“Most of our assumptions have outlived their uselessness.” ~Marshall McLuhan
But are all assumptions useless? I know, I know, I still remember my 6th grade teacher telling us what happens when we assume (Hint: It makes the first three letters of the word out of “u” and “me”).
Still, is there nothing we can assume in life? Is there nothing we can take for granted? Are we to truly see each and every experience as if it were wholly unique unto itself, unrelated and unrelatable to any other past or future experience?
It turns out that some assumptions are quite helpful as we navigate the rough waters of life. In fact, I make the following 7 every day of my life and have for the last couple decades, at least. The effect has been greater emotional health, deeper levels of happiness and more meaning and direction in my life. Try them on for size to see if they do the same for you.
7 Happiness-Inducing Assumptions
1. I assume there is a God Who loves me.
All expressions of faith are, in a way, spiritually informed assumptions we make about eternity, about religious or spiritual principles, about what exists beyond the realm of the scientifically provable. But such assumptions have a profound effect on what we think about the meaning and purpose of life, why we exist and what we’re doing here and what’s next.
They are more significant to an individual’s life and how it’s lived than laws of gravity or theories of evolution. They give substance to the decisions we make and elevate the context and meaning of our choices.
By assuming a God and assuming His love for me, I have a hard time undervaluing myself. Or others. My worth (and yours) is eternal, inherent and sublime. That’s not a bad position from which to face the choppy waters of life.
2. I assume what I do matters.
Whether I keep at it or give up matters. Whether I cheat or cut corners matters. Whether I’m honest in my dealings with others matters. It matters to me. It matters to them. It matters to my family. It even matters to humanity and the collective cause of human decency. And it certainly matters to God. And it matters to our happiness as well.
My honesty at work, my integrity at school, my faithfulness at home, what I do in the light of day or under the veil of night, in solitude, behind closed doors, all matters profoundly because it speaks to the heart and soul of who I am.
It’s the measure of my character. It’s the foundation of my life. It’s the substance of what’s most important to me. It’s the context and framework of who I am at a most fundamental level. And it’s the root system to the happiness I experience from day to day.
Incidentally, what I don’t do reveals just as much about my soul as what I do. I can pass or persevere, give up or give it all I’ve got, live a life of selfishness and greed or one of meaning and purpose, integrity and compassion. But at the bottom line of these beliefs is the assumption that it all matters.
3. I assume who I am matters.
How I live my life, the character I forge, the values I live by, the virtue I stand for, the honor I defend, the way I treat others all have tremendous meaning and significance. It’s an assumption I’m not willing to let go of.
It informs the goals I set, the standards I aspire to live by, the work that I do and the way I interact with others, the nature of the happiness I live with. Believing down in my guts that who I am matters helps me be a better parent and husband and son and brother and friend and neighbor.
4. I assume people are both decent and indecent.
I’ve always taken it for granted that some people will treat me well and others simply won’t. Some will be kind and some struggle with that trait. Some people are compassionate and others are mean-spirited. Some people give to those in need and some rob banks. Some are rude and others are sweet and thoughtful. And sometimes you and I fluctuate between the kind and the not-so-kind as well.
Humanity is a mixed bag. Accepting that fact solves a whole lot of heartache that believing otherwise would otherwise create. So when I encounter rude people, I’m not offended, crushed, confused or angry. Instead, I smile, shrug and move on to someone else. I don’t dwell on offenses or ruminate on perceived unfriendliness or question my likeability or God’s justice or their decency.
After all, I assume there will be both kind and rude people and sometimes kind people will be rude and sometimes rude people will be kind and sometimes I may even find myself somewhere in between the two. That assumption keeps me sane.
5. I assume personal imperfection, not as an excuse, but as a reality.
Somewhere in the course of the day, I’m going to mess up, do the wrong thing, say the wrong thing, fail to do the right thing, fail to say the right thing, or engage in some combination of all the preceding.
And on a particularly human day, I’ll mess up on all 4 of those possibilities at the same time. It’s a given. That assumption allows me at the same time to be vigilant at personal development, tolerant of others’ weaknesses and forgiving of my own moral face-plants and sincerely happy even in the midst of mistakes and mess-ups.
6. I assume there will be good and bad days.
If one day is challenging, all I have to do is wait for the tide to change, circumstances to shift, the next day to come. Things will get better. They always do. Then, when new challenges come, we will have learned something from the last time that makes weathering new storms easier.
But even if we learn nothing, the assumption that things will improve allows us greater emotional equanimity even in the middle of what would otherwise be emotional turbulence.
7. I assume the world will work just about the way it usually works.
The earth will spin. Gravity will keep me grounded. The laws of physics will still apply in most instances most of the time. And life will do what it typically does. The sun will set tonight and rise in the morning. Summers will warm and winters will cool and the tide will ebb and flow. There is a pattern of predictability that lends my life a sense of stability even when all else seems to be falling apart.
That assumption keeps me afloat when the winds pick up and the waves start to pound relentlessly. Knowing this, believing this, taking it for granted helps me keep my head up, my feet kicking and my arms paddling toward shore, knowing that in the end, all will be okay.
The Necessity of Assumptions (for life, peace and happiness)
If I can’t make a few basic assumptions about life, if each and every possibility suddenly becomes equally likely, if there were no guiding principles I was able to count on, and there ceased to be any predictability to any experience I ever had, every moment would be fraught with stress and happiness would be much more fleeting.
Think about it.
If absolutely nothing can be assumed, then every decision is monumental. Every moment is filled with possible collapse. Nothing can be set on autopilot and the mental muscles have to remain flexed at all times.
But when muscles never relax, they weaken and stiffen and fail. I don’t know about you, but I’ll accept an occasional “I-told-you-so” from someone who recites the “ass out of u and me” platitude just to add a little predictability to my life. Not cement. Just a degree of assurance that tomorrow the laws of the universe will still be in operation.
Your turn …
- What do you think? The usual advice is to get rid of assumptions, so this may be new to you. But does it ring true?
- I would love to get your thoughts in the comments!
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