Agreement #3: Don’t Make Assumptions
We have the tendency to make assumptions about everything. The problem with making
assumptions is that we believe they are the truth. We make an assumption, we misunderstand, we take it personally, and we end up creating a whole big drama for nothing.
Question: How does a person stop making assumptions? My mind goes off and starts to think of all these things, and then I suffer all the time for no good reason.
don Miguel: The problem is that you think too much. You are way too smart. Think, think, think. Your mind is like a wild horse that takes you wherever it wants to take you. You have no control over all that thinking, all those assumptions — not just one assumption, a whole universe of assumptions. Why do you need to think at all? Something I teach my apprentices is to become a master of thinking.
For me, thinking is a tool for communication. For hours I just don’t think, and not because I’m stupid. I don’t think because I have no need to think. What I know, I know. I’m full of knowledge, but why do I need to think about what I know? Thinking, thinking, thinking: What is she doing? What is he doing? What if this happens? What if that happens?
Just thinking “What if?” creates a huge drama in our lives. Every human can think a lot, and thinking brings fear. It’s two o’clock in the morning, and you are still thinking, thinking, thinking. You need to tame the horse, and learn to ride the horse. The horse has to obey you and take you where you want to go.
You know, there is an impeccable way of thinking. If you have a problem, it’s time to think. Once you make a choice about how to resolve the problem, it’s time to stop thinking and take action. Now you know the solution; it’s over. But guess what? You have a problem, you think of the solution, and you don’t stop thinking. You keep thinking, and you come up with another solution, and you still don’t stop.
If you have just one solution, you have all the power of intent and you can resolve it. If you have two solutions, you divide intent in two. Three solutions—you’re losing power. Soon you’re confused, and you have to think about which of the solutions is the best. When you feel confused you feel powerless, and you need someone else to tell you what to do. Making assumptions is all about thinking. If you just stop thinking, you no longer make assumptions.
Question: My question is about knowledge and assumptions. I was wondering if the voices I hear in my head and what you call “knowledge” are the same as assumptions?
don Miguel: We can divide everything into what we know, which is the known; what we don’t know, which is the unknown; and what we will never know, which is the unknowable. We only know what we know: our knowledge. We only know the information accumulated in our mind by agreements. We know the whole reality that we perceive, we know our dream, we know our point of view.
The unknown is another story. When you meet someone, you create an image of that person and project it on that person. You only know what you project, and this is the known for you. But what that person has in his mind is unknown. You can make the assumption that you know what that person has in his mind. You can make the assumption that you know your children, or your father, or your mother, or even your dog, but you don’t know them. You only know what you believe about them; and it’s only true for you, no one else, because it’s your dream. The truth is that you will never know them. You hardly know yourself, but you pretend to know other people.
You only know what your knowledge tells you. You only know the judgments that you can make about everybody, the interpretations, your personal point of view. You don’t know what other people feel, what they think, what they believe, what they are dreaming. And you make the assumption that they believe what you believe, that they feel what you feel, that they see the world the way you see the world. And it’s knowledge that controls you.
As I said before, if we control knowledge, it becomes a tool of communication. We don’t make assumptions, we ask, and other people will tell us what is in their world. It’s that simple. We don’t have to make assumptions, but we also know that they will tell us what they know. It doesn’t mean it’s true.