As I’ve gotten older, I’ve discovered that all the things I’ve said, "I don't know" in response to a question, I actually did know.
I’m not talking about knowing the answers to advanced physics or calculus theorems. (Lord knows I don’t know anything about math!) I’m talking about knowing the answers to questions that pertain to the heart.
You do know what you want to do.
You do know what you want to become.
You do know what’s possible for you.
But the "I don't know"'s keep us in a place of inaction and confusion. They keep us stuck, legitimized in our excuses, and off the hook.
When you’re asked a question, and your response is, “I don't know," wait for the second answer. It’s the true answer that you don’t want to say out loud.
You judge it. You’re scared of it. You think other people might judge you. It might hurt someone’s feelings. You might have to get honest in a way that requires you to change something in your life that isn’t working. It might bring up feelings.
I have a friend who was in a bad relationship. I asked her why she didn’t just leave the guy. Her response: “I don't know."
Of course she knew. But having to say what she knew required her to confront areas of her life she didn’t want to face (the fear of being alone, the admittance she deserved better, the realization that her self-worth was determined by another person). She thought by not acknowledging it, she wouldn’t have to face it.
Denial postpones. It doesn’t prevent.
I ask an actor why he hasn’t called his agent. His response: "I don't. know." Look behind that answer. What are you scared of? What would it mean to actually initiate movement in your life in an area that’s stalled out? What would it mean to speak honestly about your needs being met and what you deserve? What would it look like to be liberated from the imprisonment your "I don't know"'s lock us into?
The next time you say "I don't know" to something, stop. See if you can identify the pay-off in responding that way. Then wait for the second answer.
What would it feel like to give that answer a voice? A place to be expressed? An opportunity to be shared?
“I don’t know.”
Yes, you do.