An “Assumption” is where you believe something to be true, but it is yet unproven while a “belief” is something you are certain is true. However, our beliefs may, in fact, be assumptions that are in the end false.
To understand this concept, we can start with our mindset. Our mindset affects the choices we make which in turn leads to the actions we take and the outcomes we experience. The outcomes we experience can then either modify our mindset, creating a new assumption, or the evidence can be ignored because of our belief system.
For example, a young boy’s mindset may be based on the assumption that all dogs are friendly since he has only experienced friendly dogs. So he makes the choice to pet a passing dog. The action of leaning over to pet the dog startles the dog and the outcome is that the dog snaps at his hand. The boy’s new mindset is modified from “all dogs are friendly” to “not all dogs are friendly.” The boy created a new assumption based on the outcome and his experience.
Sometimes, however, our mindset is defined by our beliefs and are based on incorrect information. In this situation, we find ways to reinforce our incorrect mindset.
For example, until only recently, the collective belief was that the world was flat. The belief colored your observations. While standing on the beach, you watched a boat sail out of the harbor. As the boat approached the horizon, it got smaller and then disappeared. You attributed the disappearance of the boat to the commonly held belief that the world was flat and the ship just sailed off the end of the world, reinforcing your belief. However, as we know today, this belief, while commonly held, was in fact false.
Our belief system blinded us to the fact that in the afternoon the boat somehow returned. While inconvenient, the fact that the boat returned was ignored since it didn’t fit our beliefs.
A common belief that keeps many people on the sidelines when thinking about starting a small business is the belief that entrepreneurs are innovators or that entrepreneurs are highly educated. Some are, but many are not. Recognizing the difference between assumptions and beliefs can open up your mind to new opportunities.
Mark Twain once said,
“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble… it’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”
So the lesson in business is you should always challenge beliefs and treat them as assumptions because your beliefs may not be facts.
What beliefs do you take for granted that may not be true at all?
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