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Confront Assumptions

Confront Assumptions

Challenge Your Assumptions

    Every time that we approach a problem, in any walk of life, we bring to bear assumptions that limit our ability to conceive fresh solutions. Innovators are always aware of assumptions and are always happy to confront them.

    There is a story told about a northern pike, a large carnivorous freshwater fish. A pike was put into an aquarium, which had a glass partition dividing it. In the other half from the pike there were many small fish. The pike tried repeatedly to eat the fish but each time hit the glass partition. The partition was eventually removed but the pike did not attack the little fish. It had learnt that trying to eat the little fish was futile and painful so it stopped trying. We often suffer from this ‘Pike Syndrome’ where an early experience conditions us into wrong assumptions about similar but different situations.

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    The way that we see things is often circumscribed by assumptions. In the Middle Ages the definition of astronomy was ‘the study of how the heavenly bodies move around the Earth.’ The implicit belief was that the Earth was at centre of the Universe. In 1510 a brilliant Polish astronomer, Nicolai Copernicus, postulated the idea that the Sun was the centre of the solar system and that all the planets revolved around the sun. He was able to explain the motions of the planets in a way that made sense but was totally at odds with convention.

    The atom was originally defined as the smallest indivisible unit of matter. The assumption was that an atom could never be subdivided. This belief hampered the advancement of science until eventually J. J. Thomson discovered the existence of a sub-atomic particle, the electron in 1887.

    In business we make all sorts of assumptions. For example you might hear people say:

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    • Competition sets the price level in our industry
    • We must constantly raise our quality and service delivery
    • Our largest customers are our most important customers
    • We should hire people who fit in well with our team

    Each of these notions needs to be challenged.

    Often it is up to a newcomer to an industry to break the existing orthodoxies. For example:

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      Henry Ford challenged the assumption that automobiles were expensive hand-built carriages for the wealthy.

      Anita Roddick challenged the assumption that cosmetics had to be in expensive bottles. Her retail chain, Body Shop, sold products in plastic containers.

      IKEA challenged assumptions by allowing customers to collect their furniture from the warehouse.

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      The low-cost airlines like South-Western and Easyjet challenged the assumptions that you needed to issue tickets, allocate seats and sell through travel agents.

      Apple challenged the assumption that a personal computer was functional and not aesthetic.

      Assumptions are there to be challenged and you should relish defying them. How can you do this? Here are some tips:

      • Start by recognizing that you and everyone else have ingrained assumptions about every situation.
      • Ask plenty of basic questions in order to discover and challenge those assumptions.
      • Write a list of all the ground rules and assumptions that apply in your environment and then go through the list and ask, ‘What would happen if we deliberately broke this rule?’ ‘What if we did the opposite of the norm?’
      • Pretend you are a complete outsider and ask questions like ‘why do we do it this way at all?’
      • Reduce a situation to its simplest components in order to take it out of your environment.
      • Restate the problem in completely different terms.

      Ken Olsen was CEO of DEC who were great innovators in the days of the minicomputer. He said, “The best assumption to have is that any commonly held belief is wrong.”

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      Paul Sloane

      Professional Keynote Speaker, Author, Innovation Expert

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      Last Updated on July 2, 2020

      13 Common Life Problems And How To Fix Them

      13 Common Life Problems And How To Fix Them

      In life, we encounter problems as we breathe. But it doesn’t get to us until we feel a major impact, and that’s when it becomes a source of concern, hurt, or sorrow.

      Life problems, depending on their magnitude, can be clogs in the wheel of progress, and we may not be able to attain our full potential if we don’t learn to place our problems in the proper perspectives as suggested in Robert Schuller’s Tough Times Never Last.

      In this article, I have identified some common areas where you will most likely face problems as you make progress towards reaching your full life potential. I have also suggested practical approaches in handling, managing, and solving such problems.

      1. Financial Crisis

      We live in an uncertain world and a financial crisis may come at different stages of life. While you should always anticipate and prepare for a financial crisis, it may still catch you off guard or the magnitude may be far more than any preparation you have made over the years.

      It could be that you lost your job or a major investment, got slammed with a lawsuit that threatens your savings, or have your livelihood be affected by a major disaster. So what do you do when you are in a financial mess?

      Solution

      To overcome a financial crisis, you will have to come to terms with the crisis. Acknowledge and accept the situation and begin recovery by setting your financial priorities right.

      The next thing to do is to identify the cause of the crisis. If it’s due to a job loss, then your effort should be directed at getting a new job. If it is having multiple debts, look for ways to consolidate your debt so that your monthly debt repayment can be consolidated into one instead of being burdened with multiple payments.

      You can also sell some of your assets to raise money to save the situation, or look for a better job if you are earning less at your current job. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from family and friends if you need to.

      2. Health Crisis

      Another major problem that might come up in your life is a health crisis. This is not far-fetched because our body systems work round-the-clock, even when we are sleeping. As a result of this, and if you don’t maintain routine health habits, health deterioration might begin to set in. Things might even get serious if you don’t attend to it early.

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      Solution

      When you are facing a major health crisis, the first thing to do is to consider lifestyle changes. This includes cutting down on junks, eating healthy diets, exercising, breathing fresh air, taking some sun, etc.

      Apart from the lifestyle changes, you have to seek quality medical help and make sure you get different opinions about the state of your health so you can get the best affordable care.

      3. Relationship, Marriage, and Family

      There may not be anything as sweet as love and family life, but it can also be the source of pain for some. Human imperfections in a relationship can cause a major crisis in life. This has been a stumbling block to many on their path to fulfillment.

      Solution

      The best thing to do is to prevent relationship problems from happening, but if they do happen, you need to face reality and begin to take steps towards addressing them. Do your best to keep the lines of communication open as this can help in strengthening your struggling relationship. Talk about the challenges with your partner and look for common grounds.

      You can also arrange to see a counselor together or read books that address the specific challenges you are facing. The worst thing you can do is to end a relationship and that’s only when you have exhausted all other options.

      4. Workplace

      The workplace is supposed to be a place where we dutifully render the services for which we’ve been hired.

      However, it is not impossible to face animosity at work—dealing with toxic people who would rather not see any good in what you do. It might be caused by differences in background, attitudes, and unhealthy competition that can result in personal conflicts. This can create undue stress and reduce productivity.

      Solution

      Be as professional as possible when dealing with toxic people. Be kind and show understanding, and try to avoid personal confrontation.

      You can even try to reach out to the persons and invite them over for a coffee and get to understand their worldview. This can help you to connect with them at their level so that you can avoid unnecessary stress for yourself.

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      5. Career Pressure

      In your quest to become more successful, you will likely encounter work-related pressure. Such can come when trying to stabilize your career or climb the career ladder. It can also come as a result of overworking and having no life. Career pressure is one of the most common life problems.

      Sometimes, it may be that the promotion you are working hard to get is not coming or positions you are qualified for are being offered to others. The pressure can get more intense when you find that most of your colleagues are moving ahead of you.

      Solution

      Check to find if you have personal or attitudinal problems. Some attitudinal problems can put you at a disadvantaged end. It may be poor communication, poor personal grooming, or poor relationship and networking skills. If it is any of these problems, then work on improving yourself in those areas.

      You can also observe your colleagues who are succeeding and take note of what they are doing differently.

      6. Unfair Treatment

      We are in a world where some people often think they have some privileges over others and may want to exercise this thinking and treat others unfairly. If you find yourself in an environment where you are being oppressed or treated badly because of your race, gender, or current status, this can make you feel really bad and can also affect your psyche and productivity.

      Solution

      There is the temptation to decry your treatment, defend yourself, and demand a change immediately, but you should really wait for the right opportunity to do that.

      When the time is right, reach out directly to the person or authority involved, and make it private. Meanwhile, you should be factual about the instances of your unfair treatments. Don’t just say it that you are being treated badly; give several undeniable instances.

      Once you’ve made your grievances known politely, keep being you. If things don’t change, you can cocoon yourself in that environment. If you have an option to leave, you can do so as well.

      7. Emptiness and Boredom

      When you are in a rut, everything becomes normal, dull, unproductive, and yet difficult to change. This can lead to feelings of emptiness and boredom. This may not seem like a serious life problem, but it can have a great impact on your life.

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      Solution

      To overcome boredom and emptiness, break out of your routines, and deliberately create a new experience for yourself. If you can’t leave your job to find a new one, start doing other things that reflect your true passion. Sometimes, the things that give us the needed drive in life are not our day jobs.

      8. Confusion

      Confusion is described as a change in mental status in which a person is not able to think with their usual level of clarity.[1]. It is inherent in forgetfulness and lack of concentration.

      It can be caused by different things including medical and environmental factors. It can also be due to the experience of a loss, a heartbreak, or abuse.

      Solution

      Don’t allow the situation to deteriorate into something more serious. Try to snap out of whatever experiences you have had that is causing confusion. Seek medical help if necessary or talk to a psychologist.

      9. Friendship Problems

      We need friends in our lives to rob minds and hang out together and even help us when we run into trouble. But many people have found themselves in serious trouble as a result of the company of friends they keep. They’ve experienced jealousy, backstabbing, and betrayal of trust. Some friends have even used the information freely provided in times of friendship to betray trust.

      Solution

      Don’t open up on everything to friends. Keep some information only to yourself. If you notice that a friend is working against you, confront them with the truth. Limit your interaction with them or get rid of such toxic friends completely.

      10. Haunting Past

      We all have pasts, and we might have done some crazy stuff in the past before we begin to live a more civilized and decent life. But sometimes, the past comes back haunting. It’s even worse when life problems of the past haunt you back and become problems of the present.

      It may be that what you have done is now striking your conscience, keeping you awake at night. Or someone who knows about it is trying to use it against you, and it is standing in the way of your progress.

      Solution

      Be true to yourself and forgive yourself. If it is an issue with another person, you can reach out to the person to settle with them. If it is a secret that is now being leaked out, own up to it, take responsibility, and move on.

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      11. Safety and Security

      You may find yourself in an environment where there have been unexplained murder, gun violence, police brutality, insurgencies, and other life-threatening situations. This can make you feel like you might be the next victim. What should you do in this situation?

      Solution

      Ensure that you watch where you go and keep your home secure. You can also get involved in a neighborhood community watch to collectively find solutions to the threat. If the situation persists, you can move to a more secure location.

      12. Failure

      Failure can bring disappointment and can also slow the pace of progress. But failure is also part of life, and we have to learn to deal with it. But what do you do when an experience of failure weighs you down?

      Solution

      You can read a book or biography to get inspired by other people’s success stories.

      13. Grief

      No one loves to grief but we can’t totally shield ourselves from it. The loss of a loved one is painful and, if not properly handled, can lead to an emotional breakdown.

      Solution

      Take your time to express emotions. You can also pen an emotional tribute to the individual. Writing can help us bring out the feelings that cannot be expressed otherwise, and it helps us breathe a sigh of relief.

      You can also cope with your grief by helping them to realize some of their unfulfilled dreams or do something in their honor. Lastly, while you think about your loss, you will still have to move on, accepting the fact that life is transient.

      The Bottom Line

      Problems are what make life worth living. They help us adapt to become tougher as we adapt to different situations. Always remember that whatever problem you are facing has a solution or, at least, a manageable approach.

      Therefore, never allow your challenges to stop you from fulfilling your true potentials in life.

      More Tips to Help You Get Unstuck

      Featured photo credit: Danka & Peter via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Medicinet: Confusion: Symptoms & Signs

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