Each day we enter some kind of social interaction (unless you live in the forest in which case the red-backed deer-tick does not count). In the course of that interaction we form opinions about the other person based on their behavior, courtesy, responses to questions, and personality. Often times these perceptions are based largely on assumptions, a way for our mind to fill in the blanks when we possess incomplete information.
I'd like to challenge you to buck assumptions.
It's difficult, it really is. Assumptions save us brain-power and are an adaptation that allows us to make decisions without full information when survival is necessary. But outside of the damn jungle, their use is questionable. A rude checker may be a jerk, or he may be having a bad day. What does this assumption get us? A lack of compassion for our fellow man.
Further more, I'd like to present you with a thought:
Perception is a mirror. Truth is a window.
More often than not, our perceptions and assumptions about others are reflections of the same toward ourselves. Conversation and intimate knowledge of another leads us to the truth of their character and circumstances, while our judgments reflect on our experiences and beliefs, filtering truth into a different color.
This can be a powerful tool, observing our assumptions and understanding them so as to better comprehend how we feel about ourselves, but we'll tackle that another time. Today, let's start the day off fresh. Shirk your assumptions and listen. Allow yourself to be surprised and question whether your judgments are based on facts. The worst that can happen? You become a better listener, even for 24 hours. That's nothing to balk at.
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I'm big on avoiding burnout. It's a problem that's plagued me for years and years and years, hamstringing my productivity at the worst times and forcing me to take a break from the hobbies and pursuits that I enjoy most.
There are simple ways to avoid burnout in the short-term, but a long-term solution requires quite a bit more understanding of how success is constructed.
In this article from the blog Study Hacks, the author details a study conducted by psychologists at the Universität der Künste (the Wolverines if I'm not mistaken...). The short version is that the most successful individuals studied spent their time hyper-focused on one task at a time instead of overloading themselves with many tasks at once.
But while this may be hard to stomach or comprehend, it's the truth, and it is exactly that psychological bias that causes us to stay in patterns of burn-out. According to a recent article in Psychology Today, if you have to exhaust yourself physically and mentally to slow down, you may be relying on faulty assumptions such as the desire to be perfect, the belief that you should not feel stressed, and the need to delay relaxation until all tasks are done.
It begins with a basic acceptance that we will never really understand what's going on around us. We'll be wrong all the time, and oblivious even more frequently. It may feel as though we understand ourselves and our world around us, but the number of times we are wrong or surprised illustrates how little we actually know with certainty.
What do we do with this uncertainty?
We consider the facts that we accumulate, even though our perceptions on which those facts are based are often incorrect, and we fill in the gaps with assumptions that make sense. Then we turn those assumptions to fact with a magic wave of a mental wand.
This idea is uncomfortable for all of us, maybe even repulsive. It's hard to swallow the idea that the world is so big and complex that no one really understands with certainty much of what's going on.