The Power of Not Having All the Answers



“It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.”

Eugene Ionesco

What comes to mind when you hear this quote? Does it feel like some strange thing a Buddhist Monk would say? Well stop and think again. This is about us accepting all those times when we did not know. When the path was not clear but we acted anyway. When we built friendships on our lack of knowledge.

In this post I want to explore the benefits of uncertainty. The progress we can make when we admit (mainly to ourselves) that we do not know. The wonderful things we can discover and the beauty we can bring into our lives.

1. Embracing Uncertainty

When we think we need to know all the answers it encourages perfectionism. We often shy away from the things we do not know that well. The result is we can miss out on so many wonderful things in life.

As an example, I am a recovering perfectionist. I needed to know everything and be right about everything. Then, I discovered gardening, a hobby I love. I quickly realised that not only was it impossible to be perfect, I knew nothing. Yes, I got to work learning but that was the most fun. Every year I have new delights, can I grow new plants, what will grow, how will the weather be this year. I definitely do not know all the answers but I do love finding out.

When we start to embrace the uncertainty it opens the door to excitement. Think about birthdays as a kid, it was exciting opening presents when you did not know what you were going to get. As an adult, when you know, it’s a bit blah. Apply this principle to other areas of your life. Connect with the excitement of not knowing and bring some real wonder into your life.

2. The Growth Mindset

I have heard many definitions of a growth mindset but probably the best comes from Carol Dweck. Carol is a psychologist who wrote the book Mindset – Changing the way you think to fulfil your potential.

“A growth mindset is the belief that abilities and intelligence can be developed through dedication, hard work, and perseverance.”

Carol Dweck

The way I like to view this is you can learn or change anything you want, it is just a matter of putting in the work. Why is this relevant to this post? Well, when you accept you don’t have all the answers you know there is something to learn. You know that if you put some work in, you might get some or all of the answers, it is down to you.

When we think we know everything, it leaves no room to grow and develop. This puts us firmly in a fixed mindset where we think that what we know is it. In reality, there are very few subjects where you will have all the answers, even about yourself. So let’s all embrace the fact we don’t know everything and look for the space to grow.

When I practise yoga, or teach, it is always important to think like a beginner, like the first time we got on the mat. This stops automatic practice and keeps us more present. We know we have something to learn. Our bodies are different every time we get on the mat and so is the way we respond to poses. Taking that step back into beginner’s mind allows each practice to be one of growth.

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.”

Shunryu Suzuki

3. Improved Relationships

Here’s the rub when we think we know everything. It is very damaging for our relationship. Imagine dealing with someone who is always right. Not fun. Having to be right can make us argumentative and not fun to be around. It creates division and puts you sides where everyone needs to stake their claim.

When you decide to let go of being right, of knowing it all, it changes everything. It encourages collaboration, working together. It’s that old saying “put your heads together”. When we are looking for a solution we effectively come together.

This is one of my biggest problems, I need to be in control of everything, because I do it best. This has caused problems for me at work and at home as well as unnecessary stress. When I learned to delegate, to ask for help, it made a huge difference to my peace of mind and my relationships.

4. Reducing Stress and Anxiety

This is a major one. When we feel we need to have all the answers it piles loads of stress on us. We have anxiety about showing up. What if we get it wrong? When we let go of this need to know all the answers we let go of the stress. So what if you make a mistake? So what if you don’t know? You can always answer “I don’t know, but I can find out”.

I’m not sure if this is really a helpful story but it might make you smile. I have a toddler, well preschooler who asks me lots of questions. Often I don’t know the answer and it is tempting to make something up, but I don’t. I just tell him I don’t know. The funny thing is, when I say this he says “No, tell me” like I am just not telling him. Like there is some big secret.

Well this little person is like your inner voice when you think you need to know all the answers. Imagine having a little person there going, “no really, tell me”. When you reiterate you don’t know, it just asks you again and gets more insistent. How annoying and stressful would that be. Well that is what you are doing to yourself when you expect to know all the answers. (See I knew that story was going somewhere).

Take a breath, relax and let go of all the stress of needing to know everything.

5. Enhancing Authentic Leadership

Do you expect your leaders to know all the answers? Or are you happy if they have questions? This will say a lot about how you view yourself and what you expect from you. The truth is, it is impossible for someone to know everything, leader or not. True leadership comes from acknowledging that.

If you are looking to be a leader and you expect yourself to know everything, have all the answers, you will expect the same from others. That means you could end up putting unnecessary pressure on the people that work for you. When you accept your flaws and the things you don’t know you build much more authentic relationships. People will be much more interested in what you have to say and listen more when you do know the answer.

Build more fulfilling work and business relationships by taking that step back. Accept you still have stuff to learn.

6. Boost Your Creativity

When we don’t know all the answers, we look for solutions. The best story I can think of to show this has been told so many times, but here we go. When Edison was inventing the lightbulb, it took around 1000 attempts. But the fact he accepted he did not know everything made him look for creative solutions. And in the end came up with the answer.

Or you could tell the story of Henry Ford who made his engineers work on the 8 cylinder engine until they did it. They all said it could not be done. But because they accepted they did not know everything they kept going and did it.

The truth is, when we are looking for a solution we might need to think outside the box. That leads to discoveries and inventions. When Pasteur discovered the mouldy petri dishes, he could have thrown them away. But his inquisitive mind led to him discovering penicillin.

Sometimes, accepting you know nothing can make you look at things anew. It can spark your creativity and lead to wonderful solutions.

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence.”

Albert Einstein


As you can see, there are so many benefits to accepting that you do not have all the answers. When you do that you can learn, grow, make discoveries and forge stronger relationships. I challenge you all to approach every task you do with a beginner’s mind, like you know nothing. See what new wonders arise in your everyday tasks.

About the author, Mercedes Aspland

Mercedes is a transformation coach, helping people to transform their businesses, health, money mindset and more. With over 30 years experience in personal development and almost 20 in business she is uniquely positioned to support others in making the changes they need to live the life of their dreams.

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