One thing I have been very aware of recently is that number of unsubstantiated assumptions we make. We make assumptions several times a day and they can often stifle opportunities, enable bad decisions and cause unnecessary stress.
I had this occur a couple of times last week. In the first instance a team member requested a meeting with me. I assumed it was to either give me notice or ask for a pay raise. I immediately became anxious and I played the ‘likely’ scenarios over in my head. I envisioned the conversation and my response. I assumed what the meeting would be about and was stressed leading up to it. The reality was far different from the ‘story’ I had concocted. The team member simply wanted to touch base and present an opportunity to me.
I also identified the power of assumptions with a colleague last week. They presented a strategy for our education business and how it would revolutionise our current business. The presentation was dynamic, passionate and the projected results were amazing. However, it was based on a number of untested assumptions. It would’ve meant a truckload of work and there was no basis for the projected results other than wishful thinking and hope.
I see this with many businesses. They assume a market demand for their product or service without actually testing the reality. They invest a huge number of resources when they could’ve started with a much simpler model to test the market. Start small, deliver and then iterate based on the feedback. It’s crushing to see so many people invest their livelihood into a business only to see it fail because they made too many unwarranted assumptions.
There are a few keys that you should adopt to ensure assumptions do not wreak havoc in your life.
- Be aware of the assumptions you make. I do this through a process of self-reflection after I have made a decision or come to a conclusion. Did I assume certain key elements to reach that point?
- Be open-minded. I have seen people make horrible assumptions because of close-mindedness.
- Become really good at asking questions. We give meaning to all situations but we should attach a healthy dose of doubt to really assess the reality. You can clarify this doubt through quality questions.
Assumptions can serve us as when we need to be decisive and make fast decisions. However, they can also send us down an unnecessary path of frustration and stress. The key is deciphering between the two and getting better at clarifying the accuracy of those assumptions.