Accepted assumptions form dangerous foundations in our minds.
A statement, taken as truth when it isn’t necessarily true jostles amongst the facts to guide our choices. Mix them together and we end up making decisions with information we think we can trust. It is no wonder we end up making choices which evolve into unexpected outcomes.
What we really need to do is validate the assumptions that form our core belief system (something we will get to soon).
Intelligence is the ability to separate fact from fiction. It is the establishment of first principles which enables us to separate myth and reality. With this power comes the opportunity to gain significant upsides when thinking.
As Einstein said, "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them."
Of course, this sounds simple but it isn’t easy.
Trust Blinds us to Accepting Assumptions
Most assumptions push us to accept the status quo.
It happens all the time. Information we hear from those we trust goes unchallenged. Sometimes it can sit there for years, stopping you from knowing the truth.
Chris talked about how we define ‘normal’ through our self-talk.
As he said, we become comfortable with our version without knowing what ‘normal’ is. For years, Chris thought feeling tired was normal. Why?
Because growing up, his mum was always telling people how tired she felt. Chris internalized tiredness as being normal. He heard his mum say it so many times, he accepted it as part of adult life.
This assumption planted itself when Chris was a child.
And there it stayed until a health kick brought the topic of tiredness up.
A friend, unblighted by the same assumption shattered the conclusion Chris has drawn from his mum. Tiredness wasn’t normal.
The feeling of exhaustion can come from vitamin deficiencies and supplements can correct it.
Accepting assumptions can be dangerous.
Trust forces us to accept assumptions. We negate the need for evidence when we hear statements from those we hold dear to ourselves. We have fallen for the trust fallacy.
The good news is even the most deeply embedded assumptions can be challenged. Of course, in an ideal world, we want to stop ourselves from accepting the assumption in the first place. We have to stop these opinions from entering our core belief system as facts.
Here’s how. Step by step:
Step 1: Question Your Response
The first step is stopping yourself from accepting assumptions is to question your default response. At the moment, the way you respond to information depends on who is giving it to you.
You have to realise you can’t let this default response linger.
Instead of acceptance, change your default to a mode of questioning. Break the trust fallacy and instead ask questions which help you check the information you’re given.
The same questioning can help identify existing assumptions (and help you with decision-making and solving problems). Here are some questions to shape your response:
- What do I know to be true?
- Why am I thinking like this?
- What’s the worst that can happen if I question this?
- How can I prove (or disprove) this?
Step 2: Be Curious
When someone offers you information, look to see their perspective.
Ask questions to find out why they believe what they’ve shared with you. Everyone has a different core belief system and curiosity allows you to see this. It allows us to update our core belief system with ease, which can stop assumptions from lingering longer than they need to.
When we forgo being curious we are essentially putting a wall up to new information. We are declaring ourselves as right and everyone else as wrong. Arrogance is the signal curiosity isn’t on display.
Don’t be arrogant, be curious.
Let your curiosity explore the information and welcome the contribution from others. The openness to discovering new insights is a precious skill vastly underrated in this world.
Step 3: Live With Humility
People aspire to live with an approach whereby they have strong opinions loosely held.
The problem with strong opinions is they can slide you into a world of expectation. We tend to lose sight of the ‘loosely held’ part. The reason is expectations come from assumptions.
Being humble is arguably a more powerful approach.
Humility removes you from perfection. It means we are more forgiving of ourselves and others with the opinions and information we gather. We can say with ease, “I don’t know.”
Humility lets us try new things and be less beholden to our existing beliefs.
Assumptions will never stop tripping us up.
But you don’t need to walk blindly into a belief and suffer the acceptance as Chris did.
You can prepare yourself to not let your core belief system become infused with unconfirmed statements you treat as facts. Each of the three steps I’ve outlined are simple. But they can reduce the number of assumptions you accept without challenge.
It’s three steps to help you escape accepted assumptions.