When we’re uncertain of what do next, we have two options.
The first (and by far the most common) is to say, either to yourself or somebody else, “I don’t know what to do.”
The second is to say “I can figure this out.”
Which do you think produces better results?
When we tell ourselves “I don’t know” it creates the emotions of confusion and uncertainty. This is an indulgent state of mind. It’s indulgent because it puts us into emotional childhood. We no longer feel responsible to decide what to do or find a solution. Instead, we get to wallow in our own confusion and do nothing.
I can say this because I spent years doing this. I knew I wanted to do something different in my career, but I told myself that I didn’t know what it was. I was convinced I had to find the one, perfect path and I didn’t really take action to change anything. I spent a lot of time exploring possibilities in my head, but I didn’t pound the pavement and get out there and do anything different.
It wasn’t until I saw that staying stuck was not serving me or the world that I finally decided to take action and make a real change. I wanted to do more with my life and I had the painful realization that I was wasting precious time. That pain was greater than any uncertainty I had, so I finally took action and moved forward.
As Anaïs Nin put it, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” There is some risk in dropping the words “I don’t know.” When you commit to figuring it out, you may have to fail along the way. But failure is actually not a problem unless you make it a problem.
Based on my experience, I recommend that you remove the words “I don’t know” from your vocabulary when it comes designing your life or figuring out what to do next in your life and career. They aren’t useful and they aren’t even true.
What To Say Instead
My coach doesn’t allow me to respond with “I don’t know.” She always says “but if you did know, what would the answer be?” When she asks this, I’m always able to come up with an answer. Try it for yourself. The next time you find yourself tempted to say “I don’t know,” challenge yourself to go beyond that thought and find an answer.
Telling yourself “I can figure this out” is also a great alternative to “I don’t’ know.” This thought actually presupposes the “I don’t know” but it doesn’t stop there. It focuses on moving forward to figure out what’s next and it’s motivating, which drives action.
It’s also usually easy enough to believe. If you’ve figured out things in the past, which of course you have, then it’s not a stretch to believe that you can figure out your current challenge.
Your brain may protest and say “but I don’t know how to do this.” The “how” is not actually that important. You can just decide to figure it out and then start trying different things until you figure it out. Decision happens in an instant, so once you decide you’re going to figure it out, you can start moving towards that result.
Telling yourself “I don’t know” is the number one cause of wasting time for almost everyone. Deciding and getting busy taking action and trying different things is the best remedy for that.
If someone stops and asks you for directions and you truly don’t know or don’t have time to look it up on your phone, politely say “I’m sorry, I don’t know.”
In every other decision point, cross-roads, or challenge in your life that feels new, difficult, or uncertain, there is only one option going forward: “I can figure this out.”
And you know what? You can and you will.
Have a beautiful week.
P.S. If you’d like to learn more tools for making powerful decisions for yourself, let’s talk in a free strategy call. We’ll look at what’s holding you back and keeping you stuck in confusion and you’ll leave the call with the insight and strategy you need to confidently decide what’s next for you.