As children, we work to hard to learn how the world works. We learn how people respond when we laugh or cry. We test what will happen when we drop our toy. And when the same pattern has repeated several times we jump to the conclusion that this is what will always happen. This makes our lives easier and it helps us get the results we want. But in a time of change, the world won’t always work the way it used to.
Jumping to conclusions is just one of the eight common types of mistaken assumptions we can easily make in a time of change. We assume we know what the outcome is going to be. We assume we know what the motives are behind other people’s actions. But the story of David and Goliath provides a well-known example of how this can go wrong, and the recent world of politics provides a long list of others.
In times of change, jumping to conclusions is likely to reduce our chances of getting the results we want. And the problem isn’t necessarily whether our assumption turns out to be ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. The problem is that jumping to conclusions makes us lazy: it stops us from taking the perhaps simple actions that would check our assumptions. It stops us from doing the extra things that will make the outcome we want more likely or from preparing to face the outcome we don’t want.
What we need to do instead is:
- check whether we are making any of the eight mistaken blink-of-an-eye decisions
- pause and consider what other interpretations might also be possible
- assess which ones are more likely
- get clear on what outcome we want (and why), and then
- assign resources and actions appropriately.
We might still end up doing the same as before and the outcome might still be the same. But by following this approach we get clearer on what we really want and we give ourselves the best chance of achieving that.
Have you ever jumped to a conclusion about something that turned out differently from the way you expected? What were the consequences of that? Have you jumped to a conclusion about anything you are working on today — either about what is going to happen or what other people’s motivations are?
Adapted from Inner Leadership: tools for building inspiration in times of change.
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