Typically, you would be reading a column about the transition between school and summer, how to make your summer vacation memorable or how your children can stay connected with their friends after the school year ends.
We are in an atypical time during the coronavirus pandemic.
In realizing that I do not know what to expect during the next few months, the topic revealed itself — being OK with not knowing.
We grow up with a lot of pressure “to know.” In school, we are graded on knowing. If we do not know, we may be teased or shamed or receive a low mark. We may pressure our children “to know.” Not knowing equates to having made a major mistake.
Carrying a belief that you must know — with the accompanying discomfort about not knowing — can impact your leadership, including how you parent. Those who pressure themselves to “have all the answers” risk excluding others in decision-making. They sacrifice team in the process.
Realizing that you do not know something — how to relate to one of your children, what is going to be happening in the world in a month, the way to fix something — takes a lot of self-acceptance.
Sharing with others that you do not know something takes even greater vulnerability. In doing so, you drop the walls of pretending that you do know. You also free up a lot of energy that you were spending holding up those walls. You free yourself to learn.
The more self-acceptance that you have around not knowing, the less pressure you put on yourself, your children and others to always know how to handle every possible scenario that arises. You drop exploring every “what if.”
In one of his press briefings, Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, was asked a question. He assuredly and calmly said, “I have absolutely no idea.” He then asked others on his panel if they knew the answer. It was refreshing. He normalized not knowing in front of a television audience.
In working through a problem on the board, my college physics professor stopped, turned to the class and calmly said, “I can’t do this one right now.”
Like Cuomo, he was without shame or judgment about not knowing how to solve a problem. I remember that moment over everything else in that course.
During this time of uncertainty, get more comfortable with not knowing. The more comfortable you are, the more creativity, flexibility and curiosity you will have.
Ironically, that is the space for learning.