Assumptions Are Our Mind’s Flypaper

Reality is what we assume to be true.  What we assume to be true is what we believe.  What we believe is based upon our perceptions.  What we perceive depends on what we look for.  What we look for depends on what we think.  What we think depends on what we perceive.  What we perceive determines what we believe.  What we believe determines what we assume to be true. What we assume to be true is our reality.  -David Bohm

I’ve studied Nancy Kline’s books “Time to Think” and “More Time to Think: The Power of Independent Thinking” to learn her unique approach to executive coaching.  She terms the coaching experience as “Thinking Sessions” and the coach and the coachee are equal partners in thinking together in new ways to resolve issues and develop into our next best selves.  If you are a professional coach, I highly recommend both of Ms. Kline’s books.

A key concept Klien explores is the concept of assumptions.  An assumption is a thought one accepts as true or certain without proof.  Assumptions are highly effective at keeping one stuck in the present state and can form the bars of a self-created cage to prevent personal and organizational change.

Assumptions allow one to conserve mental energy by thinking of plausible sounding stories which confirm our worldview of reality.  If I am an idealist by nature, I am likely to assume this is a normal worldview and may find it odd when I meet a staunch realist.  If I assume it to be cold in January in the Midwest and dress without checking the weather forecast, I might be sweating my assumption when it unexpectedly hits 70 degrees.  If I assume everyone will abide by traffic signals, I may have a collision with someone who fails to stop at a red traffic light.  The knowledge and experience of assumptions proving to be wrong, do not seem to slow down our brain’s natural tendency to continue to use personal assumptions to guide our choices and decisions.

How often we create self-fulfilling prophecies by not challenging and testing our assumptions.  We routinely assume our boss will deny our request for a raise so we fail to give the rationale for why we deserve a pay increase.  We assume we could never afford a college degree, so we never apply to college.

The most important question we can ask ourselves about any significant assumptions we make which offer a convenient excuse for not trying something new and/or different is to simply confirm the assumption with some questioning.  Is the assumption true?  Is the assumption always true?  Is there some different way to think about this assumption which would allow us to not make it true?

One will soon find many assumptions are true and can be classified a truths or facts.  Some assumptions cannot be proven but are likely true.  Other assumptions are not always true, but are the way one wishes to live his/her life so the assumption is decided to be true to them personally.  Some assumptions cannot be proven or disproved and can be thought of as possibilities.   Beliefs are assumptions which we trust on faith and do not seek to confirm.

The sum of our assumptions become the boundaries of our thinking and living.  Comfort zones are built out of seemingly solid assumptions.  To break free of our assumptions and to allow room for growth, one must ask and answer challenging questions.

What evidence do I have which supports my present limiting assumption?

What evidence exists which refutes my assumption?

Often one key assumption is tied to many sub-assumptions.  So if this key assumption is true, what other assumptions must also be true?

Which assumptions are you choosing to accept as true which are keeping you from living a Fired Up! life? If you knew that this assumption were not true, what could you then assume to be true that would be liberating?

Assumptions are our mind’s flypaper to keep us safely stuck in the present situation.  If we seek to grow and achieve our full potential, we must inventory and confirm our limiting assumptions.  A professional thinking partner/coach can help you sort through your assumptions.

Which assumptions need challenged today?



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