Angela Dryden

Certified Life Coach

You have options

woman standing on multicolored concrete pavement during daytime

As a Life coach, and one that is always working on my awareness and the words I use to communicate, I have found that the phrase “I don’t know” can often add confusion to the personal growth process.

“I don’t know” can be a statement or a question. The important thing to recognize about this phrase is that you are feeding your primitive brain exactly what it wants when you use it. It is almost like confirming out loud that because we don’t know something we will just stay put, get someone else to do it, or ignore it and hope it goes away.

When you ask a question, your brain wants to find the answer. However, if you begin a statement with self-doubt or lack of clarity your brain will go ahead and spin with you, as it is assuming that is what you must want because you just told yourself “I don’t know.”

Much like a personal computer using Google as a search engine, your brain can’t seek to find the information you are lacking when you use the phrase, “I don’t know.” On a whim, I entered this same phrase into a Google search and received the following information:

 I don’t know. informal. Used to express that you do not understand or are angry at something that someone has done.

Following this definition was an article called, 25 Things You Can Say Instead Of I Don’t Know. Even Google wants us to stop saying, “I don’t know” and spun to offer different suggestions on what to say.

pink and blue road signs near trees
lots of options

Here is a little self-coaching tip when exploring other options to the I don’t know phrase. Think of a circumstance in which you had the thought, “I don’t know,” one you are experiencing now or have in the past. Now decide how you are/were feeling: are you experiencing confusion, self-doubt, or are you overwhelmed? Now think of the same circumstance and use one of the phases below or think of words that fit for you then see what feeling comes up from the new thought. Is it curiosity, determination, maybe even clarity?

Here are a few new statements that you can say when you find yourself deciding to go down the I don’t know path. 

You can choose

“What do I know about this.”

“What’s another way to look at this.”

I am learning…….

I’m willing to experience…….

I’m challenging myself to……..

Growth is a step by step process. The saying “Until the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change we will stay the same” comes to mind when I think of the growth process. One thing I am learning is growth can be painful, but it can also be exhilarating. Only you can choose which it will be for yourself. 


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