might be. For example:
What assumptions are we making about . . . this project we are discussing . . . the intended outcome . . . the schedule . . . our roles . . our constraints . . . our expectations. . . our criteria for success . . . our priorities?
In most situations, I know I’m probably making an assumption when I hear myself say the words… it happened BECAUSE… and also when I find myself saying I JUST KNOW….
How do you know what you know in life? What’s your criteria for saying something is TRUE? I invite you to question when you say I KNOW it – have you heard yourself say something like – my mother or father told me when I was a child; I read it in the newspaper; or even – Rev. Toni said it last week or in her last book!
You are probably making an assumption when you say I KNOW it’s true…Even if we SEE it with our own eyes–WE INTERPRET – even things we think we are experiencing –can have a different interpretation than the one we give it.
It’s one of the most important Ancient Wisdom – We can’t trust what we SEE to tell us what is real…
Instead of making assumptions – we need to ASK questions. to find out what the other person’s view on something is.
Don Miguel tells us – Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. Leave no communication in question – — and be especially careful of saying things to a third person like — I wonder what HE meant – do you think she meant this. MAKE NO ASSUMPTIONS – ASK!!! Verify the TRUTH before you act on it and certainly before you spread it through the grapevine. – not just I have it from a reliable source.
From early on we learn to make assumptions because we think we always have to have an answer not just ANY answer – but the RIGHT answer!
At this moment, I invite all of us to open up to truly loving one another by giving up two things in life – THE NEED TO BE RIGHT – and the NEED TO BE IN CONTROL — both of those are illusions anyway.
In order not to make assumptions, we have to let go of these very basic needs; that’s why this is so tough.
Did you ever find yourself arguing for something that you don’t even know is true? We all have OPINIONS and we take a stand on them as if they were TRUTH. When someone says something I disagree with – I truly work to take on the attitude, THAT’S INTERESTING – and REALLY try to hear why they think what they are thinking rather than ASSUMING I know what they are thinking.
Don’t EVER ASSUME you understand another human
being – or know why he or she is doing what they are doing — the TRUTH is we don’t even understand ourselves.
We all have a set code of ethics that we live by –
What’s important to you in life? Your ASSUMPTIONS are based on – what YOU think is important. I guarantee that if you try to do that list for your spouse, your partner, your best friend – you will probably be WRONG most of the time.
We all make assumptions all the time. Nothing wrong with making assumptions – we just ought to know what they are – and be willing to challenge them in order to grow if they aren’t serving us well.
Whenever you get UPSET, behind the UPSET is usually a FEAR – and a NEED TO BE RIGHT and IN CONTROL…
The best way to PRACTICE this agreement is to catch yourself whenever you get angry, annoyed or agitated (whatever word you use!) – and ask yourself – what NEED is active here – the Need to be Right – or to be In control?
Then, stop and ASK what assumptions am I making? What am I taking personally?
Recognize that we only see and hear what we want to see and hear. Our minds don’t like not understanding something, so we make an assumption about the meaning.
We make assumptions all the time about what other people are doing or thinking what we think they should be doing and thinking. Partners, couples, families, friends assume the other knows what we want, They should know me
If he or she loved me , he or she would know what I want without my telling him — and then when things turns out differently we TAKE IT PERSONALLY
“The day we stop making assumptions with our loved ones, our ways of communicating will change completely “ We know we have stopped making assumptions when we have no more conflicts due to assumptions. We stop taking things personally.
By making this one agreement a habit, our life will be completely transformed.
Without making assumptions, our word becomes impeccable.
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