You Can’t Un-Know Something

You can’t un-know something.

I am a fan, as you may be too, of TED talks – if you don’t know about them – google it.  Time watching a well chosen TED talk is generally time very well spent  – their theme is ideas worth spreading and I’m confident everyone can find something of interest on TED.

Recently I watched an unusual talk on hand washing – yep hand washing.  The speaker explained how many bazillion trees we are killing using paper towels in public restrooms to dry our hands. He indicated how most people take 2,3,4 or more towels each time we dry our hands (well it is fun to pull them out of the dispenser). He proposed a new idea that would only require us to use 1 paper towel – the technique requires you to shake the excess water off your hand – using 12 shakes – not 11, not 10 – 12, then to grab a paper towel, fold it in half – that part is key – you must fold it in half and then dry your hands. He swears you will only ever need one paper towel henceforth. Video below, if you want a more detailed description.

So, since I’ve watched that video, I can’t not shake my hands 12 times. I can’t not use only 1 folded paper towel.  I can’t not feel compelled to educate others when I see them taking half a dozen paper towels to dry their hands. It’s all I can do not to tap them on the shoulder and tell them about this video.

Which leads me to my thought for the day… you just can’t un-know something. Now that I know this about the paper towels – I can’t un-know it.  In this case it’s pretty good, once you find out about a situation  be it political, social justice or even just paper towels— you can’t un-know it but you can take action –  you can work towards positive change, you can strive to make things better, you can make a small difference in your corner of the world, you can use just one folded paper towel.

In some cases though, knowing the information is bad.   Like when my friend told me something private about another friend – something I had no business knowing, something personal and confidential and I was so mad at him for telling me. I can’t un-know the information. The other friend doesn’t know I know and I know I shouldn’t know this about her and I feel awkward. Did that make sense?

It really made me think about the information we share – sometimes too freely.  Is it our information to share?  Is it our story to tell? Would the other person want us to be sharing it? Might it change the dynamics of the relationship to tell it?  Realize the other person can’t un-know the information you are about to divulge – so should you be divulging it?

One of my favourite expressions is that you can’t put toothpaste back in the tube – same goes for information you share, words you say and actions you do.

What is something you can’t un-know? Did it help you do something better, see things from a new perspective or cause a shift in some way.  Let me know, I love to hear your story. You can email [email protected]

After this week’s show I also can’t un-know the Red Light Technique by Dianne Morris Jones. She is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), and is the author of STOP BREATHE BELIEVE:  Mindful Living One Thought At A Time.  Dianne shares some ideas for more mindful living in her guest blog here and this week’s podcaast is available for you as well: Your Life, Unlimited with Stephanie Staples and Dianne Morris Jones

Stop Breathe Believe – A Beginning to a New Way of Being

Stop Breathe Believe® is a practice that will help you first become aware of your thoughts, and then harness the power to allow in only the thoughts that help you on the journey to wholehearted living, while gently, without judgment, turning away the thoughts that impede you.

Stop Breathe Believe, like any new skill, takes practice, but you will get better at it, and the more adept you are at implementing it as a practice in your daily life, the more effective it is.  With healthy patterns of thinking, you get healthy patterns of being.

Stop: At a predetermined cue (like a stoplight) or at a moment you find yourself struggling, stop what you’re doing and become aware of what you’re thinking.  You may even want to say the words aloud, using your name: “Stop, Brenda;” or “Stop, Stephen.”  Speak to yourself with kindness but firmness.  Now, notice what’s going on in your mind.  Whatever thought you find—and believe me, it could be anything!—simply become aware of it.  Just recognize it, and note it without judgment.  In keeping with the stoplight metaphor, if your thought is a green, life-affirming thought, take a moment to be grateful!  If it’s a “red” or life-draining thought, move on to Breathe.

Breathe: As you’re able, change your physical position. Sit up straight so as to be able to make use of your lungs’ maximum capacity.  Now, breathe in slowly through the nose for a count of four, and then at the top of the breath, exhale through the mouth for a count of eight. Deep, diaphragmatic breathing triggers the parasympathetic nervous system to relax the body—your heart rate slows, your respiratory rate slows, your muscles loosen.  With each exhalation, you’ll feel your mind and your body begin to relax.  Even if it’s for just a moment, you’re redirecting your attention away from the negative thought you noticed during Stop.  You can rest in the Breathe portion of Stop Breathe Believe as long as you like.

Believe: When you feel ready, start to create a belief statement that truthfully addresses the thought you observed during Stop.  Let’s say that the thought you became aware of was “I’m such an idiot for losing my temper.”  An effective belief statement could be: “I’m so human.”  Or: “I’m learning a new process that will help.”  Or: “Anger does not define who I am.”  Whatever your belief statement, it’s the anchor to get you through the next obstacle.  You can use your belief statement in the midst of a tense situation, or as an anchor throughout the day.

Through the process of Stop Breathe Believe you can stop the endless stream of thoughts and become aware of one thought that needs replacing, breathe your way to a state of calm openness, and then believe a unique truth statement of your own choosing that brings release from the unhealthy thought that’s hindering you.

This blog post is adapted from STOP BREATHE BELIEVE:  Mindful Living One Thought At A Time © Stop Breathe Believe, LLC.

You can enjoy the entire show here: Your Life, Unlimited with Stephanie Staples and Dianne Morris Jones

Okay I gotta go wash my hands now.  Steph  🙂

Stephanie Staples, CSP* is the author of When Enlightening Strikes – Creating a Mindset for Uncommon Success and an internationally acclaimed motivational speaker. She empowers audiences & clients across North America to bring their ‘A’ game to work and to life. Stephanie has a special interest in working with and empowering nurses and healthcare providers. She happily calls Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada home. You can get loads of complimentary resources to help with issues such as work/life balance, wellness, stress management and happiness in general, as well as find out more information about her coaching and speaking services at

* Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), conferred by the National Speakers Association is the speaking profession’s international measure of professional platform proficiency. Less than 10 percent of speakers have earned this credential and are recognized as some of the best in their fields. Stephanie was one of only five professional speakers in Canada (and the only woman) to attain this designation in 2013.



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