Update your assumptions

At the beginning of a new project, business, or even relationship, the information you have at your disposal is typically low. You have to make decisions without robust data or evidence, lest you get caught in analysis paralysis.

Consequently, your decisions will rest on assumptions that can’t – at the time – be tested.

It’s only after you commit and move forward that new information will come available. But along with it comes more assumptions, more decisions to be made, and not enough time to properly evaluate either of them.

This assumption-decision-information cycle is never ending. Such is life!

What this means is that you’ll rarely (never?) be able to make a decision with all of the information you require. Imperfect information is just a fact of life – if we waited for perfect information before making a decision nothing would ever get done.

What this also means is that you’ll make mistakes – and that’s to be expected! This only becomes a problem when you learn new information that makes a prior decision (or group of decisions) look bad, and you still base new decisions on old information.

If, in the following image, the assumptions you made surrounding decision B1 turned out to be bad, decisions C1 – C2, D1 – D4, E1 – E8, and so on … , will all be impacted.

Decision Tree

This means that the assumptions you have today and the decisions you make based on those assumptions can, like interest, compound.

And we all know the power of compound interest.

Now, the above example isn’t real life. It’s not that simple. A map of how humans really make decisions would be complex beyond comprehension.

The point here is to demonstrate the value in re-evaluating old assumptions and beliefs based on new information.

I’d recommend starting with the big two – your career and relationships. Here’s a few examples:

Career

  • What core assumptions have you built your career on?
  • Which assumptions have proven to be useful, and which haven’t?
  • Are there any major decisions you made in haste that haven’t been reconsidered?
  • What steps could you take to stress-test {core assumption}?
  • If {core assumption} were found to be false, what would you change?

Relationships

  • What core values in others are most important to you?
  • Do you see these values expressed in your relationships?
  • Have your values changed?
  • If so, have your relationships changed? If not, why?

Of course, you can also zoom in on more granular aspects of your life. For example, if you have a small side project, when was the last time you re-evaluated who your target market is (or who they should be)? How has what you’ve learned about sales changed your beliefs about pricing or positioning your product?

Or even more deeply – how do things look from the other side? What do you like about what you do, and what would you do differently if you could start again?

Old assumptions and beliefs should be reevaluated as you learn and improve. Bad decisions made in haste or with dated assumptions could be hurting you more than you know.

As 2017 draws to a close the time for reflection is ripe. Take some time before the year ends to scrutinize the assumptions and beliefs you have based important decisions on, and see if you would make the same decisions with what you know today.

Either you’ll learn that you’re on track or that a course correction is in order. In both cases you’ll actively be mapping your path forwards – and that’s a big win.