In Praise of the Unknown

11 October 2020 | 4 min read


I hear a lot about the fear of the unknown. That we fear what we don´t know. That we want to know. That the current uncertainty is difficult..

But somehow, even if it certainly feels that way sometimes for me as well, especially right now, I wonder if it is true. I wonder if this isn’t maybe something else that we fear.

Because.. why would we want to know everything? Why would we want to ruin the pleasure of discovering life as it unfolds and the amazement of seeing the surprises that it has in store for us?

Why would we want to renounce the sensual experience of a first encounter? Plan everything in advance and reduce the world of possibilities. Why would we suppress our creativity in narrowing it with what we already know? Give up on the playfulness of our curiosity?

Why wouldn’t we want to have a second, a third, and many more chances in life that can only come when we each time give the unknown a chance?

We would replace all that with a limited idea of an illusionary future? And then have nothing else to do in our life than to live it according to a plan we made up in our head? Ignoring that we have no complete control over it anyway? That doesn’t make too much sense to me..

I wouldn´t want to know my future even if I could, would you? Even if I knew, even if there were a plan set for me, I wouldn’t know what to do with all the information -both the happy and the unhappy stories of my future, that inevitably will happen at some point because it is just how life is. With all the ups and the downs that belong to the journey. At least it is how my life has always been. Let alone the beautiful twists that happened many times in my life and that I could never have created in my imagination!

Luckily, life is more creative than me.

The unknown is how and where life unfolds. It is where our creativity and new thoughts arise. It is the source of our amazement. Where we feel alive, alert, and full of excitement. It is where genius has space to come up with solutions, and art, and innovation, and happiness, and our dreams realized.

We can’t reject the unknown!

Otto Scharmer, Teacher at Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), that some of you may know, developed a method some years ago: Theory U. It is a fascinating tool for transformation where he invites us to take a few minutes of silence and stillness each time in the middle of the process (at the bottom of the U shape) to allow for pictures of the future to emerge. It is the moment when, after we have explored the whole field of everything we already know, we wait for something new to come. He invites us to consciously build in, in the cycle of transformation, this empty space for stillness and not knowing. To allow our mind to get quiet and embrace our intention without an answer, yet. The result is always amazing!

He calls it: “Holding the space for what wants to be born”.

You probably have experienced the stillness of the unknown before, consciously or unconsciously. Maybe you would like to try it now, just a moment? Take a minute or two for a mental break. For a moment of quiet. Not reading, not doing anything, not wanting or searching, just a moment to get comfortable with not knowing.. with or without an intention. Wait. Feel it.

The unknown is this space of magic, where wisdom can connect with us (and our intention) and express itself. Where the cards can be reshuffled. Where the intelligence of the whole universe comes together to show us a way. Not the one our intellect thinks is right. A new way. Where the future of our intention can emerge..

But sometimes our heads want to take over again, control something that is uncontrollable, and then, out of anxiety, we limit ourselves. Out of fear that something bad could happen we don’t want to explore the beauty of what could go right. What if something good or even better happened? What if nothing special happened? What if something unpleasant happened but it had nothing to do with the scenario we had in our head that made us suffer in the present and worry way in advance for nothing. What if something happened that is different from what we wanted, and it was exactly the right thing.

What if the unknown was just how life gives us each time a new chance? A chance to try it again? To do it better. To play.

The only reason to fear what we don’t know is when we get triggered by a pessimistic view of the future and our anxiety takes over. When the images we create in our minds are dark. When we fear a loss and think we won´t be able to deal with it. When we simply and painfully get caught up in our heads. When we underestimate ourselves and our amazing abilities to deal with life.

We are never afraid of the unknown. We are not afraid of what we don’t know. We are afraid of the stories we associate in our heads with not knowing. Like when we were children and saw imaginary monsters in the dark. They feel so real but they are not. Our heads are amazing storytellers that can create the most wonderful and the worst stories.

We can scare ourselves with our stories. What we all do innocently every now and again. Or we can get still for a moment and open a space for what wants to come. Then live our lives (with or without beautiful dreams, I certainly prefer with!) and let life surprise us. What it does anyway.

If I had a prayer to whomever, it would be: Please don’t take away the unknown from me, just take away my fears.

With Love, Drissia / /


Written by Drissia Schroeder-Hohenwarth

Transformative Coach for Leaders, Teams and Organisations with a fascination for the endless potential of the mind.

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