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Predictions Versus Reality: How Assumptions Distort Our Image

If I walk down my street, turn left, and turn right after 100 meters, there is a supermarket where I can buy my milk and bread. I cannot see that supermarket from where I am writing this, but based on my previous experiences, I can predict this with very high certainty. There is only a very small chance that the supermarket is closed due to an accident or has just exploded. In that case, my prediction is wrong. 

Being able to predict this is a talent we learn at a very young age, and once we have learned it, our brains do nothing else all day long. I'm quite happy with that myself because if I had to google every day where the nearest supermarket is, how my car starts or where my clothes are hanging, I wouldn't be doing very well mentally. 

Unfortunately, sometimes we can also rely too much on our predictive ability. For example, the other day my girlfriend could predict that it would be very cold when we went to Malaga for a few days 2 months later. She was 100% sure of that. And my ex-girlfriend preferred not to meet up for a cup of coffee because then we would surely get into a disagreement. She was absolutely sure of that.

These last two predictions differ from my prediction because they are based on assumptions and emotions. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but can lead to very unpleasant situations and even mental illness.

The negative consequences of assumption-based predictions

One of my brothers had passed 50 when he found himself without a job. He decided to take care of their children at an early age because his then-wife had a good job and so his CV was not very rich. His age and CV made it very difficult to get a job and after being rejected 10 times, he gave up with the statement, "I stop writing job applications because no one will hire someone like me." If that is your assumption-based prediction, then you certainly won't find a job! 

Assumption-based predictions can mislead us so much that we get in the way of ourselves creating and seizing opportunities.  

For instance, a friend of mine is a bit unlucky in choosing her boyfriends. In other words, her taste in terms of types of men does not match what is good for her. Her last boyfriend may not have physically abused her, but after three years, she is still not over the emotional terror. In her life, she has had four long-term relationships and now she is giving up because she will never find a normal guy. Again, if this is your assumption-based prediction, then yes, you will never find a nice guy.    

How do you know something is an assumption-based prediction?

Recognizing assumption-based predictions is an important skill for avoiding negative self-fulfilling prophecies and looking more realistically at situations and the future. 

It does not demonstrate rational thinking if you will never find another job after just 10 rejections. Nor is it realistic to think after only 4 long-term relationships that you will never meet another nice man. After all, there are some 125 million companies and 2.5 billion men in the world. Will all businesses reject my brother and will all those men worldwide be the same as her 4 ex-boyfriends?

Besides the lack of realism, assumption-based predictions often include words like "always", "never", or "everyone". These absolute terms often indicate the generalization of past experiences to all future situations, leaving no room for exceptions.