How do you know what you don't know?

This isn't one of those motivational 'how to set goals' post, instead it's a simple question that I am struggling to come to answer myself: How do you know what you don't know?

To frame this another way: I know the things I know, and while I may not be an expert at these things, these are still things I know. For example: Computers. I am a computer programmer and I have a very good working knowledge of computers. I work on a computer all day and am always tinkering and trying new things out. While I wouldn't call myself a hardware expert (which is a specific knowledge subset of computers) I still know about them and know how to research/increase my knowledge around this area when applicable. 

There are also things I know I don't know about - take Archery for example. I know Archery exists, I know it is a sport and I know it involves a bow and arrow and target but apart from that I couldn't tell you anything else about it as I don't know. I don't know how it is scored, I don't know how you play/win or if it's an Olympic sport and I couldn't tell you one famous archer.

The things I know can be summed up as follows:

You might be thinking: Where the hell is he going with this? but stick with me. How do I know there isn't something out there, in the great big purple circle of 'Things I don't know' that I could love. It could be a certain type of music I've never heard before, it could be a leisure activity or a new career. It could be an artist or a food, something or someone arty. I don't know though because it exists in the land of Things I don't know.

Using running as an example, this time last year I knew nothing about running. I didn't know there were different kinds of running shoes depending on the surface you ran on. I didn't know you had to fuel as you ran long distances. I didn't know about or how to stretch. These are the things I didn't know about but there are also experiences I didn't know about either. I didn't know the overwhelming sense of accomplishment that comes with crossing a finish line or the feeling of pride when something you thought was impossible became possible through your own work.

These were all things I now know but 12 months ago didn't even know they existed. These were discovered through exploring that overlapping circle bit - the things I know I don't know. I do feel extremely lucky to have hit something I love in finding running. I have tried other things in the past 12 months, for example I went to a Yoga workshop a few months back. I had never done Yoga and wanted to try it, and while I enjoyed it, I don't have the time right now to pursue it - and that's OK. That's my decision right now and while I may revisit it again in the future, at least I know I tried it.

A few people have already asked me what my New Years Resolutions/Goals are for 2014 and if I'm honest with you, I don't have any general goals. I don't really want to set any broad year-long goals as I know I work better setting short/medium term goals in a specific area that I can work towards while getting continuous feedback. 

What I mean by that is - Instead of signing up for a new 4 year undergraduate degree, sign up for a 12 week online course. Instead of signing a 12 month gym contract in January, sign up to a month-by-month Bootcamp. I always have these fantastic intentions that often never get realised as I get bored/change my mind. By taking small steps, you can decide if it's still for you and can ramp up or withdraw at little cost and quickly. If I sign up for a €50 monthly bootcamp and don't like it or find I'm not getting my money's worth, simple - don't sign up next month. If I've paid €600 for the gym (€50 monthly direct debit), and I stop going - that guilt will hang over me.

Last year I wanted a bike as I was going to start cycling as part of my fitness regime. Instead of rushing out to buy a new bike, I borrowed one from a friend (Thanks Michelle!). The bike sat in the shed for THREE months before I gave it back. I didn't go out on it once. And while this may comes back to the How do I know I wouldn't have excelled at cycling and loved it even more than I love running now?, there has to be some pay off. You can't follow every potential lead that comes your way - you have to decide which you want to pursue.

I am not going to make a list of non-specific New Years Goals such as the typical 'Do something new' or 'Be more creative', I am making myself the following goal: This month, try something new/different. This can be linked to something I already do e.g. Run an off-road race. This can also be something I have never done before e.g. Attend a Pottery Making class.

Just to contradict everything I've said before this, my Goal for 2014 is: NOT to have goals but to have experiences. To expose and make known to myself the things I don't know. It's impossible to know the things you don't know, but I can scratch the surface of many things I know I don't know about and see if these lead to me learning about things I don't know. My Goal for 2014 will not be to reach a goal because of the person it will make me once I reach it but rather to understand the person I am becoming.

For the first time in my life (I'm 31 years old), I like the person I am becoming. I'm proud of him. He is the type of person a Young Me would have hoped to be. This growth is something I could never have imagined this time last year. That's why if I had set myself a 2013 goal such as: 'Like Me More', it never would have happened as how do you make something like that happen? I can only speak from my own experience but I know how I made it happen... By exploring the things I didn't know. 


  1. Your year can be counted in a 1000 miles, but this post shows what lies beneath is pretty damn important - 'mindful self-awareness' possibly? Whatever it is, you have moved onto a different plane in 2013. Respect !


    1. Thanks Kevin! Really appreciate the comment :)

  2. I really liked this post a lot. I've only recently realised that if I set big goals or challenges for myself I rebel almost instantly so it's completely pointless. So I'm taking each day at a time and I'm going to try and make the best choices I can. That's all :)


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