3 Words that Changed My Life

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It was the third day of a 10-day silent retreat. No eye contact, no talking, just an opportunity to untether myself from nagging to-do’s, noisy distractions, and quite simply, an incessantly driven mind.

Some of you might hear silent retreat and think, “She’s crazy.” Trust me, I wondered that myself a few times.

Others might think, “How relaxing!” But, the first few days were far from relaxing. I was mentally cluttered and physically worn out. My mind spun stories about work left and right.

How will things turn out? Did I have everything ready? What if things don’t go well? 

I was smack in the middle of some important changes at work, and my mind was dead-set to figure it all out.

Around midday on the third day, the sandstorm of thoughts started to settle. As I sat there focused on my breath, three words appeared in my consciousness.

I don’t know. 

I opened my eyes to make sure I was still breathing. Then I heard myself say it again.

I don’t know. 

Once more, I whispered it to myself.

I don’t know. 

Finally, it sunk in. I don’t know! I don’t know how things will turn out. Nor do I know where to go from here. For that matter, I don’t really know how the next moment will unfold.

Why was this so earth-shattering, you might wonder? In all of my adult life, I’d never heard myself utter these three words. I took pride in having answers (even when I didn’t) and being in control (even when I wasn’t) and taking action (even when it was aimless).

But this time was different. I didn’t try to cover-up fear and doubt with radiant optimism. I stopped grappling for clarity and control. And I surrendered to the truth.

Fast forward to today, and the words, “I don’t know” are still a tremendous touchstone in my life. Whether I’m confused about a business decision, confronting a relationship dilemma, or navigating a health challenge, this simple phrase helps me reconcile with the truth. I step off the proverbial hamster wheel and I embrace the situation with greater openness, wisdom, and humility.

It can feel vulnerable to admit that we don’t know in a society that prizes having it all figured out. But as Margaret Atwood has said, “When nothing is sure, everything is possible.”

How about you… could some aspect of your life benefit from hearing you say, “I don’t know?” What possibilities might present themselves on the other side?

Breon Michel

About Breon

Mindfulness teacher, compassionate community leader, entrepreneur, writer, stress reduction aficionado, hope igniter, adventure seeker, mountain biker, devoted to others

2 Responses to “3 Words that Changed My Life”

  1. Kerry

    Love this Breon! “I don’t know” is such a freeing statement …. There is such a lightness to it which i appreciate particularly because it really allows me to open up to possibilities.

    • Breon

      Great to see your name pop up, Kerry! I’m happy to hear the post resonated. So very true about stepping into freedom and possibilities when we admit that we don’t know. Hope to see you soon!