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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. 


Disrupted relationships by emotion- or assumption-based predictions

I have been in advertising for more than 30 years, built my first website around 1993, and am an expert on SEO. That's probably why you found this article. Of course, when I suggested taking my friend's site in hand, she initially thought it was a good and fine idea. But she wanted a second opinion from a friend of hers who also builds sites. Because just trusted my advice, she didn't want to.   


Previous experiences in her life have made her very suspicious of people. If the bicycle mechanic charges 15 euros, she knows for sure that he took extra time and that the problem could be fixed for 10 euros. If the cashier accidentally charges the wrong price, she is sure she did it on purpose. I can reasonably handle these negative predictions, but you can imagine that this in no way contributes to maintaining fine relationships. 


Reinforcing negative self-image through emotion- or assumption-based predictions

Making predictions that you will fail or are not good enough can undermine your self-image and self-confidence. You begin to see yourself through the lens of these negative predictions, which can create a self-reinforcing cycle of negativity. 


Of course, some realism is needed because not everyone can do everything, but to predict in advance that something won't work out anyway because it's you, usually has little to do with reality. 


Increased anxiety and stress due to emotion- or assumption-based predictions

Assumption-based predictions can increase anxiety and stress because you are preparing yourself for negative outcomes that may never, or in fact rarely, materialize. This constant state of worry and stress can cause long-term health problems.  


Especially when it comes to financial matters or health concerns, it can create considerable, but often unnecessary, stress that can significantly limit your creativity and ability to act appropriately. The latter can contribute greatly to your unfounded prediction coming true after all. 


Limiting personal growth through emotion- or assumption-based predictions

By believing that something is not possible or will always go a certain way, you limit yourself from exploring new possibilities and facing challenges. This can lead to stagnation in both personal and professional development. 


An acquaintance of mine, when he got his sailing license, received an offer from the instructor to sail with him on a large sailing yacht to cross the big ocean. He would be part of a crew of seven, including six experienced sailors. However, he has a rather low opinion of people - considers them stupid, selfish, and thoughtless - and predicted that it would be a dangerous chaos on board, even though he had not yet met the crew. Politely he declined the offer and now, five years later, he proudly carries his sailing license with him, without ever having piloted a sailboat.


Self-reflection and avoiding predictions based on emotion or assumptions

Self-reflection plays a crucial role in the process of personal growth and development, especially when it comes to identifying and challenging our predictions. Assumptions can significantly influence our perception of the world and our interactions with others, often without our full awareness. By taking regular time for self-reflection, we can uncover these underlying beliefs and adjust them where necessary. Below are 7 practical tips to be more conscious about the way you predict:


1. Conscious Time for Reflection on Predictions

Reserve regular moments to look back on recent predictions you have made. Reflect on what the prediction was, why you made that particular prediction, and to what extent it came true. This helps to recognize patterns in your predictive thinking.


2. Analyse the Basis of Your Predictions

Ask yourself questions such as: "Based on what information or experiences did I make this prediction?" and "In hindsight, how realistic was my prediction?". By examining the fundamentals of your predictions, you can gain insight into how your assumptions color your view of the future.


3. Use a Journal to Record Predictions

Keep a specific diary in which you record and evaluate your predictions. This can be about daily events, interactions with others, or personal goals. Reflect on the outcomes later and learn from the differences between your predictions and reality.


4. Reflect on Emotional Influences

Often our predictions are influenced by our emotions. Ask yourself whether your prediction was possibly colored by how you were feeling at the time and whether this distorted your view of the likelihood of certain outcomes.


5. Put Your Predictions to the Test

Once you have identified a prediction, challenge it by asking yourself, "What are alternative outcomes?" Try to consciously think of different scenarios that could also happen, beyond your initial prediction.


6. Actively Seek Contrasting Information

Actively look for information or experiences that contradict your initial prediction. This helps to develop a more balanced view of possible future events.


7. Practice Mindfulness to Stay in the Moment

Mindfulness can help you lean less on automatic predictions and be more open to how situations actually unfold. This reduces the likelihood of disappointment or stress when reality deviates from your predictions.


Conclusion

The ability to predict is fundamental to our human functioning. It allows us to form routines, assess risks, and plan for the future. Without this skill, every aspect of our daily lives, from simply navigating from A to B to making complex decisions, would require significantly more mental effort and uncertainty. It helps us function efficiently and effectively within society.


However, when predictions are mainly based on assumptions, emotions, or limited information, they can also mislead us and have negative consequences. They can lead to avoidance behavior, self-limiting beliefs, and even to missing out on valuable opportunities in life. This highlights the importance of awareness and critical thinking about how we form our predictions.


So the trick lies in finding a balance. On the one hand, we should nurture our ability to predict and use it to make our lives easier. On the other hand, we should be aware of the limitations and pitfalls of our predictions, especially when they stem from unfounded assumptions or a narrow view of reality.


Self-reflection and critically evaluating our predictions are crucial. It allows us to grow and learn from our experiences and ensures that our predictions serve us rather than hinder us. By being open to new information, considering alternative perspectives and being aware of our emotional state when making predictions, we can improve our decision-making.


FAQ: Predictions and Assumptions


1. What is an assumption-based prediction?

An assumption-based prediction is an expectation about the future that is not based entirely on factual information or evidence, but rather on personal beliefs, experiences or emotions.


2. Why do we make assumption-based predictions?

We often make assumption-based predictions subconsciously, as a way of simplifying the complexity of the world around us and preparing for possible future events. However, this can lead to bias and incorrect expectations.


3. How can recognizing assumption-based predictions help me?

By becoming aware of your assumptions and the way they color your perceptions, you can look at situations more realistically, make better decisions, and be more open to new possibilities.


4. What are the negative consequences of assumption-based predictions?

These predictions can lead to miscommunication, disrupted relationships, negative self-image, unnecessary anxiety, and stress, and limit personal and professional growth.


5. How can I reduce my tendency towards assumption-based predictions?

You can start with self-reflection, becoming aware of your thoughts and emotions, and actively looking for information that can challenge your initial assumptions. Mindfulness and regular practice of critical thinking can also help.


6. Are all predictions bad?

No, predictions per se are not bad. They become problematic when they are based solely on unsubstantiated assumptions and are not adjusted with new information or insights.


7. How can self-reflection help me deal with predictions?

Self-reflection allows you to examine your own thought processes and the underlying assumptions. This awareness can help you make more balanced and realistic predictions.


8. Can challenging my own predictions improve my relationships?

Yes, by being open to the possibility that your predictions may not always be correct, you can communicate more effectively, be more empathetic, and be more understanding of others' perspectives.


9. What should I do when my predictions often don't come true?

Consider this a learning moment. Reflect on why you made the prediction and how you can come to a more accurate estimate in the future. This process of continuous evaluation and adjustment is crucial for personal growth.


10. Where can I learn more about handling predictions effectively?

There are many resources available, including books, workshops, and online courses on critical thinking, mindfulness, and emotional intelligence, that can help you handle your predictions more effectively.


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