In an effort to minimize risk, we all have the tendency to predict possible outcomes and plan accordingly. To make these predictions, we can’t help but draw from past experiences and preconceived notions of the world in order to keep ourselves safe. And this is not always a bad thing.
Predicting and falling back on patterns, assessing the risk and moving with caution, and even “judging” – these are all human ways of adapting for survival. But when taken to an extreme, they can prevent us from embracing the unpredictable nuances of life and of people.
If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past few months, it’s that I actually don’t know much at all.
It’s humbling to admit, but it’s a very important lesson that I’m glad to be learning: never assume anything. There is literally no point in overthinking, because 75% of the time I’ll probably be wrong, or at least incomplete in my thinking, and reality is usually far from what I imagined or predicted. But in a way, it’s kind of liberating. It allows me throw my hands in the air and surrender to life, and just be present to the way it unfolds.
There’s something freeing about walking into a new situation or meeting a new person and acknowledging that you really don’t know anything – and then diving in to find out. To walk in with your nose in the air, as if you already know everything about a person or a situation, is to limit your understanding of them profoundly. This tendency is natural, it’s human, it’s instinctive … but we can choose to be more flexible and open.
No one is ever one-dimensional. We can’t easily put people into boxes. Seemingly contradictory characteristics can coexist in a single person. Most of the time life isn’t black and white; it falls somewhere in the grey area. There are too many hidden variables to predict situations perfectly. We’d miss out on so much if we never allowed our assumptions to be challenged.
So, yes, exercise your judgment, trust your gut instincts, don’t waiver from your core convictions, and avoid unnecessary situations that make you feel unsafe … but don’t let it get to an extreme where it prevents you from living in reality or seeing things more accurately.
Don’t be afraid to be completely and utterly wrong.
Let go of the need to be right all the time. Don’t be so fixed on upholding certain assumptions just because they’re familiar or it’s how you’ve always seen the world. Be open to life, to people. Try to really see. You might just marvel at what you find — or, at the very least, you’ll be able to cope with whatever life throws at you, even if it’s far from what you expected.