There are times we just don’t know. For sure. Conflicting interests compete for attention. Options populate the landscape. No solutions look to be in sight. Confusion is real. But we give confusion life when we say we don’t know when we do. Choosing not to choose plops us in downtown Muddlesville.
A friend of mine frequently adds, “I don’t know”, after she recounts the ins and outs of a dilemma. Her voice and wishes expose her knowing, but then the inevitable “I don’t know” clouds any droplets of clarity, especially if they only faintly sparkled. With those three words, she loses touch with her inner-wisdom. Her creative spark. Her courage. She’s not alone. We can get lost as we look for answers. Debates that begin as smart analyses wind up being trips down the “What if?” rabbit hole. We get concerned about making the wrong decision. Closing doors to options that could be better. We stall when we think about disappointing, the work that lies ahead, or not living up to some construct.
The “I don’t know” lets us fall prey to the scaredy-cat, worry-wort, image conscious, comfortable with the status-quo parts of ourselves. It also lets us off the hook. It feels worthwhile to consider all the reasons or possibilities again and again. It’s also entertaining since contemplating different scenarios involves our lively imaginations. We get accustomed to writing the story from the point of view of “I don’t know” and all that will be lost or could go wrong. The “I don’t know” feels safe and easy in its measuredness and frictionless. Yet it’s more than a benign place holder. It runs interference, often full-on blocking our inner-wisdom and creativity, and their impact. And it weakens our vital connection to them over time.
What if we scratch at what prompts us to say “I don’t know” when it doesn’t belong. We could ask: “What am I afraid of? and “What am I avoiding?”, to keep from hanging around in Muddlesville. We would then switch to writing our story from the point of view of “I know!”. When we act from our deep place of knowing or act on divine downloads, shifts happen. Good shifts. We choose, we commit, we create. We expand into our essence and purpose. Now that is a story I would prefer to write, read, and live. What about you? And don’t say “I don’t know”.
To be that author, ask something like: “What is true and needed, now?” and be. Be and listen. Inklings are enough to get things moving. You don’t need a full plan or a solution. Maybe it is a yes to having the hard conversation. A no thank you to the dinner. Taking the vital break. Exiting. Shaking things up. Leaping. Starting that hobby. Playing. Asking for help. Even though we typically crave to know our story from start to finish, we would be soooo bored if we actually did. Joyful expectancy is a pretty great place to be as we craft and experience our stories bit by bit, chapter by chapter.
We can even be super courageous and go before we know—a way to adopt uncertainty as our playmate rather than have it cause a stale-mate. I heard “go before you know” from my leadership coach Rick Tamlyn when I was on a telephone like pole on a ropes course–one push from its narrow top. Rick shouted, “Go before you know,” as I was about to over-think and forgo the information and rhythm my whole-self possessed to get me to the tippy top. I interrupted the wondering about how and trusted that I knew. I propelled upward, teetered, and stood tall before soaring off.
Why not challenge yourself to gingerly and honestly use “I don’t know” for a week and listen to your inner-wisdom and see what happens. Share with me how it goes. I’m curious. I’ll be trying it out too.