Episode 49 | Leveraging the Unknown in Vet Med & Life

I don’t know what to do.

How many times have you said that to yourself, or even shared it out loud?

On its own, it seems innocent enough…


Often it is accompanied by a parallel belief, ” I SHOULD know what to do…”

with the “shoulds” come judgment…

with the “shoulds” come shame…

with the “shoulds” come unrealistic expectations…

(expectations that have never even been defined!)

All of this highlights a very real way in which we are using our brains the Wrong Way!

In this episode, I explain how we are limiting ourselves by relying on the super-smart brains that helped us to achieve our veterinary credentials in the first place.

I also share the superpower you can tap into in those uncertain moments to help you find exactly what you need to keep going.

When you’re ready to learn more about how to become more comfortable with the unknown, join us in Vet Life Academy!

Follow The Joyful DVM Podcast on
Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher, or TuneIn to stream this episode through your smartphone or tablet



Vet Life Academy



The opportunities created when we embrace the moments when we just don't have the answers, that's what I'm talking about in Episode 49.

Welcome to the Joyful DVM Podcast. I'm your host, Veterinarian, and Certified Life Coach, Cari Wise. Whether you're dealing with the challenges in Vet Med, struggling with self-confidence, or you're just trying to figure out how to create a life and a career that you actually enjoy. you'll find encouragement, education, and empowering concepts you can apply right away. Let's get started.

Hey everybody. Welcome to Episode 49. Today, we're going to talk about leveraging the unknown specifically what to do when we're in situations where we just don't know.

Let's face it. There's just a lot we don't know. The sooner we embrace that as reality, the sooner our lives can start to get a whole lot easier. But what happens is, in those moments when we find ourselves saying, "I don't know. I don't know what to do", we often feel a lot of shame. We often feel a lot of insecurity. We feel a lot of regrets. We feel a lot of pressure. The idea of, I don't know, isn't something that sits well with us here in this human experience and definitely in the veterinary world.

So let's take a look at it in the sense of veterinary medicine. If we are working up a case, whether we are a veterinarian or a veterinary technician or practice manager, if we are working with a case - so the case involves a patient, the case involves a client, the case involves lots of other people - and we come up against a question that we don't know the answer to. I don't know. Whether it's a question that the client asks when we're client-facing. Whether it's a question that we internally ask about what do we do with the case; what's the next step. When we come up against, I don't know, two things happen. First off, we feel confused. So when we say, we don't know, often the emotion of confusion comes up, but there's a parallel belief that really commonly comes with that question of, I don't know; where the statement of, I don't know. That parallel belief is that we should, "I should know, I should know what to do".

As veterinary professionals, we have had extensive training on all kinds of medical processes, diseases, surgical intervention-type situations. We've had all kinds of training. The bulk of information that we learned is very vast. We can't possibly carry it all around with us all the time in our minds, by the way, that was never the point. The point of any kind of professional education, whether it's veterinary medicine, human medicine, the law, whatever it is, these professional educations are not meant for us to learn and store every bit of information. It's mostly for us to learn where to look to find the information when we need it and to know how to process it once we have it in front of us.

So first off, let yourself off the hook for not being able to carry around every tiny bit of information you ever learned throughout your entire professional career. That's step number one. But let's get back to the shoulds. Why do we believe that we should?

 The question, I don't know, has many of us feeling that we're inadequate because of that parallel belief that we should know. What I want to offer you today is that you shouldn't.  There are times in your life that it is very intentional for you not to know, and it's not a problem. Our minds are created to analyze data. Our minds are created to assimilate information, to learn things, to put some pieces of the puzzle together, but it can only put pieces of the puzzle together if all the pieces have been given to it. This is where we mess up because the times where we feel the most confusion, the times where we feel the most uncertainty, the times where the question, I don't know, comes up the most frequently with the most impactful, negative, emotional reaction tied to that are the moments when the additional pieces of information just aren't available. We didn't have that information to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Then the shoulds pop in. We think that we should have. What we need to do is just remind ourselves that although the mind is an amazing computer, the brain is the most impactful computer that you have. It has superpowers that you're not even aware of. The way that it can put things together for you. The way that it can solve problems, but it can't solve them in the way that we are kind of traditionally led to believe that it can. That if you think about it enough that you'll get the answer. When you're a student, this is probably true. Why? Let's break this down.

When you're a student and you're given some kind of an assessment, it's an evaluation of the information that you've learned. They're not going to evaluate you on information that you haven't been taught. So somewhere you've been provided with the information that you need to be able to complete that assessment. There's a lot of regurgitation of information, right? There's a lot of problem-solving, but within the scope of the information that you have been given, that you have been taught. From that perspective, when we're trying to figure out the answers to a test, those answers are probably somewhere in our minds because we've seen that information before and so we can think it through and we can come up with the answer. But if you've never been given the information in the first place, if that information has not been part of your consciousness, part of your awareness at any point before then the pieces that you need to solve the situation just don't exist for you yet.

Yet - it's the most important thing to realize because what we don't often recognized or ever probably recognize most of us is that when we come up against the question, I don't know, it's not because you're not smart enough; it's not because you've forgotten things, it's probably because you just haven't experienced it before. That's all intentional. You're not even supposed to know everything, but instead, whatever we come up against the question, I don't know, in our minds, we start to feel a lot of shame. We start to feel a lot of inadequacy and even regret and guilt that we should know. It's all because of that parallel belief that says, "I should". I should know this. It's so quick guys. I don't know and it's parallel belief but I should bring so much judgment. So much self-judgment there. It's very debilitating. It will freeze. It will have you withdraw. It will have you comparing yourself to everybody else who you believe does have the answers. What's true is that we don't. All of us don't always have all the answers. We will have the answers for the things that we have encountered before; for the bits of information and learning that we have had the opportunity to experience. But if we don't have the components, if we haven't been introduced to the components, then we can't solve those problems, and we're not supposed to. That's the take-home here.

We aren't supposed to be able to solve the problems we haven't actually ever experienced fully before. The opportunity lies at that moment when we recognize that we don't know. Instead of turning to judgment and shame and guilt and withdrawing, which is our normal human nature, when we start to feel that insecurity and it made me feel even a little bit of fear that comes up with the unknown. Instead of that, we have this superpower ability. We have something that we can tap into and we can utilize in those moments that will actually really broaden what we are capable of and what we do know. It's simply turning to solve a question, not by trying to figure it out but by simply asking for the information.

Remember, the brain is a massive computer. What we focus on, we create more of. So if we focus only on what we already know, and we keep sifting through what we already know to find an answer that does not exist there, then we will feel very frustrated. We will also start to feel very inadequate and we will feel very guilty for what we think we should know. But instead, we just need to give ourselves space and the grace to recognize that perhaps the data just doesn't exist in our database yet. It's not that the data doesn't exist. It's that it doesn't exist in our consciousness yet.

So instead, the best approach we can use when we're up against these situations where we don't know, "I don't know", is that sneaky little thought that's popping in, ask yourself a couple of questions, "What if I did know?" I think the question of, "What if I did know?", is super useful because it really opens up the possibilities. What if I did know, then what would I do? Even better perhaps is a simple question, "What do I need to become aware of to solve this problem? What do I need to become aware of to answer this question?" Those are two very, very powerful questions that you can apply really anywhere in your life, where you're feeling uncertainty, where you're feeling confused. Instead of being overwhelmed by that confusion that comes up from not knowing, embrace that as an opportunity to bring something new into your awareness. The only reason you don't know is simply because you haven't experienced it; because you haven't put that information in your database. And if you continue to try to dig for the answers in a space where the information simply doesn't exist, you're just going to "fail" over and over and over again, which is going to make you feel worse. Instead, give yourself a little grace. Accept that you don't know and just also realize that you don't know right now. That doesn't mean you're not going to know forever. Just at this moment, perhaps you don't know.

Let's open up the possibilities of bringing the information that we need to ourselves by asking the question, "What do I need to become aware of at this moment to answer this question?" When we ask that kind of question, what happens is it opens up potential. There is the potential for the answers to come to you. It's a bit of a law of attraction. It absolutely has to do with energy in the universe and all kinds of things like that. If you really tap into what's available to you by asking the right questions, instead of trying to really rely a hundred percent on the knowledge that you already have and on yourself as a single being and a single energy source and as a single source of information, when you allow yourself to kind of reach out beyond you for the answers, it's amazing how quickly they can come. Finding the answer through limitless potential happens much more quickly than trying to find the answer through the pinhole that most of us have set up as the possibilities by which we can solve problems. That pinhole is what's bound by what we already know and what we shut off as far as the possibility of what we don't.

When it comes to veterinary medicine, because of the nature of our jobs, because we are working with patients who cannot talk to us, there is always going to be information that we don't know. We're going to try to gather data to the best of our ability, right? With your diagnostic tests and making recommendations, and sometimes the clients will agree to that, and many times they will not. When they don't, one of the biggest challenges that we have is what to do next. I don't know what to do without the information. But if you just ask, tap into your superpower, "What do I need to become aware of here to help this patient? What do I need to learn or understand to be able to help in this situation?", and just leave it out there as a question. Don't go to seek the answer. That's the key here. Don't take energy to try to answer these questions. Just put the questions out there and let the answers come to you.

I know this sounds a little out there. I know this is very counterintuitive to a traditional academic approach to solving problems, right? You get the data. You gather additional data from your patient. You put all the data together. You come up with a very logical conclusion and a very logical plan and then you execute. That works really well when you have all the data that you need. But so many times we're left with pieces of data that are missing. So what happens is two things. One, we start to have that parallel belief, I should know what to do when we don't, which creates that judgment and shame. And two, many of us freeze. We also then adopt a kind of a secondary belief which is, "I can't do anything if I don't have all the information. I can't make a decision. I can't make a plan if I don't know." I want to offer you that it's just not true. You could always do the best you can with the information or resources you have available at the time. Although it may seem that the information that you have is limited by what's in front of you, the data points that you have at this exact moment, I want to offer you the opportunity just to ask for kind of some external help in these situations, "What I need to become aware of? What else do I need to know?" Just throw the question out there. Don't go to seek the answer and just let it come to you. You'll be surprised how when you start to ask those questions, you're more able to hear that inner voice that really does know what to do at this moment. It is that fear of getting it wrong. It is that shame of believing that we should know that blocks it for us. So by simply asking the questions, help to open that up. It helps to broaden that perspective and you start to be able to tap in more to what you actually already know inside of you. As you do that, you gain more experience. As you gain more experience, then you get new data points. You get newly stored information that you can use in a very logical systematic way if that's the way that you like to do things, to approach things. It builds over time. You have to give yourself that opportunity to still be a student, even though we've graduated from our professional programs; even though that we have the degrees.

Guys, we are still students. That's why they called it the practice of veterinary medicine because it evolves and it changes over time. It is not an absolute science. When we try to make it an absolute science along with the assumption is that there are right and wrong things to do. That there are exact ways that things should be done. Let's face it. That's just not true. There are always multiple ways that we can approach any situation with our patients and our clients. We can always offer multiple options. The client ultimately gets to decide what is best for their pet. But if we get frozen before we ever even make any recommendations, we don't help anybody. Being frozen in the confusion because somewhere we believe that confusion is wrong; that confusion is a weakness; that not knowing is a problem, actually completely blocks our total potential. When we get stuck in that, then we do become overwhelmed with the shame, with the guilt, with the judgment of ourselves. So instead, just play around with the idea, I don't know, and that's okay. I don't know, but I can still figure out what to do. I don't know what's going to happen, but I'm still willing to try. I'm not sure what to do next and just want somebody to bring to my awareness what I need to know; to share with me what am I missing here. Throwing those questions out there into the universe will help you gain clarity. It will also help ground you in the reality that you don't have to have all the answers to do this job well or to do this job right. There is no right and wrong. There is no measure. We try to create those friends. We try to create right and wrong, success and failure in veterinary medicine, by patients that get better and clients that are happy, and those are not means of measuring our success in this job. Showing up as you. Doing the best that you can. Taking care of yourself first so that you can get up and do it again tomorrow. Not personally taking on all the emotional energy the clients offer you, that your staff offers you, that your coworkers offer you. Recognizing that no matter what, you always get to decide for yourself. Finding that way to believe in you, even when you don't know, even when you don't have the answers, even when things don't turn out the way that you had hoped they would.

As we get grounded in who we are and the confidence in who we are as people and our own motives; as we learn to embrace the truth about ourselves from our own perspective and deflect the opinions of other people, then the ability to cope with the uncertainty just improves. We actually can become comfortable with not knowing.

Here's the greatest part of it. When you can become comfortable with not knowing, it gets pretty exciting because you will figure it out, not by thinking about it, but by allowing the information to come to you when you simply embrace that you don't know. I don't know the answer to this, and you throw the question to the universe. What is it that I need to become aware of? What is it that I need to learn? What else is there that I'm not seeing? Just by throwing those questions out there, we've opened up our minds to bring in additional potentials, to bring in additional possibilities. We haven't boxed it into the knowledge that we already have at this moment. We make our minds aware of, "No, I'm ready for more. Bring more in. Show me more things." The mind can gather that information. But if we've boxed in the potential of information, then it will never find those pieces of information that we're missing. We will continue to live with a parallel belief that sneaks up every time the I don't know question pops in our minds; the parallel belief that we should know, and that will just continue to perpetuate this judgment of ourselves and shame that comes with that, which ultimately has many of us pulling away from our jobs, from our lives because we feel like we aren't equipped to do them and to live in those ways.

So friends don't limit yourself. Start to play around with just embracing, I don't know, as an opportunity. Put the question out there. What is it that I need to be aware of? Just keep your eyes open. Listen. You'll be amazed at how quickly you can start to solve some of your own greatest questions simply by discontinuing to view them as a problem and shifting that perspective to an opportunity that allows you to then accept the potentials that are out there for you.

When you're ready to learn more about this, to learn more about how to become comfortable with the uncertainty, with how to adjust your own perspective so that you don't get caught up in the shame and the guilt and the self-judgment that leads you to be frozen and not experiencing your entire life, I invite you to join us in Vet Life Academy. Over in Vet Life Academy, that's where we get to the bottom of so much of this emotional experience that we have as human beings and where we open up the ultimate potentials for us to become what we were actually created to become in the first place. Visit joyful dvm.com/vetlifeacademy, to learn all about it. We'd love to see you there.

Alright, my friends, that's going to wrap it up for this week. I hope you have a rest of the week and I'll see you next time. Bye for now.

Thank you for listening to the Joyful DVM Podcast. If you'd like to learn more about the concepts and ideas discussed here and how to apply them to your own life to create confidence and empowerment for yourself, you'll love Vet Life Academy. To check it out and learn more, visit joyfuldvm.com/vetlifeacademy. And if you're loving this podcast, I'd appreciate it if you'd share it with your friends and leave us a review on iTunes. 

We can change what's possible in Vet Med together.