Assumptions: The Battle For Your Mind

Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind was the name of  a seminal book that was released around the time I started my career (yes, I know that was a long time ago!). It talked about how positioning a brand was essentially about getting it to occupy a space in your mind, and how this then changed your attitude towards the brand, eventually getting you to buy more of the brand or prefer it over others. 

Just like positioning is an insidious taking over of your mind viz. a viz. brand preferences, assumptions insidiously take over your mind viz. a viz. yourself, others, and situations. Assumptions are important for us to live our lives; the basic modus operandi of living is to make assumptions about things and take decisions on the basis of those assumptions. Were we not to make assumptions, we would never make any decisions, since we rarely have all the information needed available. The problem begins when those assumptions begin to  limit our own capability, or those of others, or make the situation seem worse or un-handleable. In these situations, at best the assumptions put a glass ceiling on our ability to manage the situation at hand; though most of the time they are the start of a self fulfilling prophecy where we end up working far below our capacity, and begin believing that this is the limit of our capability.

Here's how it works. The assumptions I make drive the actions I take. The actions I take determine the impact I make. The impact I make furthers my beliefs about myself. And my beliefs in turn drive my assumptions. 

Let me illustrate with an example from my own life. I've just moved house, and one of the things I'm having to deal with is a crooked architect/ contractor. If I make an assumption that I can't handle crooked people, I will not confront him when he tries to cheat me ( I will probably find some way of justifying my non action to myself). Because I don't confront him, he will think he can get away with cheating me, and so the level of his cheating will increase. Seeing him cheating me increases my belief that I was just not built to handle crooked people ( and again I will probably try to justify this to myself in various ways; in my case one favourite self justification is the fact that I grew up in a small town, where people were simple and honest, unlike in the big city I now live in). The next time I come across a crooked person, my original assumption about myself  has been further strengthened. And so it goes on.

On the other hand, if my starting assumption is not self limiting, the results will be quite different. If I start off thinking that I can manage a crooked person as well as I can a non-crooked one, I will react when the man tried to chest me. He'll realise he can't do this, and will certainly not cheat me more (He may not stop cheating me, but there will be a cap on where and how he cheats me). This in turn bolsters my belief about managing people, and so on. Notice how I have empowered myself.

If the starting assumption is what drives my final belief, and more fundamentally, how I see myself, and can result in a virtuous or vicious circle, the question is,  how do I change the starting assumption ? The key step in this direction is to

step back and examine the starting assumption

Ask yourself: Is it really true ? What data is there to support this assumption? What situations back this up ? Or ask someone else who knows you well if your assumption is true. Sometimes it may help to put pen to paper. Put down on paper all your assumptions about yourself, others, and the situation at hand. Then take a close, hard look at each assumption. Chances are, at least some of those assumptions are our interpretations of situations or people, based on some past experience, and the assumptions are self limiting. Knock off the spurious, self limiting assumptions, and go into the situation. Chances are, seemingly hard situations will become easier, and you'll come out the other end with better results and also feeling better about yourself.

So go ahead, give this a go. The next time you're facing a difficult situation, think of the assumptions that are making the situation difficult. Examine these assumptions critically, reject the ones that are not true, and then act. And turn a vicious circle of self limitation into a virtuous circle of possibility and empowerment! And let me know how you get along !

P.S.:   As you empower yourself, be careful that you don't begin overestimating yourself- that could then lead to damaging assumptions. But that's a subject for another blog post, at  another time !