“Never assume, for it makes an ASS out of U and ME.” – Anon.
For reasons which are not worth going into right now, my back garden lawn is currently massively overgrown, the tallest bits of grass reaching 3 feet (or 1 meter, depending upon your measurement unit of choice!). Finally I decided it was time to tackle this jungle and restore it to its former glory as a well-maintained lawn. Given the length of the grass and the size of the lawn, I assumed that there was no way that my lawnmower, as powerful as it is, would be able to cope with the task, so I decide the only option was to first strum the entire lawn down to a vaguely manageable size and then to mow it. My initial plan was to strum it and rake up all the cut grass before mowing, but that idea was soon discarded after the first bit of strumming when it became obvious that raking up the clippings would be nigh on impossible.
So, I took my strummer and got to work tackling the lawn. It took me about 2 hours to cut through half the side lawn, chopping the thing down to a height which I felt my mower could handle. Now, I am blessed with both asthma and hay fever, and even though I was fully doped up on antihistamines and my and asthma steroids, I had to stop after the first hour or so for an hour to recover thanks to all the pollen and assorted dust which the strimmer very efficiently flies up toward me poor nose! However, after 2 hours of actual strumming time, half of the side lawn was down to an almost manageable size, and I fetched the mower (fortunately a petrol-driven one with a metal blade) and began the task of mowing short strips and emptying the all-too-quickly-filled clipping box. About an hour of this to clear the side lawn, so 3 hours so far to do half of it, meaning another 3 hours to do the rest then probably 10-15 hours to do the same to the main lawn. Which meant I was facing up to 18 hours overall (excluding rests) to clear the lawns, assuming my asthma and hay fever didn’t get the better of me!
Not the most appealing of thoughts, if I’m honest. And as I came to the end of that hour of mowing, I started thinking “I wish this mower was powerful enough to actually mow the lawn without all the strumming, but it’ll just get choked on the long grass”, the assumption I’d made right at the start.
But for some reason, just before packing away for the evening, I decide to see what would happen if I tried mowing the overgrown unstrimmed lawn. So I got the mower, fired it up, started moving into the jungle.
And to my amazement, there was 1 mowed strip being created before my eyes with the mower barely struggling!
So I tried another and another and sure enough, the mower was handling the overgrown grass with aplomb.
Which meant that instead of another 10-15 hours of strumming and mowing, all I would need is about 3-5 hours of careful mowing! A huge saving in time. Not to mention far better for my health as the mower is far less bad at kicking all the pollen up to my face, so not only would I save a lot of time but I would also save my health too. Thank goodness I had decided to see what would happen sooner rather than at the end of it all!
And I realised something very important there – I had assumed that the mower would not be able to do the job, so I ended up assigning myself 3 times the work plus potentially hours of recovery time and a very real risk of an asthma attack.
All because of an assumption I made; an assumption which I made with no basis in fact behind it, and which I hadn’t bothered to test out (although mercifully I did later).
Boy, did I ever get a lesson in the dangers of making assumptions! Which got me to wondering about assumptions more generally.
Where have you been making assumptions which have had a very real effect upon your actions or even the direction of your life, but assumptions which were not actually based on any hard facts, assumptions which you didn’t even test to see if they were valid? I don’t just mean fairly trivial assumptions like mine with the lawnmower, but the more serious longer term assumptions. You know the sort – “I can’t do it so I won’t bother trying” or “They’ll just say no so I won’t ask” or “They are bound to give the job to someone else so there’s no point in me applying” or any one of countless other assumptions. I bet you can think of some right now, can’t you, when you put your mind to it. Assumptions you made which allowed you to decide not to take some course of action.
But what if those assumptions were false (which, let’s face it, looking at them logically, they almost certainly were)? What might have happened if you had tested the assumption, found it was wrong, and gone on to do it / ask them / apply for the job? For the reality of the situation is that those assumptions were most probably just your doubts and fears finding a voice and giving you a reason not to bother. And that means they were not working in your best interests at all, were they?
I remember at school in science we were taught to always state our assumptions in any report; it was a tricky thing to do to start with, but with practise we started to discover we were actually making so many assumptions, and by stating them upfront before our analysis we were able to start to see whether they were valid ones or not.
So next time you make an assumption, before you allow it to influence your decisions and actions, just ask yourself this – “How do I know?”. How do you know the assumption is true or valid? Where’s the evidence or proof to support it? And not just a feeling or a hunch it’s right, but actual real proof that you could use to son vine an innocent bystander that the assumption is true!
I bet you will find most of those assumptions will melt away under that level of scrutiny, and in the process you will remove some of the ways in which you are sabotaging your own progress through life and find that you are boosting your own confidence in yourself and your abilities to succeed..
Or at the very least you’ll cut the amount of time it takes to tame your jungle of a garden!