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?




The Better Tree

Secluded in a distant corner

of life’s mysterious and murky forest

grows the better tree.

Towering through a fog of possibilities

its branches stretch skyward

seeking to bask in the radiance of the sun’s energy.

Atop a new each day

matures the most satisfying of life’s delights,

a single ripened better fruit.

Camouflaged by life’s

amusements and distractions,

the better tree is invisible to many.

Few choose to ever seek it out

and fewer still decide to make the daily climb

in a quest to taste true satisfaction.

Those brave souls of a tenacious bent

who discipline themselves to make the trek

may still find the slippery bark and thorny limbs

too daunting a foe and quit.


Photo by Andy Dix

Photo by Andy Dix

Others remain content to

gorge on lesser fallen fruit

which momentarily fills

but does not satisfy.

On the best of days

growth’s hunger creates

an insatiable desire

to tolerate the climb’s

peril and pain.

For those who have tasted the sweetest fruit of the better tree

have seen their life’s world in truth’s blinding light.

They have savored the warmth of satisfaction

flowing throughout their being.

Knowing tomorrow’s climb awaits

but for the moment they can appreciate,

the worthiness of today’s effort for

the wisdom and experience gained,

has made them better.


Will you choose to seek the better fruit and make your daily climb?









Are We There Yet?

No statement can exasperate a traveling parent like a cacophony of whiny “Are we there yets?” continuously barraged over backseats by bored child-like passengers.

Everyone has agreed on the trip’s destination goal. Most travelers have at least some estimate of travel time and an estimated time of arrival, assuming all goes as planned. So, why is it often difficult to simply sit back and enjoy the ride? I have come to believe “getthereitis” is caused by a lack of measurable waypoints to mark the passing progress towards a goal.

As a pilot, we learn to fly by finding identifiable landmarks on the ground and we calculate how long it will take us to fly from waypoint to waypoint. If we are ahead of schedule we have more favorable winds, if we are behind, then the winds are slowing our progress and if we can’ t find the waypoint, we are lost. The pilot’s goal is to safely arrive at the correct airfield before the fuel runs out.

I primarily coach sales executives for my chosen profession. Sales organizations always have a revenue growth goal or sales budget which they use to track performance. Most often it is based on a monthly, quarterly and yearly calander. They often benchmark their progress against last year’s sales as well. The challenge for these financial mountain climbers is they often develop a pass/fail attitude which is similar to getthereitis. Sales managers often check the sales figures and whine, “are we there yet?” Meaning, have we achieved our sales goals yet? The problem is they have spaced out their financial waypoints too far and do not recognize their progress or lack there of, often enough. Every moment they are not at their sales goal, they feel like they are failing because they are not there yet. This anxiety can cause a hyper focus which can become counter-productive. Are we there yet? No. Then we must push harder. Sales getthereitis can set in even when performance is actually right on schedule. It’s like saying, Disney is still 300 miles away, let’s drive faster!

Imagine if your goal is to lose 25 pounds by Summer. A reasonable strategy would be to calculate a weekly pounds to lose goal and then track your daily weight. You can celebrate each ounce you lose and correct quickly for any plateau or minor gain. Most importantly, you can track your progress and see if you are on schedule to Bikiniville. This is a much more encouraging and effective strategy than weighing in around the first day do Summer to judge if you were successful or a failure. Tracking small wins and celebrating each success while correcting each minor setback is a proven success strategy.

Asking “are we making progress and are we on schedule?” are more effective questions than “are we there yet?” I hope my kids will read this post before our next vacation.

Do you our your team suffer from getthereitis? Maybe setting some milestones and celebrating each bit of progress can make your life’s journey much more enjoyable.

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