Managing your assumptions. What's beneath your "Because?"
Updated: Aug 12, 2019
Life is built on assumptions. Some of these we accept as reasonable without thinking about them. I accept that the world didn't come into being five minutes ago with the built-in appearance of ageing and that the memories I have really are my know and not planted there. I can't prove any of that, but it seems reasonable. It's a fundamental assumption I need to make to live my life.
Other assumptions we can test to see how valid they are. However, we can fall into the trap of accepting as fundamental, assumptions that really are open to question. The problem is that we then start thinking of the world as we experience it, as the only way it can ever be.
Explore your assumptions - question the "Because."
One way to start evaluating your assumptions is to think about what you do. What reflects your normal pattern of behaviour or thinking either individually, as a team, or as a business? You could start by listening out for every time you, a friend, or colleague, express thoughts in terms like these:
“We do this because….
”“We avoid this because….
”“We started down this route because…
”“We have to do it this way because….”
At the end of every “because” there will be a reason. Underlying every reason is an assumption which effects that particular “because.” Every underlying assumption constitutes part of the foundation on which your “because” is built. And underlying that assumption is another, deeper, assumption about the way the world works – why, fundamentally, things have to be the way they are.
Reviewing your assumptions
As you explore these assumptions you will make some discoveries – discoveries which will fall somewhere within the following range of options. Some assumptions are entirely valid and provide a secure basis for the way we do life, work, relationships, our service and our vocations. Some assumptions were probably valid once, but have had their day. Others were true for the people from whom we assumed them for ourselves, but were never true for us. Some of these assumptions were never true in the first place.
Valid and invalid assumptions
A valid assumption will have some basis in fact, or a reasonable conclusion at the end of a chain of evidence or logical argument. If you are currently thinking about an assumption and can’t find that objective basis for it, you may be looking at an assumption which is currently invalid.
Liberating and limiting assumptions
As a rule of thumb you might also ask yourself whether the assumption you hold is liberating or limiting. A liberating assumption is generally one that opens up new possibilities, or is one you can build on. A limiting assumption is likely to be one that stops you from making progress, developing, or expanding into new and creative areas, or keeps you from addressing important questions.
A good time to review your assumptions
There's never a bad time to test your assumptions. What's stopping you now from starting your own personal or corporate review of the assumptions which are lurking beneath your “because.”