Assumptions versus Perspectives

August 18, 2015 by John Andrew Williams

For the longest time I wrestled with the difference between an assumption and a perspective. Both are fantastic life coaching tools for a coach to explore. The only problem, when I was using them with clients I often thought that in practice, they were synonymous.

I know both terms point to different aspects of human experience, but from using both in life coaching, it sure seemed that assumptions and perspectives were nearly the same.

Let’s start with what assumptions and perspectives have in common so you can see what I mean by how similar they are in practice. Imagine that someone makes an assumption: Chemistry is going to be too hard. Most actions based on that assumption are going to be self-defeating. Now imagine someone is in a negative perspective. (Aka, having a bad attitude.) Most actions taken from a bad attitude are also self-defeating.

In practice, making self-defeating assumptions or negative perspectives both lead to lack-luster effort and poor results.

Two questions, however, have always burned in my brain: what’s the practical difference between an assumption and a perspective? And does it matter to make a distinction?

I can answer confidently today – thank you Bryan Hart for provoking this insight with your email! – that I was looking at assumptions and perspectives all wrong. I was looking at them as verbs. In action, the process of making an assumption which leads to a perspective happens within a millisecond. However, looking at them as nouns, it’s crystal clear.

An assumption is something that is accepted as true. A belief is when that assumption is proven to be true or just held with more conviction. A perspective is an attitude or point-of-view.

In other words, an assumption is about an object. A perspective is the point-of-view in which you are seeing that object.

This leads to my next question: does it matter in a life coaching session? I’m not sure yet. The distinction is still new for me, but I’ll end this post with a curious question I’m going to think about this week:

Which is more important to creating sustainable, effective action: questioning assumptions or managing perspectives?

Also read: Borrowed Insights

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