The “I Don’t Know” Habit

I am taking a dust buster to remove the phrase “I don’t know.” It has become a habit for many of us at different times. As a coach, I ask questions. I have noticed a trend with my clients, especially in the beginning of the relationship, to answer questions with “I don’t know” often. This habit makes total sense, as most us secretly want someone to tell us or show us the "easy" way. Why and when is this happening? Let's explore!

To get to the real truth, I had to be honest with my use of, reliance on and belief in this phrase in my life. In a nutshell, “I don’t know” equals being and feeling stuck. I would state this phrase as if it were indisputable fact. Once fact is declared, even though falsely, we rarely challenge it. We accept the belief and act accordingly from that space. Then we become frustrated at the lack of progress or inspiration or joy in our lives. I am using the word “we” here, but really, I am talking about me 🙂

Accepting and Believing "Facts"

Let’s follow this trail and see what happens. Our brain has just accepted a fact, only based on what we told our brain. Interesting. So, you’re saying I could tell a different fact to my brain and perhaps get different results? Perhaps. Usually we have become conditioned or programmed and may need a little more than a one time effort. But in essence, yes, we have the ability to feed our brains anything.

For example, I’ve just said “I don’t know” to some big question like, "what do you want to do with the rest of your life?" No pressure in that question...Ha! Now, with this fact embedded in my brain, I must go searching outside of myself for the answers. A long, unending sometimes expensive search. And guess what? I never found the answers, because I never changed my belief to “I do know.”

Searching Outside

I would take a class, feel incredibly energized and have all of these grand ideas, then think, I just need one more class. Sounds like an addiction to knowledge to ease my fear of not knowing, doesn’t it? My searching has included: buying and reading books - clearly this author is an expert, let me learn from him/her; classes - this included one-day workshops, online “free” webinars that lead you into an aggressive and convincing marketing campaign to buy more (sometimes I did), certifications to prove my knowing to others, going on a 500 mile hike through Spain to search for the answers (see Camino blog post), and the ultimate investment to higher education for a masters degree.

And still, I sought out more from outside me, from other sources to get to that place of knowing. All the while, never considering to stop and enjoy the process and believe in my knowing. It is exhausting as I list it all out. And, I am not saying any of these pursuits were worthless, to the contrary, most were and still are extremely valuable. The point I am making here is: as I looked deeper at the reasons why I pursued each boiled down to the simple belief in the “I don’t know” phrase.

Your Answers Lie Inside You

I've mentioned this list before and it is worth mentioning again. I used to have a list at my desk of the 10 Rules for Being Human (author, anonymous), and the one I desperately wanted to believe but never could was “Your answers lie inside of you.” How could they, I asked, I don’t have this certification yet! Fast forward to today and I have pursued the path of coaching. I am working with people who feel stuck in their careers. As I ask questions, as good coaches do, I often hear the “I don’t know" reply.

As long as my client doesn’t know, it allows him or her to remain stuck or to rely on someone (like a guru) or something (like a class) outside of themselves to give them the answer. Our power is in our knowing, but we first need to accept the fact that we do know. We may need time and space and breath to get to this place, or maybe a new phrase to replace the old, but it is there available to us anytime we choose to believe.

I Do Know

It is there for me now, and it is there for my clients and it is certainly there for you. After a time of repeated not knowing and being stuck and always searching for another book or class (and there are endless choices out there), I’ve decided to stop. I am pulling out my dust buster to vacuum this phrase out of my belief system. Today I break the habit. Today, I do know.

I’ve decided to search for better questions to unlock those answers contained within me vs. searching for answers outside of me. I’ve decided to replace disbelief in myself, because I am too old or too young or too short or too tall, and decided to place a big bet on me, on my knowing, and in trusting the process. Trusting that the answers lie inside me.

Trusting that as it is for me, so it is for you. You too may be searching for answers outside of yourself, but I am going to believe in your knowing. Your own answers lie inside you too and I will support you with great questions until you believe this truth for yourself.

Let's hear from you...What phrase has become a habit? What are you ready to dust buster away because it is limiting you?

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