Assume the consequences – How assumptions direct our lives
written by Kent Healy
⇒14 Dec 2010
Uncommon: Before you started reading this article you had to assume at least one thing: That reading this would be worth your time. Before you brushed your teeth this morning you may have assumed that not doing so would lead to a cavity. Before getting in your car and driving to work you had to assume that you would arrive safely.
Do you see the pattern? Assumptions are a very, very big part of our lives. They are literally the gatekeepers of behavior — and for the most part, the majority of us are not even consciously aware of the assumptions we make day in and day out.
We must make thousands of assumptions each day that are necessary for us to operate. Don’t believe it? As an interesting activity, list five actions you took (or avoided) in the past few hours. Work backwards to analyze why you made such decisions by asking yourself, “What would I have to assume to act that way?”
Some answers will be obvious others may be not. But you will find that all of your behavior can traced back to a single (or multiple) belief about what was going to happen as a result of your action or inaction.
Why is this important?
“What’s the point in uncovering my assumptions,” you ask? It can be a very liberating process. Once we identify why we do something we exert more control over our lives and gain the power to change things (if change is what we’d like, of course).
It’s important to take into account that, by and large, we do not intentionally or intelligently design our assumptions with care and forethought.
Instead, they often form as the result of past experiences (positive and negative), general authorities (parents, teachers, bosses, etc.), friends, societal culture, and so on. And lo and behold, not all ensuing assumptions serve us.
Assuming that money corrupts the human soul, for example, will not encourage the accumulation of it. Assuming the career you have is the best option for you, may prevent you from exploring (or recognizing) new opportunities. Assuming that you won’t like a certain type of food could devoid you a lifetime of enjoyment.
Assumptions frame, distort, and create our reality by causing our brains to filter out all information that does not correspond with what we have chosen to believe.
For this reason, personal transformations, “ah-ha” moments, innovations, and big leaps forward are often the result of setting aside previous assumptions to view life as objectively as possible. After all, it makes much more sense to approach life using deductive reasoning — working from an objective perspective to form a specific conclusion — than the reverse.
Below are a just a few personal assumptions that I have intentionally designed to help me do, be, and experience more:
- Attempting always trumps wishing and waiting for ideal circumstances.
- Trying and failing is still better than avoiding risk.
- What got me here, may not get me to where I need to go. Reassessing my approach regularly is crucial for continued success.
- The best opportunities are reserved for those who actively seek them.
- Helping others allows me see my own path in life more clearly.
- Bettering myself is not only beneficial to myself, but others as well.
- Nothing tastes as good as it feels to be healthy.
- There is always someone smarter than me. (How can I learn from them?)
- People act more intelligently when you treat them intelligently.
- Having high, but reasonable, expectations boosts performance.
- Successful money management requires ongoing discipline, sacrifice, and maintenance.
- My competence is my only security. Therefore, constant learning must be a priority.
- A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.
Ultimately, what matters most is identifying assumptions that are currently directing your decisions be it positive or negative — and the only way to accomplish this is through deliberate reflection. The more you do this, the better you will become at identifying the mental habits that are holding you back.
How have assumptions impacted your life? What are some personal examples? Post your comments below.
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