Mr Goldberg and his assumptions

10 August 2017

Mr Goldberg and his assumptions

Today I repeat the little story about Mr Goldberg who so badly wanted to win the lottery. I really like these fables - for one reason or another they stick with me better than the usual theoretical musings. Here goes.

There once was a very religious Jew named Goldberg who wanted to win the lottery. He would go to the synagogue every Sabbath and pray: “God, I have been such a pious man all of my life. What would be so bad if I won the lottery?”. And the lottery would come, and Goldberg would not win. This went on week after week, month after month. Finally, one Sabbath, Goldberg couldn’t take it anymore, and cried out to the Almighty: “God, I have been so good, so observant. What do I have to do to win the lottery?”

And suddenly the heavens parted and the voice of God boomed out: “Goldberg, give me a chance. Buy a ticket.”

I can picture it so clearly. Goldberg had forgotten to make a clear agreement with the one he was expecting something from. He just assumed that God would take care of everything - given his pious life, he simply deserved it. However, he had not checked this assumption, and built his whole reasoning on it. He could have saved himself months of frustration if he had first discussed with God what He needed, so He could give him the chance to win the lottery. Goldberg had also made Him fully responsible.

Aren't we all doing this - assuming what others want or how others see things, without any further thought? Someone once said "Assumptions are the termites of relationships". One of the reasons why we let assumptions affect our relationships is that it is apparently easier for our brain to rely on our own assumptions than to be challenged to stretch and grow. It simply takes less energy to follow a well-worn habitual path than to stay open to new ways of thinking or other perspectives.

It is worthwhile to take a closer look at the assumptions you have about the persons with whom you have a personal or professional relationship. You could develop the habit to ask yourself if a certain assumption is really true. And what if it is not?

Take responsibility for your share in the situation (and let others be responsible for theirs). Far too often we act like Mr Goldberg, waiting and hoping that life will somehow unfold in a more fulfulling way but not actually buying the ticket. We might as well buy one and see what happens!

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