Why It’s Okay Not to Know

Feb 20, 2019

“Being at ease with not knowing is crucial for answers to come to you.” —Eckhart Tolle

Throughout our world at the moment, there is much nebulousness about what will come, how certain situations will work out, what opportunities will arise or perhaps which tribulations will present themselves. Such uncertainty is not a new phenomenon that citizens living in the twenty-first century have been the first to experience. Fortunately, or unfortunately, living without knowing was, is and will be, ever-present.

Such is the human condition. Such ambiguity is present in our world at large and our individual worlds as well. But take comfort in this truth rather than be stunted by fear because as someone who regularly tries to map out possibilities and outcomes in my head, trying to figure out as much as I possibly can to avoid the surprises and obstacles in life, the “not knowing” is actually a good place to be if indeed we want to live life fully.

Let’s begin with Eckhart Tolle’s quote above.

1.The Not Knowing Enables the Right Answer for You to Be Seen

Last year and since the summer of 2017, my head was down, focused and had laser clarity regarding what I needed to accomplish and how I could accomplish it. While much worked out and in grand and small ways exceeded my expectations, not everything worked out as I had predicted or hoped: I had to navigate on the fly more times than I wanted to or could have planned for, and I errantly thought I knew what the overall outcome would be, but life had soooo many more lessons and ahas to reveal to me.

Now, I am in more of a state of not-knowing than I have found myself in quite some time. At moments I have found myself frustrated due to finding myself in a state of “unknowing” that I mistakenly believed was not frequent in my life over the past 5-10 years. But the truth was, and is, I was actually always in the “not knowing”, as the past 18 months demonstrated.

The good news with the time that has passed is that I have never before in my life known myself as well as I know myself now. And so, while I do not know what the future holds, I am presented with moments that to some may appear to be opportunity, but I clearly and with more immediate certainty know they are not for me. In these moments, it is with a deep breath, I become all the more clear about the direction I am headed. Such information clarifies my next step.

These non-opportunities enable me to leave space for the right opportunities to be seen. And so in these moments, Tolle’s quote rings true.

2. Life Becomes More Serene

“So many people prefer to live in drama because it’s comfortable. It’s like someone staying in a bad marriage or relationship – it’s actually easier to stay because they know what to expect every day, versus leaving and not knowing what to expect.” —Ellen DeGeneres

We have the potential to work ourselves into a tizzy of anxiety when we do not know where our futures will lead or how it will work out. So much so that we will create drama and involve others to partake as we vent or moan or become agitated. On the flip side, others will remain involved in situations that are known, no matter how negative or unhelpful, which prevents the cultivation of real personal growth simply because they know what to expect.

To accept that the not knowing is normal is healthy. What a relief to realize that serenity is attainable when you remove yourself from the drama. By doing so, you step confidently each day toward what you know is your intuition’s guided direction. This is where serenity if found.

3.Do the Homework, Continue to Work and Then Let Go

“I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.” —Rosalia de Castro

Ignorance, if chosen intentionally, is not bliss. It will not lead us to our fullest potential. Joseph Campbell may be right regarding the freedom ignorance gives us, but when we shun information or knowledge that is readily available, we are doing ourselves and the world no favors. We must remain steadfast in being a student of life, for our life’s duration. And it is our steadfast attention to living consciously, choosing to learn regularly and applying the knowledge, that will actually enable us to let go.

Letting go is hard, but so long as the healthy, helpful habits are a part of our lives, the practice of living well that will enable us to seize opportunities that are right for us when they present ourselves, we can let go. What are we letting go of, you might ask? We are letting go of the doubt that we are doing the right thing, that we are wasting our energy.

So long as you have done the leg-work of getting to know yourself and continue to pay attention, strengthening the skills that all of us can acquire that will enable us to reach our full potential in our relationships, in our careers and any other arena we are involved (these skills are detailed in my new book), then you can take a deep breath and enjoy the journey because the train is headed in the right direction.

“I love the unknown. I love the discovery of what will be happening and just kind of sitting back and not knowing.” —Jennifer Aniston

4. Choose Curiosity over Fear

Curiosity is arguably the elixir to a youthful life regardless of the years we have spent on the planet Earth. For when we choose to be curious, we remain open to possibilities, to the unknown surprising us with new information, new experiences and shaking up what we may have thought was possible.

If instead we live in fear, we may not know we actually are. The test to determine our fuel for living, curiosity or fear, is to consider Albert Einstein’s quote: “The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.” In other words, is it your default to see opportunity for awesomeness that makes you celebrate and smile or opportunity for loss, death and tragedy?

Now, don’t get me wrong, both will happen to some degree in all of our lives, but we find what we look for because we inspire in others what we seek. If we riddle those around us with doubts, worse case scenarios, and perpetual worry, we not only are filling our own minds with such ideas, but others’ minds as well unconsciously, and this, are more likely to spot it and fixate upon it. On the flip side, if we infuse our conversations with ourselves and with others with possibilities, dreams and hopes, we spark positive outcomes that others may not have considered until they hear our ideas and experiences.

So let me ask you this question: What kind of universe do you want to live in? Let your answer fuel the thoughts and conversation you engage in because you are part of the world and each of us has influence. Use your influence to cultivate that world you just stated you want to live in because it will become your reality in due time.

We will never know for sure what our influence cultivated, but that is the gift of not-knowing. And in doing so, we create the potential for more goodness to be experienced that will delight us in our days ahead.

“I think on some level, you do your best things when you’re a little off-balance, a little scared. You’ve got to work from mystery, from wonder, from not knowing.” —Willem Dafoe

Perhaps this comparison will help. As we make our way through the final few weeks of winter, it would appear impossible that in two months time (or maybe sooner in other parts of the northern hemisphere), the frozen, snow-covered ground could yield spring blooms such as the Magnolia tree at the top of the post in ubiquity and abundance. But so long as the tree was cared for properly during the preceding fall and patience is practiced, the spring blooms will come. We may not know precisely when, we may not even know exactly how many blossoms will mature to their fullest, but we know that they will, and we know we are on the right path to ensuring they have the most potential to do so.

~SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:

~Relax: 21 Ways to Know You’re Doing Just Fine in This Thing Called Life, episode #107

~Why Not . . . Celebrate the Obstacles?, episode #99

~What to Do When You Don’t Know How the Future Will Unfold, episode #205



11 thoughts on “Why It’s Okay Not to Know

  1. Wise words, Shannon! I especially like your concept of non-opportunity. I approach life in a similar fashion: My default answer is no unless something resonates deeply within me. May you rest in your state of unknowing. 💋

    1. Thank you for sharing. Such clarity for me has been a gift as comparatively to earlier years, the uncertainty when opportunities were presented was true as I did not know myself well. The gratitude now when such moments present themselves is immense. 🙂

  2. Thank you Shannon for this post. I live constantly in this concept of not knowning and sometimes it’s very hard above all when you observe other people’s life that seem so accomplished.
    But at the end this is about the journey of life, we don’t have any instructions and we have to enjoy the ride with its ups and downs.

    1. Katia, Thank you for stopping by and sharing your experience. I think it helpful to recognize that comparing with others and what is presented is a false pursuit. As we are all different and it is only through time and honest conversation that we can learn of others’ journeys.

  3. I have a quote that I keep on my fridge: “The true profession of man is finding his way to himself.”
    Herman Hesse
    I love this because I believe it is a never ending journey for me to keep on getting to know myself, and it brings me joy and strengthens me the more I know!
    You are so wise Shannon and have such depth. I appreciate you very much!

  4. Beautifully written Shannon. So many thoughts to ponder on and something I am contemplating a lot more recently. Life is a journey and we can never know for sure the twists and turns it will take. Best to believe in a friendly universe conspiring in our favour.

  5. Thanks Shannon for this post. It comes at a really good time in my life. I am leaving a job for a new one. I am excited but scared at the same time (working with new people, new environment). This alleviates my fear in tackling new challenges in my life.

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