A few weeks ago, I was speaking with a co-worker and the topic of living in France came up. Right on cue, I said: “Oh. I’d LOOOOOVE to live in France.” And this is true—I 100% would. But, it’s not like I actually think I’m going to live in France one day… it’s more of a pipe dream kinda thing. My co-worker agreed and the conversation continued. At some point, she corrected me and said: “No, no. My family is actually going to move to France.”
So then I made this face: ?
And then this one: ?
I was surprised because:
- She and her husband/partner are both Australian citizens
- They have two kids under five and a house
- Both have corporate gigs
- Neither is a native French speaker
Needless to say, I assumed she was joking, like I was. Realizing I was wrong, I asked a
few hundred questions: What about visas? The house? BUT YOU DON’T SPEAK FRENCH?! She (calmly) explained that they would be sponsored by companies, which is doable given their jobs/industries, and rent the house. They need to pass two French tests to work in their fields so she’d completed the first and is taking lessons to prep for the second. Hubby is working on it too so when the kids are a bit older, they’ll move.
In short? They have a plan. It’s not going to happen overnight BUT they are taking steps towards it. They are doing the work.
This example made me think about the consequences of believing assumptions that aren’t, in fact, true. In this case, it’s obvious and my co-worker would miss out on living in France. Quelle horreur! (translation: That’s awful!) But…what about other areas of your life? Say the ones related to your health and fitness? (cuz this is a food blog after all)
Quick sidebar: Before we get into it, here’s a quick road map of where we’re going. This blog post will be presented in two halves: the first sets the context and the second is more of a “how to” where I share some food for thought (get it?) for how you can challenge your assumptions.
Ready? Let’s do this.
Part 1: Making the case
It’s easy to think that we’re not making assumptions. I mean, duh? We’re smart people, right? We all know what happens when you assume something.
And yet, we totally do it.
The thing is, we don’t realize it because I believe that many (most?) of these assumptions are unconscious—they’re hard-wired into our subconscious, whether because of history, society, culture, etc., and we may be completely oblivious to them. They may even sound logical to us, and yet they are not based on fact or our own personal experience. The latter is important because if it did or didn’t happen to someone else, the same may, or may not, apply to you.
Don’t believe me? Try this exercise
For example, ask yourself (honestly!) if you believe, or have believed, any of the following…
- you’re automatically going to put on weight as you age.
- you can’t eat every night as a family…or the same meal.
- you can only exercise on the weekend if you work full-time.
- your carnivore husband can’t do Meatless Monday.
- healthy food is boring, time-consuming and/or expensive.
- you’ll get fat during pregnancy.
- you’re too old to become more flexible or stronger.
- you can’t stick to a new routine because you’ve already tried and failed.
- exercise suuuuuuucks.
- you’re the only person who can cook dinner (or make lunches).
- your kids can’t eat vegetables, curry, fish, etc. etc. etc!
- you can’t exercise or eat healthy on vacation.
- the baby weight is here to stay.
- you definitely can’t cook. Or work out at 6am. Or give up chocolate for any period of time.
- being healthy is too much work.
I admit I’ve had one or more of these thoughts cross my mind. You too?
Ok, but…why do we do it?
Of course, as smart people, we may not rationally, logically or consciously believe these things but somehow, we still don’t question them. Why? Given my own experience, I would say that it’s likely for one of three reasons:
- we’re afraid of believing the opposite is true
- we’ve been disappointed in the past
- it’s easier to assume the negative than doing the work to actually make it happen
Now, obviously if you’ve tested your assumptions before and they’ve proven to be correct (e.g. your kids definitely-positively-no-can-do eat peas), then, umm, that’s no longer an assumption. That’s information that you can act on.
Part 2: The consequences of assumptions
So, we all assume. But…who really cares anyway? After all, I’m the girl who’s always banging on about efficiency. What’s the harm in a little shortcut?
The short answer: you could be missing out on something awesome(r).
The slightly longer answer: The potential consequences of incorrect assumptions are two-fold:
- You miss out on something completely – think taking up a new skill/sport/hobby, implementing a new routine or, in the case of my co-worker, moving to France.
- You miss out on an improvement over your current situation – think more frequent family dinners, a smaller dress size or less stress (yes, it’s possible!).
In some cases, you may not even know what you’re missing out on.
Still with me?
By now my hope is that I’ve given you something to think about, even if it’s just for a hot second. I truly believe that anyone can live a healthy(ier) life…despite work commitments, children, long commutes, education, hobbies, etc., etc., etc. More importantly, I think we all deserve it. Yes, it takes (some) work BUT it’s possible. The first step is making sure that our own assumptions aren’t holding us back.
(p.s. I make no apologies for how cheesy I sound and spoiler alert—there’s more to come).
Now, before we close out round one, here’s a personal story to bring it all home.
That time I made a big assumption
Now, before I sign off on part one, I wanted to share a story about a time I fell into the trap of making assumptions.
When I decided to move to Toronto in 2009, I knew this meant that I would be driving to Waterloo erryday, which required trading in my 7-minute commute for an almost 3-hour round trip. Obviously, I wasn’t looking forward to it. I mean, there’s the long drive, bad traffic, risk of snowstorms and accidents, time lost, early mornings and late nights.
But do you know what I dreaded most?
I was (legit) afraid that this change would translate to weight gain. It seemed a given, like it magically came with the commute: “Thanks for driving, Lori. Please enjoy the extra pounds.”
Here’s a sample of the internal monologue running through my brain before the move:
Man, with work and the drive, I’m looking at 12+ hour day.
When am I gonna exercise?
I can’t go after work because then I’ll get home too late.
But I’ll be too tired when I get home!
I guess it’ll have to be the weekend.
And what about cooking?
Am I gonna feel like cooking after work?
Ok…so then what are we going to eat??
Takeout I guess. Maybe I can buy some frozen stuff too.
This is not good.
I’m going to get FAT.
Ridiculous? Maybe. Embarrassing? You betcha. Shallow but honest? Fo sho. But on the surface, it also seemed perfectly logical to me. The commute was going to turn my routine upside down and the things keeping me healthy (also very important to me) and in reasonable shape up to that point—that is, regular exercise and cooking—were going out the window completely.
Still, this belief was based on a very clear assumption on my part, seeing as the commute was a new experience for me. The consequences were equally clear—if I’d didn’t do anything about my new situ, I most likely would have gained the weight and my health and fitness would have suffered, all of which would definitely not be awesome.
So…what happened? Stay tuned to find out! And in the meantime, I encourage you to think about any unconscious assumptions you may be harbouring.