Guess What? You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know!


And what you don’t know is what’s keeping you stuck!

What you don’t know is what’s stopping you from getting what you want! Embracing and using new—often simple—knowledge can lead to profound personal change. Ultimately, being open to learning and the transformative power it holds can give you freedom and success.

Learning is a natural evolutionary process

Learning is part of developing as human beings, yet many people don’t like learning, trying to avoid it altogether! Fortunately, we really can’t avoid learning because it is a natural process. For example, you might find yourself suddenly singing long with the latest hit on the radio, and realise, even though you never intended to learn the words, you know them all!

Can you remember the last time you learnt something and thought, “That’s so true—yet I never even realised it before!”? Those ‘aha’ moments frequently occur to me. As curious person, I expect them to continue. After all, I’m never going to know everything. And that’s a good thing; I couldn’t bear the thought of not discovering new knowledge.

A stand-out exampleThe NLP Eye Accessing Cues - on tablet

One time that particularly stands out for me was when I learnt about the NLP Eye Accessing Cues during my NLP Practitioner Training back in 1994. (You can find out how eye accessing works in my eBook on the subject.) I was amazed that something so obvious (once it was pointed out!) could have been missed by the human race for so long. I was gobsmacked that we didn’t know about this thousands of years ago. Seriously, what were we doing all that time? Playing with fire and inventing the wheel, I suppose.

Noticing eye accessing is an indispensable skill

In my work as a trainer and coach, noticing eye-accessing is critical to understanding how someone is unconsciously creating their problem. By knowing it like the back of my hand, I can begin a change process to help the person overcome the issue and get back on track. It’s so important, I can’t imagine working without knowing about and using it. It’s like trying to make tea without boiling the water—utterly pointless!

Do you have something like that you’ve learned?

There are things that I know—and things I don’t know. There are many, many things I don’t know! I don’t know much about engineering, physics, or how cars work—and I know I don’t know about them.

But then there are things that I don’t know, that I don’t know I don’t know (yeah, you might have to read that twice!)

The NLP Eye Accessing Cues back in 1994 are an example. They were always there ‘in plain sight’ (pardon the pun) yet unnoticeable. Those are the type of new understandings that really excite me. They’re the ones that give me the biggest ‘aha’ moments, where the greatest learning takes place.

a woman and a girl completing a jigsaw puzzle pieces

Learning is part of life

In fact, as I mentioned earlier, it’s hard not to learn. Yet I still meet people who say, “I know all I need to know.” They say it in an abrupt tone and often with their palm held in a ‘halt’ gesture, signifying the end of the conversation. I’m always astounded by this response, figuring the person must have been traumatised by some past aspect of learning.

For most of us, it’s simply a case of, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” But once you do know, a whole new world opens up!

Training participant example: MarcusMarcus Deans, Manager. I found out more about myself

I often see clients and people on training courses in this situation. They’ve tried various unsuccessful ways to change their own or others’ behaviour. Marcus is one such person. After completing The Power of Personal Change, he said:

“I found I had a lot of defences, walls and barriers up. I pushed people away. I didn’t want people to know me, because I’d already made up my mind what I thought they’d think of me, which wasn’t fair on them. (I had) a fear of change and not knowing what I was getting into. I deliberately didn’t read the pamphlets.

I’d had discussions with my Manager about wanting to change, but not knowing how to change. He suggested The Power of Personal Change. I have a lot of respect for my manager and the way he deals with people, and I wanted to deal with people in a similar way. He suggested the course and that was good enough for me.”

Marcus was big enough to admit to not knowing, and sought assistance to fill his knowledge gap.During the course, he was the most delightful participant; like a human sponge, he soaked up the learning and, as he put it into practice his walls, defences and barriers came tumbling down.

This was his experience:

“One morning I was listening to someone, and I was thinking about all the ways I could respond to what was happening. It was as if all the choices of how I could respond were laid out in front of me—like I had multiple choices. It was almost like slow-motion; I could feel all these different multi-choice decisions, starting with my old reaction and slowly coming around to what I’d learnt. And that was only the second day. It was very powerful for me.” (Read Marcus’s full testimony)

Marcus’s new knowledge had given him a series of ‘aha’ moments in a very short space of time, as well as multiple choices for responding. Like Marcus, once open to acquiring new skills, most find a voracious appetite for learning that they hadn’t realised existed.

My role is to make my clients hungry

If I get clients who don’t want to learn how they can make changes, my first job is to make them hungry to learn. I usually ask, “So, have the things you’ve been doing to try and resolve this situation/problem worked?” The answer is typically, no. (Pretty obvious really—if they could have fixed the problem, they wouldn’t be my client and talking to me about it!)

So then I ask, “So if what you’ve been doing hasn’t worked, what’s the reason for continuing to do it?” Their answer is usually that they don’t know any other way. In other words, they’ve used all the skills they presently have.

They need new skills

My next question usually goes something like, “So, let me just check… you’re telling me you’ve had X, Y, and Z problems for many years and you’ve been doing the same things to try and change the situation. Those things haven’t worked no matter how many times you’ve tried. Is that correct?” I always get an affirmative answer. Then, “So would you be willing to learn some new skills to use, so that you can start achieving better outcomes?”

Let’s face it, only an idiot would say no! I’ve at least got someone to a point where they recognise that they might need more skills, and that they can learn new things to make a difference. The toughest job is done. The mind is open.

The biggest ‘Aha’

Once they start learning and applying new, and often really simple ways of altering their behaviour, they experience remarkably quick results (sometimes within an hour or two). I’ve noticed that the people who have been the most obstinate seem to get the quickest results, which of course reinforces their new behaviours. They come back keen to learn more. The biggest ‘aha’ for them is realising that by changing their own behaviour, other people respond differently to them. (This is the reason my training course The Power of Personal Change is so named!)

Learning brings freedom

2 women laughing and looking at a manual on a training course

New learning is often a catalyst for further learning and even more change. It’s great to witness this metamorphosis both in the training room or in a coaching session. I know that a person will never be the same—they don’t need to be—because now they have the most important freedom of all: the freedom to change and become more. And who doesn’t want to be more? More curious, more knowledgeable, more… you?

What don’t you know?

So, what don’t you know, that you don’t know you don’t know yet? Of course, it’s an unanswerable question! (It’s almost unreadable as well!)

The way to find the answer lies in any difficulties you might be experiencing. For every problem you have, there is someone who knows how to resolve it. Remember that I teach NLP which is based on the study of successful people in various fields.

All that needs to happen is to have an open mind and admit that you don’t know what you don’t know. Just like I didn’t know about eye accessing until 1994.

Wrapping it up: Embracing the unknown

Learning is an endless journey filled with ‘aha’ moments and unexpected discoveries. By embracing new knowledge and overcoming the fear of change, we can experience profound personal transformations and new found freedom.

The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice. ~ Brian Herbert

So, the next time you feel frustrated, stuck or want to change but don’t know how, remember—there’s always something new to learn, and it might just be the key to your success. Be like Marcus; big enough to admit that you don’t know what you don’t know, and open to new learning.

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Tags: Change, Interpersonal skills, Learning and memory, Problem solving, Thinking and mindset


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