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Insight Out

Seeing beyond what is visible

The assumption checking muscle

By Mei Lan

The first time people meet me they have a bunch of assumptions about what I can and can not do as blind person.
Totally logical, I think. You come across something that you don’t know, blindness, and the next thing, you start creating various ideas and thoughts in your mind about how that life as blind person would be, what would no longer be possible. Sometimes you even think “If it were me, I wouldn’t leave the house anymore. And I would not be able to do this and that.”
When I spend a bit more time with these people, they quickly realise that the assumptions are not making sense anymore. Then they say: “Oh, I didn’t know that a blind person can work with a smartphone or that you can live by yourself and cook your own meals.”
This has little to do with how amazing I am, but everything with the principle of assumptions.
Assumptions are ideas or thought that you, without checking them, adopt as truths. This truth is based on nothing and can be very different from reality. The dangerous thing happens when we start basing our behaviours and decisions on these truths/assumptions. When then the other one also has assumptions about you and starts to base his/her decisions and behaviours on those assumptions, we are all lost in space.

My head is also stuffed with assumptions, even about blindness and blind people.
I have years of experience with being blind, still I am not free of assumptions at all.
The only difference I see is that life invites me to test and check my assumptions.
Imagine that my assumption is that blind people can not travel. If I would adopt this as my truth, I wouldn’t leave our tiny country, “because that is unfortunately not possible anymore since I’m blind.”
I am very lucky with a big amount of drive to get the very best out of life from when I was little. I want to experience it all.

If I would have followed the assumption, I would not have gotten very far.
So at a certain moment something in me says: “Hey, let’s try this out. Is this really not possible?”
Is it impossible to travel, cook, surf, ski, ride a bike, … as a blind person?
I discovered every time that it is possible.
When I want to travel, there is assistance at the airport. When I want to surf, I book private lessons, so I always have a pair of eyes looking out for me.
When I want to cook I use my ears and my hands. When I want to ride a bike, I buy a tandem bike or I look for a friend who’s crazy enough to run next to me and yell “left! right!” stop!”

The same goes for skiing by the way.

I learnt to not ask myself “Is this possible?”. Instead I ask myself “How is it possible for me?”
How can I adjust the circumstances so that it works for me? And then the only question left is: “Are the adjustments in proportion to what I want to do?”
I could for example become photographer. The adjustment would be that I hiring someone permanently to be my eyes and look through the lense.
That is, for me, a bit too much hassle for something I don’t really want to do.
Surfing, on the other hand, is a true passion of mine, so then I find it worth while to book private lessons and have someone watching for me.

Thanks to my limitation, blindness, and the will to get everything out of life I am forced to develop the muscle to test assumptions time and again.
It is a muscle that you can train and it gives you flexibility and creativity.
The only thing you need to do for it is ask yourself with every limiting belief that comes up: “Is that really so?”
Every single time that you think “I can not do this” or “This is not possible” you pause your thoughts and ask yourself: “How would it be possible for me?”

The beautiful thing about this muscle is that it does not only work to get obstacles for blind people out of the way.
Assumptions are in all domains of our lives and checking them opens new possibilities every single time.
Is it really so that you can’t change jobs? Is it really so that you are too short to become a basketball player?
How can you adjust the circumstances so that you realise your dream? What can you think of so that you can combine your career and family?

The most fun thing I think is that you never know what answer is gonna come up.
The muscle works the best on the fuel of pure, childlike curiosity.

Which assumptions did you adopt as truths? And which assumption do you want to check today?

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