Ten Assumptions That Can Prevent Success


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by Jayaram V

What is an assumption? An assumption is an unverified belief, opinion or conclusion, which one may wrongly accept as true or factual. It is a guess or speculation, which one may presumptuously hold to be true, without adequate proof or validation. People take their assumptions for granted, or believe them to be true, even if they do not have the facts or the information to justify them. Assumptions may also be irrational.

Many problems in life arise due to assumptive behavior or thinking. It may also lead to conflicts and misunderstandings between individuals as well as groups. When people make assumptions about themselves, their situation or others and act upon it, it can lead to many unintended consequences. In interpersonal relationships, assumptions become a problem when people do not frequently communicate or interact with others and verify facts.

Assumptions also prevent people from achieving success or making right decisions about their goals and opportunities, as they overestimate or underestimate their abilities and opportunities. The former is caused by overconfidence, and the latter by fear or lack of confidence. Both are caused due to lack of discretion and faulty thinking.

Assumptions may also interfere with our ability to establish positive relationships with others and work in teams. They are especially relevant in our personal as well as professional lives. Even if you are confident, it is important to examine your assumptions when you make decisions. One useful approach is to ask yourself, "What are the underlying assumptions in my decision or conclusion?” In the following discussion, we identify ten basic assumptions that critically hamper our ability to perform well, reach goals or achieve success.


Overconfidence leads to rash judgments and hasty actions. It happens when people overestimate their knowledge and abilities or their skills and influence, whereby they also overestimate the outcomes of their actions, making mistakes in the process or failing to correct them in time. The following are a few important assumptions, which people make due to overconfidence.

1. I have done this before: If you have performed the same task before, it does not mean you can expect the same result. You still need to be careful, because the circumstances may not be the same, or you may become careless or negligent in the execution of the task. Therefore, before you plunge into any action, carefully consider what can go wrong, and keep your eyes open.

2. I have the knowledge and skills: You may possess the required knowledge and skills to perform a task, but it does not mean that it will be sufficient to carry you through. It is possible that you may not have considered all the facts or the unknowns. Therefore, it is better to ask questions about your assumptions to know how realistic you are, and whether you can rely upon yourself or need help and guidance from others.

3. I can depend upon others: We have our own opinions and assumptions about others, but people are unpredictable and fickle. They may not always be transparent or openly express their feelings and opinions. You cannot also be certain that their thinking and attitude towards you will remain the same. Therefore, pay close attention to the people who are an important part of your success.

4. I planned well: At its best, every plan is a calculated assumption only. Plans can always go wrong when you begin to implement them, since many things can go wrong, which you may not have foreseen. Many extraneous factors, which govern your actions, are not always under your control. Hence, even if you planned well, prepare for contingencies and unexpected delays and interruptions.

5. Others have done it: You may learn from others, but you may not be able to copy their success. Each person is unique. What works for one does not necessarily work for another. Many people are motivated by the success of others and blindly follow them in stock market investments or business ventures, only to face disappointment and failure. It is better to be realistic and sensible, even if you follow others.


Fear interferes with our thinking and decisions. Because of fear, people underestimate themselves and do not make use of their strengths and abilities. Fear of failure or rejection induces many people into passivity or inaction and prevents them from being effective. In few cases, it leads to self-destructive behavior. The following are a few important assumptions which are caused by fear or its various forms.

6. I am inexperienced: Experience is certainly helpful, but not always necessary to achieve success. Experience can be compensated by learning and hard work. As we have seen before, experience can be a hindrance and lead to assumptive thinking. If you feel that you lack experience, know how to compensate for it with right strategies. You may also seek the help of experienced people or consult them.

7. I am not up to it: This feeling of inadequacy may arise due to various factors such as age, qualifications, experience, knowledge, resources, appearance, gender and social or cultural factors. You have to examine each of your concerns and see how far they are realistic. You must learn to dispute them with countering thoughts if they are untrue. Otherwise, you must find workarounds to boost your confidence.

8. I do not have the means: We are all limited by our personal imperfections, weaknesses and circumstances. For many people, wealth is a limiting factor. However, we also possess other forms of wealth such as the wealth of knowledge and skills or talents, where we are strong and have natural talent. You can explore those areas and successfully use them to realize your goals or achieve success.

9. I do not want to commit sin: Fear of sin is a major driving force. It often leads to assumptive thinking. Many people deny themselves success, assuming that wealth is evil, and to achieve success one has to sacrifice morality. It is true that wealth brings in its wake many challenges. However, one can still achieve success, without having to sacrifice one’s character or integrity, and lead a principled life.

10. I cannot take the pressure: Success requires hard work and many sacrifices. It also brings in its wake many pressures and challenges. Many people hesitate to seek success due to the changes it demands, or brings in its wake. They become accustomed to a dull routine, and do not want to let go of it. If you are one of them, you need to challenge your assumptions about success and step out of your comfort zone.

It is difficult to be completely free from assumptions, prejudices and preconceived notions. Sometimes, they are helpful to make quick decisions. However, you cannot let them creep into your decision making. The best way to do it is by keeping an open mind and questioning your own thinking, judgment, opinions and decisions every step of the way.

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