“Being a knower started out as a harmless way to get noticed and applauded, but it continued as a habit that complicated my life.” —Brian Hinken, The Learner’s Path, Practices for Recovering Knowers
Instead of New Years Resolutions, I choose a theme for each year. I do this because I always used to abandon my resolutions by February. My theme for 2018 is “I Don’t Know.” Brian Hinken, quoted above, was fired from a job for trying to know everything, essentially being a “know-it-all.” After that hard lesson, Hinken shifted from being a “knower” to being a “learner.” I’m not a know-it-all, but I do think I know a lot, and I also think that can be dangerous. I want to be a learner in 2018
I don’t know everything about anything
I want to stay open and curious. When I think I really understand a friend or a client, I want to remember I don’t know everything. I might be wrong. There’s more to the person than I see. Even someone close. When chewing on a dilemma, I want to get other perspectives, look at the thing from many sides. I don’t want to move to solution quickly on things that would benefit from slowing down.
Dewitt Jones, renowned National Geographic photographer, inspires me when he talks about creativity. “There’s more than one right answer,” he says. Not just in photography. “There are a thousand ways to come at any challenge, to find that extraordinary view.” In a short but powerful Youtube video, he shows how this works with his photography. He asks himself early on, “What lens do I need to use?” He tries one shot. It looks good. Then he moves to another vantage point and finds the first right answer. He keeps shifting his perspective and trying different lenses, and gets right answer after right answer. Until he gets the one he loves.
I want to do that about everything…people, ideas, solutions. To go deeper, keep asking questions, change perspective, expect to be surprised, and delight in the process.
I don’t know what to expect
I want to be open to how February unfolds, and then March, and then all of 2018. I want there to be enough room in my calendar to be spontaneous.
Not knowing excites me. It feels like I’m on the verge of something…maybe a deeper understanding of the things I do know, maybe knowing with my heart as well as my mind.
Anne Hillman, in her book The Dancing Animal Woman, titles a chapter Daring Not To Know. She talks about how weary she is of perpetual focus, wanting to open her mind to new wisdom along with intellect. She feels both frightened and hopeful, as if being summoned to something deep and real.
And so I imagined myself a caterpillar at the very tip of a branch with no place else to go. With great effort I gathered all that I really trusted under me like my rear legs. And then, very slowly, I stretched my head forward, groping, out into the dark.
I don’t want to know
As part of this year’s theme I’m being mindful of what I don’t want to know…to create spaciousness in my life. I want to turn off the news when I’ve heard enough, not read a book even if it’s recommended. And I want to ask for help when there’s something I need to know but can’t or don’t want to learn it.
I don’t know how this theme will unfurl, but I’m excited to find out.
- What’s the theme that’s calling you for 2018?
- How might it feel to name a theme and then let it guide you through the year, more like a north star than a goal?