First thing in the morning a couple of days ago, I took my laptop (still very new and shiny) in Starbucks to do a little writing. I sat down with my big mug o’ steaming Jo and just as I was taking my first sip a member of staff came up to me, leaned in and said, ‘I just wanted to say sorry. What I did wasn’t right and I’m really sorry for my behaviour.’ I had absolutely no clue what she was talking about, and searched my brain for anything that might have happened that she might feel compelled to apologise for. Nothing. Zip. Nada. The only thing I thought of to say was, ‘When was this?’ to which she replied, ‘You know when,’ and walked off behind the counter.

I thought of walking over and letting her know that she’s just apologised to the wrong guy, but I shook it from my head and started work. I thought it was better to leave her thinking that she’d done the right and courageous thing, rather than add embarrassment about getting the wrong guy on top of her guilt over whatever-it-was-that-happened.

So I left it at that, and it occurred to me that there are many things in life best left alone. There are things that don't need to be explained, understood or delved into. I see this with clients too – many times they’ve said to me ‘Steve, I just don’t understand’ and I listen to them struggling and fighting as they try to answer the questions ‘Why?’

It’s at that point that I like to ask them ‘What’s the reason you’re trying to understand this?’ and often the answer is something like ‘So I can get over it’. Sometimes, if I’m feeling particularly tricksy, I’ll ask ‘What if you could never fully understand this?’, in which case people tend to squirm a whole lot.

Here’s the thing. You’ll never understand everything, and trying to will drive you crazy. Understanding everything involves getting into everybody’s head, getting to grips with everyone’s history, behaviours, patterns of thought, intentions, fears and motivation. Sorry to break it you, but that isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

If you’re grappling with something in an attempt to fully understand it (why it happened, why they did it, why they didn’t do it, etc, etc.) what you’re really doing is trying to find a meaning that fits with your world view so that you feel able to ‘get over it’ and move on. Your aim is to move on, and the method you employ to do that is to understand what happened. The trouble is that very quickly your aim of moving on gets confused with the aim of understanding it, which then becomes your focus. And as foci go, it’s a bad one. So it’s much better to keep that aim of ‘moving on’ in mind, and ask yourself any one of these questions –

'What’s another way I can move on?'
'What’s an easier way to accept this?'
'How would it be if I could let this go?'

Some things in life are best left. It’s not about dodging something tricky or painful in your life and it’s not about steering clear of the messy stuff, it’s about acknowledging that you simply can’t understand everything, and that sometimes the most liberating, healing and graceful thing to do is accept things so that you’re free to carry on.

And here’s the irony – sometimes the act of accepting and acknowledging something gives you the insight, distance and perspective you need to understand it. I’ll leave you with that to chew on.

Author's Bio: 

Steve Errey is one of the UK's most popular coaches and specialises in helping thirtysomethings find Effortless Confidence. “I love to coach the heck out of my clients and always do my darndest to help them win,” says Steve. If you want to win at something that matters to you get in touch with Steve on 0845 644 3001, by email at or visit his website at