Monday, January 24, 2011

Questioning Assumptions

"Honesty is the first chapter of the book of wisdom.”
Thomas Jefferson

So much of our model of the world is based on unquestioned assumptions absorbed from our culture, our families and friends. Unquestioned assumptions are life denying when they limit your choices and cause you to repeat patterns that no longer serve you.

A great learning metaphor that demonstrates this is the story of a young woman cooking a roast. She’s about to cut the meat into two, to put into the baking tray when she wonders why she is doing this. She decides to call her mother and ask. Her mother, perplexed by the question, says “I don’t know darling, that’s just the way I was taught. You’ll have to ask your Grandmother”.

The girl calls her Grandmother. “Grandma, how come when I cook a roast I have to cut it in half? Why do I do that?” “Oh darling” says the older woman, “You don’t have to cut it. In fact, it’s better if you don’t, that way the meat won’t dry out as much”. “It all started with your Great Great Grandmother. Back in her day, the stoves and baking dishes were very small. So to fit a roast in the tray you had to cut the meat in half. She taught her daughter that way, who taught my mother that way, who taught me. In turn, that’s what I taught your mother, and she taught you. It’s just the way we’ve always done it. But no, now that you’ve asked, you’re right, you don’t have to do it that way any more”.

This story is so typical of many habits and patterns, many assumptions, we have and do in our life. We learn things from family and society and unless we question the assumptions that these learnings and patterns are based on, we end up doomed to repeat the inefficient and unproductive patterns of the past.

Many practices from the past, especially those embedded in our culture, come from a time of scientific ignorance and superstition. Unless questioned, these practices cause you to metaphorically cut your roast in half. Leading to dried out, shrivelled results in life.

Question everything!!!

It's life enhancing to begin to question everything. All the old patterns and habits in your life. Ask yourself “Why do I do X?” Figure out the purpose and outcomes of your behaviours. Question the assumptions inherent in each of the patterns in your life. Then use the NLP Success Formula below (and described in the blog post on Living your Dreams).

NLP Success Formula:
  1. Clearly know your Outcome – know exactly what you want and ensure your outcome is well-formed, that it’s positive, achievable, believable and ecological.
  2. Take positive Action – congruently and wholeheartedly take action to achieve your outcome.
  3. Learn from Feedback – use your sensory acuity to determine if your actions are moving you closer or further away from your outcome. There’s no such thing as failure, just great feedback, cause if what you are doing is not moving you closer to your outcome then you need to perform the next step –
  4. Flexibility – change and adjust your behaviour (step 2) till you move closer to your outcome.

Apply this to the patterns in your life...

So get clear on your outcome, take new action, use your sensory acuity to learn from feedback and with requisite variety, change and adjust your behaviour flexibly to keep moving closer to your explicit outcome. Throw away old patterns that are a life denying enemy to your happiness and replace them with new patterns that serve you. Be honest with yourself. Question the presuppositions and patterns that form the basis of your life. It is life enhancing to question your assumptions!

Awareness Questions – Questioning Assumptions

Ask Yourself:
  • What is this behaviour or pattern based on? What are the assumptions this action is based on? Why am I doing this?
  • What outcomes and purpose does this pattern achieve? How else can I achieve the positive intent in a more useful and productive way?
  • Does this behaviour still serve me? What else can I do to achieve more life enhancing happiness?


  1. Grant, this formula is powerful. One must not underestimate it just because it sounds so simple.

  2. Grant. Really.

    Cutting your metaphorical roast in half leads to dried out, shrivelled results in life?

    Cheers John

  3. Hey Jean, you're so right!!! This formula is incredibly powerful and can make an amazing life enhancing difference when applied across a person's life.

    Thanks for reading and commenting, I truly appreciate it.

    cheers, Grant

  4. Hi John,

    Yup, for absolutely sure, "Cutting your metaphorical roast in half leads to dried out, shrivelled results in life!". I've seen it again and again in people's lives. I'm sure you have to. When people follow patterns and processes that no longer serve them, but they don't question why they cut their metaphorical roast in half, and continue to cause results that are less than life enhancing. So yes, "Really", I'm surprised you are so surprised :-)

    Thanks for reading and commenting. It's always good to get feedback.

    smiles, Grant

  5. I was just about to delve into my 'where do I want to be in 5 years?' exercise. I will make use of the formula to improve upon the outcome. I have recently started my own blogs, Lightarted Living and Lightarted Communications dealing with life enhancing issues also. I include the addresses for you here. I enjoy your words of wisdom.

  6. Hey Sue! Thanks for dropping by and thanks for the kind comments. I've checked out your blog and I love it! It's definitely life enhancing and filled with deep insight and a wonderful light-hearted philosophy. I'll be reading it often.

    smiles, Grant


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