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Knowing It Isn’t the Same as Doing It


Here’s an error I’ve made a lot over the years: thinking that just because I know how to deal with something, I have that thing taken care of.

For instance, I know how to use idea repair to deal with negative emotions, and I’ve practiced it so much that a lot of the time, I catch broken ideas as they’re emerging and nip them in the bud. But when I don’t do that, it becomes necessary to take further steps: I would need to sit down and very deliberately go through the process, following the steps:

  1. What am I telling myself?
  2. Are there broken ideas in that?
  3. What kinds of broken ideas are they?
  4. How do I restate them, repaired?

And do I do that? Do I go through all those steps? Sometimes, absolutely. Other times, if I’m not paying attention, I might brush it off, saying to myself “Well, I know a lot about this kind of thing, so I can surely handle it.”

Uh … I can? Without actually doing anything about it? Not really.

So that’s the problem. Sometimes it feels like knowing how to deal with something makes it unnecessary to do the grunt work to actually deal with it–and that just ain’t so. Ironically, as a good illustration, knowing this (see “Knowing Isn’t Enough: The 4 Steps Between Knowledge and Action“) hasn’t necessarily kept me focusing on the steps I need to take for the knowledge to work rather than just relying on having the knowledge.

So what will I do differently going forward? I’ll put more attention on cultivating awareness of how well I’m following through on what I know. Interestingly, while just having knowledge doesn’t necessarily solve any problems, awareness–being mindful, that is–sometimes does automatically solve problems. If we are aware of our goals, have the knowledge to pursue them, and notice when it’s time to put that knowledge into action, we often take that action, barring other kinds of obstacles or hang-ups. So just knowing how to use idea repair won’t help me, but being aware of when it’s time to put it into use and of the necessity to take the specific steps will get me using it. (For instance, see “A Very Clear Example of the Power of Awareness.”)

For the next little while, the slogan I’ll focus on (seriously: I just taped it to the wall and am rehearsing it in my head) will be “Are you taking the steps?

Photo by Joe Gatling

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