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Such Dangerous Things


Yet we all make them…


…All of the time, whether that’s about intentions, motivation, competence, happiness, wealth….



I was caught out recently when chatting with Andy Bibby from the brilliant 87% mental wellbeing platform www.87percent.co.uk. I was cross with myself for falling into the trap.



Assumptions shape our actions. They limit us. The restrict our mindset. Ever experienced the feeling, “I’m not going to be good enough!”? They can literally stop us in our tracks and prevent us from doing the things we want, with who we want. When assumptions are left unchallenged, they can become ‘fact’ and we end up looking at the situation with one lens.



Andy and I were discussing a project that we’re collaborating on, but that belongs to someone else. I’m providing my psychological knowledge and skills and Andy is setting up 87% for the client to benefit from. During our first proper conversation about how we link up, my beliefs about his extensive engagement with the project to date meant that I was feeling a bit in the dark. I didn’t want to appear incompetent (it’s the first time we’ve worked together); I was conscious of wanting to make a good impression. The result was a sense of anxiety about ‘getting it right’ and a need to prove my value that was dominating my thoughts.



I was wrong. It turned out that Andy was looking to me for information, guidance and expertise and he had assumed I knew more than he.



Letting our guard down shows confidence in who we are. Yes, it can leave us feeling a little exposed but authenticity and clarity is needed for real progress. When we’re collaborating, whether that’s within our team or with external organisations, checking out the ‘unknowns’ allows us to become clear about the strengths, helps us to identify the gaps, and enables us to formulate a more successful because it’s based on fact.



Challenging our assumptions opens up new possibilities. We are able to leave behind the weight of restrictive thinking and adopt a growth mindset. Once our misconceptions were out in the open, Andy and I could get down to business. The ability to be honest and open with each other and check out our beliefs cemented our relationship. And it gave us an opportunity to laugh and breathe a huge sigh of relief!



So, what should I have done differently? How do we check out assumptions?

              1. What are the facts? In other words, what you KNOW to be true as opposed to what you believe.


              2. Ask yourself what other people who know you would say about your assumptions. Would they agree? Putting yourself in others’ shoes forces you to take another perspective.


              3. Ask other people. What do they understand/ feel/ believe about the situation? What’s the evidence?


              4. Check your language. When we narrow our vision, we also narrow our vocabulary. We might feel defensive or anxious, and this increases the tendency to catastrophise. Observe the language you’re using (including that of your inner voice) and move away from words and phrases such as ‘never’ or ‘always’.


              5. Notice patterns. We automatically form assumptions based on past experience and expectations of the future. Explore why you believe that assumption. What is it based on? And then allow yourself to look for opportunities to break the cycle. Each time we do something it can change, if we allow it, and if we do one small thing differently. That small thing could be looking for a different outcome or noticing different behaviours to those you predicted.


“To assume is to limit the mind to one way of viewing, when by nature our perceptions should be infinite.”



Create a list of the assumptions you have made about a person or an activity. Use the pointers above and observe how you are able to re-align your expectations.


Feeling stuck? Give me a shout. Identifying and checking out assumptions is my bread and butter.


Thank you for taking time to read this article. Please share so that others can learn about checking out their assumptions.



P.S. And do excuse me for being human and occasionally falling into the trap. What makes that ok is becoming aware and then challenging the default setting. How aware are you? And how good are you at pressing the stop button?