These Three Little Words Are Holding You Back (and you have no idea!)


The Curse of Not Knowing…

“I don’t know whether it’s even possible,” she said

“It’s never been done like this before,” she said to me, the passionate would-be author and campaigner. “I don’t know if it’s possible, but I feel that it’s the right thing to do.”

And then….

And then the next words out of her mouth were her logical brain taking over. The logical brain that starts to spin us into the future, or takes us back into the past and reminds us of all those times we’ve ‘failed’:

— I don’t know where to start
— I have so many ideas, I need more time to decide which is the right one
— I need to consult with…
— Oh, what if X happens? (good OR bad!)

This is what happens when we don’t know the difference between ‘I don’t know’ being a statement of truth, and I don’t know being something problematic we have to solve before we can take a step forward.

Sure, sometimes there are things to figure out, or, at least, to sit with; the degree of risk, the potential downside, the priority this project has above other things we want to do.

But, most often, those aren’t the things that are holding us back. Most often it’s the confusion of the ‘not knowing’, and the unwillingness to see this as a simple fact, versus trying to make up what’s beyond the unknown.

Because, whatever it is, you’ll only know by going there.

…And How to Overcome It

Take a step, reach out to the person you want to talk to, ask your manager for the role in that new project they’re recruiting for, have a heart to heart with the staff member or colleague or friend you’re struggling to connect with, write those first words of your next article or book, connect with the big cheese whose team you want to join.

The only thing that’s holding you back is the tightness with which you’re holding on to ‘I don’t know’ as being relevant to what you choose to do next.

The truth is we never know.

Until we do.

With love,



About the author

Cathy Presland is an expert in transformative leadership. She has more than two decades of experience in government and international organisations and her focus as a coach is to support impact-driven individuals and organisations to improve their performance, leadership and peace of mind so they can make more of a difference with the work they do. Find out more at

What if making an impact was part of your everyday? Stories to light up your soul. Read more and free courses:

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