Examining Beliefs, Conclusions, and Assumptions
All the beliefs, conclusions, and assumptions that we have create our mental models of the world.
Our mental models are useful, but they can get in the way of seeing situations and people as they are in the here and now.
A person that we have a history with may be willing and able to act differently in the new situation, but we will respond to them as if nothing has changed. This is because neuro-pathways in our brain have been so repeatedly used that it is as if metaphorically there is a “deep trench” that has been worn into our brain (this is what being in a “rut” is all about.)
We live in a world of self-generating Beliefs which remain largely unexamined and untested.
We then “take Actions based on our Beliefs” (see drawing below).
Our ability to achieve our desired outcomes in any situation is eroded by thinking that . . .
· Our “Beliefs” are the Truth.
· The “Truth” is obvious.
· Our “Beliefs” are based on real data.
· The data we select are the real data.
Chris Argyris, a noted author and organizational development consultant, has used the metaphor of a ladder to describe the common mental pathway that often leads to misguided beliefs (see drawing below). These misguided beliefs lead to feelings and actions that keep us from getting the positive outcomes that we desire.
We start at the bottom of the ladder with “neutral” observable data and experiences but then as we progress up the ladder we’ll select data based on “beliefs” that we’ve adopted (see “The reflexive loop”), we then add meanings, and make assumptions based on the meanings we’ve added, from those assumptions we draw conclusions, which are used to adopt or reinforce already held beliefs. We then have feelings and act on those beliefs.
There is a benefit to operating this way in the world. We can do many things that we might not otherwise be able to do (e.g. drive cars in highly congested streets and highways at high speeds) because this model allows us to go on “automatic pilot”. However, at other times (especially when confronting a new situation) if we stay on this ladder we might end up in the “same old place” doing the same things, engaging in the same patterns of feelings and behavior, staying in a “rut”.
Examining how we select data, add meaning, make assumptions, and draw the conclusions which lead to our beliefs is an important way of managing our emotions, behaviors, and reaching our desired outcomes.
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Examining Beliefs (3).pdf
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“The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook:Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization”,
Peter Senge, et al
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