I was in my senior year of high school when I was asked for the millionth time by another “adult:” “What are you going to major in?”
I had no idea. Later that evening I was talking to my dad & I asked him what he thought I should major in. I’m sure he gave me some ideas but what I vividly remember from that conversation is him telling me that it’s also okay if I don’t know right now.
“It’s okay to not know.”
That answer seemed somewhat surprising after numerous teachers & “adults” spoke of how important it was to know what you were going to major in.
This advice gave me a huge sense of relief and I still use it today in a number of situations.
I went into college with no major, undeclared, for my first 2 years, then I actually had to decide.
I chose based off of what my interests were, not off of what would make me the most money, and I am happy with my choices. I have a degree in Sport Management, a minor in Business, and a Masters of Education degree.
I wasn’t worried about the future when I entered college undeclared.
“Know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum.”
My focus was on the day at hand. My focus was to live life to the fullest while completing everything needed to graduate.
I knew that it was okay to not try to know exactly how my future would pan out, but to trust it would turn out well, and I took actions based on that faith, like this quote from Alan Watts:
“To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float.”
But it can be easy to get caught up in worrying about the countless tasks you need to complete. I do that sometimes, but when I know I’m worrying I remind myself to focus on what I can do to return to peace of mind.
Worry can be a motivator to get things done, but it can be a cage as well. Uncertainty lives with all of us, every single day. It’s always there, like gravity. How will you deal with it?
“The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the amount of uncertainty that you can comfortably live with.”
So it’s completely okay to not know.
“The only thing I know is that I know nothing.”
But what happens when you really want to know?
You want to know the answer.
You want to know what to do.
You want to know what will happen.
You want certainty in uncertain things and there are ways to create some certainty during uncertain times.
There are ways to create some certainty during uncertain times.
—One way is to dwell in the idea that life is working out in everyone’s best interest, even during down times. And if you’re constantly hating your job then that could be life telling you to quit & find work that you enjoy.
—The second way is to focus on making progress.
If you really want to “grab life by the horns” and take control of your life, progress is key. You might feel stuck at a job you hate or lost in what you think you should do.
How can you make progress?
—Begin by asking yourself “what does my ideal life look like?”
Think about ideals in a variety of aspects in your life: Financial, relationships, career, hobbies, environment, etc.
This is the time to let go of any limiting beliefs you have and raise your standards.
Even if you don’t believe you can have your ideal life just pretend for a moment and think about what it would look like.
—Know your “why.”
Why do you want your ideal life? Think about all your reasons. It could be for your happiness, to provide for your family, to start a charity, to buy a new car, etc.
Begin taking action toward your ideal life. Your reasons for making it happen will grow stronger from here.
Uncertainty surrounds us every day.
How will you make the most of it?
“The root of suffering is resisting the certainty that no matter what the circumstances, uncertainty is all we truly have.”
“We absolutely must leave room for doubt or there is no progress and there is no learning. There is no learning without having to pose a question. And a question requires doubt. People search for certainty. But there is no certainty. People are terrified — how can you live and not know? It is not odd at all. You only think you know, as a matter of fact. And most of your actions are based on incomplete knowledge and you really don’t know what it is all about, or what the purpose of the world is, or know a great deal of other things. It is possible to live and not know.”
“There are many things of which we are completely unaware—in fact, there are things of which we are so unaware, we don’t even know we are unaware of them.”
“Suspecting and knowing are not the same.”
“People don’t know that they don’t know. Remember that before you hold it against them.”
“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.”
“A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.”
“Everything you’ve learned in school as “obvious” becomes less and less obvious as you begin to study the universe. For example, there are no solids in the universe. There’s not even a suggestion of a solid. There are no absolute continuums. There are no surfaces. There are no straight lines.”
Richard Buckminster Fuller
“Beyond all sciences, philosophies, theologies, and histories, a child’s relentless inquiry is truly all it takes to remind us that we don’t know as much as we think we know.”
5 thoughts on “It’s okay to not know”
I don’t think I ever focus on the “Why” when it comes to the things I want. Something to think about. Good quotes, too. I never thought I’d agree with something Donald Rumsfeld said. Life works in mysterious ways.
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It’s a good practice to think of the “why” of things. Haha, sometimes people we disagree with have said something worthwhile. Life definitely works in mysterious ways.
Great article Ken. I especially like the part where it says to “take action.” I believe that is the most difficult due to fear of the unknown. I loved the quotes too!
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Thank you. I agree it can be difficult to take action during the times when fear turns paralyzing. I think it’s important to remember that it’s okay to take action when feeling fear.