Motherhood teaches us a lot, usually before we are ever ready to learn it. Sometimes when we least expect it.
I found out I would be a mother just two weeks after I had left my cushy office job to start my work-at-home freelance design business. After that, there was no going back. My place of employment already had my replacement. So I had to make this work; both the new business and becoming a mother for my baby on the way.
My path to motherhood, like most women, was a bit rocky and far from perfect. However, I have had my fair share of motherhood epic fails and significant wins. My boys are now ages eight and ten, and I can easily say one of the biggest lessons I have learned is “assume the best.” It’s one of the simple yet powerful mantras I have collected over the years in raising our little family.
Raising Empathetic Children
I realized I had to start “assuming the best” in people if I wanted my kids to do the same. After all, grace and empathy are a big part of living a happy life and having good relationships. Both of those are things I desire greatly for my kids. So if I desired them for my kids, shouldn’t I also want them for myself?
During my journey of discovery I read a book that quickly became one of my favorites on this topic. The book is called Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box. It primarily focused on business but can be used for family life, too, as it has many scenarios from everyday home life.
It talks about this “disease” of self-deception (acting in ways contrary to what one knows is right) underlies all leadership problems in today’s organizations, according to the premise of this work. However well-intentioned as they may be, leaders who deceive themselves always end up undermining their own performance.
This straightforward book explains how leaders can discover their own self-deceptions and learn how to escape destructive patterns. The authors demonstrate that breaking out of these patterns improves teamwork, commitment, trust, communication, motivation, and leadership. Again this can be both for work, and at home. I’ve found it amazingly useful over the years and have read it a couple of times and still find myself referring back to it again.
Assuming the Best Can Be Hard
It’s so easy to assume the worst in people. It’s easy to assume the person who cut you off in traffic is just a lousy driver and rude – instead of thinking that maybe they are in a rush to the hospital. Maybe their wife went into labor, or God forbid, a family member is dying.
It’s easy to assume the acquaintance who didn’t say hi to you is just being rude or inconsiderate – instead of realizing maybe they have a lot on their mind these days and it’s not all about you.
It’s easy to assume that the child being a bully to your child is just a brat – instead of stepping into his shoes and finding out that maybe he is treated poorly at home, or has low confidence, or is himself being bullied someplace else.
It’s easy to assume your kid’s teacher is not returning your emails because she’s not that good of a teacher – instead of realizing she is going through one of the toughest challenges of her life as her husband has threatened divorce.
It’s easy to assume that the sale you’re trying to make just isn’t going to happen because that person never called you back instead of realizing that person didn’t call you back. After all, life just got busy.
These are scenarios, but my point is, how different would life be if we assumed the BEST in people instead of the worst? How different is it when we take ourselves out of the center of it all and step into the shoes of someone else?
How many friendships are lost due to our own faulty lenses of reality? How many family ties are broken because of our own self-deception and altered reality?
It’s a surreal topic to think about, no doubt.
Growing our Empathy Along with Our Kids
I’m no saint. We all screw up. I feel compelled to share this today because I know there are other moms out there just like me that desire this mindset, yet may also find struggle with it. “Assume the Best” is a lesson I touch on for my kids daily, and when I do that, it serves as a reminder to myself.
Developing this mindset takes time. One of the fun ways to do this with your kids is to play one big ongoing empathy game. Whenever a situation comes up that might promote ill feelings, take that as an opportunity with your kids to flex your creative mind muscles and come up with some scenarios that could help you develop empathy for the other person instead.
For example, let’s say my kids and I get cut off in traffic while driving across town – then we come up with different scenarios as to why that might be – maybe that person was late for work, or had to rush to see a loved one, or has to go to the bathroom. It can be as heartfelt or funny as you want to make it.
Hopefully, you found this article helpful. When was a time that you “assumed the best” and discovered something you may not have otherwise known?