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Have I made reasonable assumptions?

Could we live in a world where we check out every assumption? It would be hard to imagine. For example would you check the stability of every leg on every chair every time you sit down? Nor do most people check for car bombs every time they start their cars. Most people assume they are car-bomb free, unless they live in a war zone. The opposite extreme poses another danger.

Should we never check out our assumptions? No. After all, failing to check out assumptions can have potentially tragic consequences. For example, Sir Winston Churchill’s life was almost cut short because he first looked right instead of left when crossing a street. The car that smashed into him was on the “wrong side” of street if one lived in England. But he was visiting New York City and the car was very much on the proper side of the street. Churchill made an inappropriate assumption that could have altered the course of history.

In fact, we rarely scrutinize our assumptions. Why? Like Churchill’s, many are tacit; invisibly influencing us in unseen ways. Even if we could discover them, we rarely take the time to examine them. Yet, thoughtful people learn to question important assumptions. They are keenly aware of the dangers of assuming that 1) past success guarantees future success, 2) the stated problem equates with the actual problem, and 3) good intentions result in good outcomes. Assumptions lie at the root of our thinking processes. This means that attempts to unearth them often prove difficult and perhaps troubling. But so what? As we understand our assumptions we weed out the irrational, fertilize our imagination and cultivate personal growth.

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