Why “I don’t know” is NOT an Answer: Manage Your Mind to Learn to Decide

Question: Do you know what the lamest phrase in the English language is?

ANSWER: “I don’t know.”

Although… here is a close 2nd..

Quim — why would there ever be a need for vulgar pussy slang? Vulvas are how we all got here in the first place, they are epic undercover (literally) pleasure centers, and probably hold the secrets of the universe. {I digress…}

Have you ever been in a conversation where you haven’t finished your last sentence and the person in front of you has already started the dreaded… “oh, I don’t know…”

Original phrase: “I don’t know.”

The same phrase stated differently:

- “I don’t have any previous experience with this particular subject to reference back to.”

- "I’m not currently aware of an immediate answer.”

-"This answer may take some time to figure out, so I’m putting a placeholder phrase in for now.” - "I’m unwilling to find out.”

I challenge myself and my clients (and YOU reading this now) to no longer say, “I don’t know.”

The phrase is a cop-out, an excuse, a reason to not try to know.

Now, this isn’t blaming you — how would you have known any better? So make sure you don’t blame yourself. Instead, simply hold yourself to a higher standard. Here are a few phrases for you to ‘try on’ and see how they feel:

-" I’d love to find out."

- "Let me think about that for a moment."

- "Great question!"

- "Nothing immediately comes to mind — give me a second."

- "I’ll get back to you."

-" Hold on, let me decide."

I want to share with you a helpful tool I learned in a life coaching school that has proved itself invaluable over the years for myself and my clients. But before I do…

Take a moment to imagine you just caught yourself defaulting to saying some iteration of the phrase, “I don’t know.” Instead of beating yourself up (what good will that do?) or immediately trying to say something else… try to sit with silence first. Be quiet — both literally and figuratively speaking. Allow your mind to relax into the situation. Think about the original question that promoted the default response. Have no judgments on yourself throughout this process (which only takes a few mindful moments). Once you’ve stilled the mind and are in a neutral state, NOW is the time to ask yourself:

“If I did know, what would I say?”

BAM! Done. Everyone can go home.

Except... Isn’t that a little too simple? Then what?

*dramatic gathering of people flooding the street demanding more answers*

“Come on, Rebecca… we want answers, not more questions!”

Okay, I know what you’re thinking...

“How could I answer that? If I did know — I would have already answered!”

The point isn’t to already have the answer. In fact, it’s the opposite. The point is to give yourself permission to think deeper, be curious, and get in the habit of making decisions (and not simply ones based on default societal, familial, or personal norms).

“The path of the norm is the path of least resistance; it is the route we take when we’re on auto-pilot and don’t even realize we’re following a course of action that we haven’t consciously chosen… What they call ‘free choice’ is, in fact, the result of a narrowly obstructed set of options that have been chosen for them.” ― Melanie Joy, Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism: The Belief System That Enables Us to Eat Some Animals and Not Others

I can hear someone in the crowd now…

“I’m just stating a FACT! I really don’t know!”

Undecidedness is not to be confused with stating a fact.

A fact: After WWII, wallpaper was improved with plastic resins which made it more durable, washable and stain resistant.

A non-fact: “I really don’t know.”

See, here’s the thing. Nobody is questioning whether or not you do or do not know the square root of 100 (hint: it’s 10). What the takeaway message I’m trying to drill home here is…



Be on purpose.

Why waste another moment stopping the most incredible tool you have (brain) from doing the most important job it could possibly do? The human brain has the capacity to think, rationalize, question, and perform a whole host of other incredible functions. Do you know what happens when the 3 word phrase passes your lips?

*whisper voice* “I don’t know….”

The brain stops trying to know. We are wired to notice, adapt, act, repeat. When we are directed to notice something (ex: someone asks a question) and we DON’T try to answer — we just stopped ourselves from some potentially epic and life-altering moments.

Now, if someone is asking where to go out to lunch and you’re indifferent… I get it. Why use your brain power to decide when you don’t really care? I want to show you how to get into the habit of managing your mind and making decisions (regardless of how seemingly small or mundane). The next time someone asks where you’d like to eat — I dare you to decide. I dare you to take a moment, use one of the alternative phrases prompts mentioned earlier, and choose.

Then wait. You did it. Nothing magical is going to happen at first, except maybe you really enjoy the restaurant you decided on. Next time you’re presented with a question, options, or situations where you aren’t immediately sure how to proceed… decide again. And the next time after that? Decide. Decide. Decide. Keep making decisions.

*PRO-TIP: Once you’ve made a decision, stick to it. Decide to make holding yourself accountable to your own choices something you do, always.

The magic is going to occur before you may even recognize it. Suddenly, after reading this article and making the choice to decide, you choose to live more on purpose. When coworkers approach you with questions on the project, friends ask what you want to do on your birthday, or a stranger asks for directions (does anyone do that anymore?) — you have answers. Not the perfect or right answer — but you have the power to choose and decide. You have intuition, skills, and tools (like the alternative phrases above!)

The magic is in the habit.

Make this a habit.

Manage your mind.

Decide to decide.

So let me ask you this….

“If you did know, what would you say?”