I hear it often from friends, colleagues and clients — three little words that can either open doors or shut them: “I don’t know.”
Whether we’re making an everyday decision or looking into the deep places inside ourselves, those words are an important response: “I don’t know.” Not knowing can help us to explore more about the situation, or it can frighten us away from exploration. The question is, what do we choose to do when we come to the “not knowing” place?
In our everyday lives, discovering we don’t know something usually leads us to find out. If I don’t know how to get to my next appointment, I’ll Google the address to pull up a map. If I don’t know why my dog likes to chew on his paws, I’ll do some research to determine the cause. If I’m in the grocery store and I don’t know what to make for dinner, I’ll browse the aisles until I come up with an idea. We “don’t know” all the time — and all the time we’re finding answers and solutions.
But what about the life of the mind? The not-so-everyday places we go to late at night or when we feel stressed or angry or sad?
“Why do I do that?” we ask ourselves. “Why do I keep making the same mistakes?”
And, time and again, we respond: “I don’t know.”
So we shut down, feeling desperate, frustrated. These three words put up a wall between our questions and the answers that lie within us.
If we don’t know, who will know for us?
To move beyond the patterns of behavior which cause us to make the same mistakes or do those things we know harm us or hold us back, we must get curious about ourselves. Just like we do in our everyday lives when we’re searching for an answer, we need to get curious about what’s happening inside.
Get curious — and don’t be afraid! Taking an objective view of your Self when you encounter those nagging, repeating patterns just might allow you to see them in a new way, to become aware of the pattern so that you can choose to change it.
Ask yourself questions like these, and stay curious! You may find an answer, or, better yet, you may come up with more questions!
- How am I feeling right now? (Ex: Sad, mad, angry, frustrated)
- How would I like to feel? (Ex: Happy, relaxed, worry-free)
- What do I need to support the good feelings I want? (Ex: To feel heard, to feel like I matter, to de-stress)
- What can I do for myself in order to get that support? (Ex: Ask for what I need, take a walk in the park to cool off & get clarity, take a hot bath to relax, etc.)
It’s important to remember that you’re searching for an answer inside, not a magic bullet from outside yourself. You may want your spouse, or boss, or parent to change, but you can’t control that. You can, however, support yourself inside in the face of those difficult conflicts.
It’s not about having all the answers, but rather being able to stay curious and keep asking the questions. Don’t let your mind fool you — you DO know deep down inside, everything you need to know to make positive sustained change in your life.