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  • Dark Horse Tamed

The Knowing-Doing Gap


Many of us suffer from what is called the “knowing-doing gap.” We scan our current situation and realize that something needs to be done, yet we fail to act upon it.

You might see the proverbial smoke, which means there could be a fire somewhere that needs to be put out. A great idea dawns in your mind and, deep down, you know you have to do something to bring it to life. Or, you observe a major injustice at work or in society that you know needs to be addressed. These are examples of the “knowing” part of the equation.

The Doing part is where the rubber meets the road (or not). We don’t implement the idea, we don’t check on the smoke, we let the social injustice untouched. We keep living our lives today just like we did yesterday. To make matters worse, not only we fail to act, we act against our best interests. 

Dr. Laurie Santos, who teaches the widely famous online course “The Science of Well-Being,” has cleverly named the knowing-doing gap the “GI Joe Fallacy.” At the end of each episode of this famous 80s cartoon, GI Joe offered a public service announcement such as “Don’t share your address with strangers.” The kids would respond enthusiastically with “Thank you, GI Joe! Now I know!” to which GI Joe would respond, “Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.” Knowing is not enough. Smoking is probably the best example; there is plenty of irrefutable evidence that smoking is bad for you, yet there are approximately a billion smokers in the world. Our emotions, dominated by an impulsive Dark Horse, control our behavior to a degree we’d rather not acknowledge. The knowing part of us is overridden by the nagging of our Dark Horse. Change requires effort. New behaviors require snapping out of your current repertoire of behaviors, which have been downloaded into the part of the brain that controls automatic behavior, the basal ganglia. New behaviors require divorcing from emotional states that protect us from our anxieties. Here are some questions for reflection that can help you bridge the knowing-doing gap: • What do you know MUST be done (at work, home, in your personal life, in society)? • What is getting in the way of doing it? List all barriers such as time, motivation, energy, emotions, financial, other people, etc. • What are the emotions attaching you to your present situation? • What are you going to do about the barriers? • When are you going to address the barriers and take action (not tomorrow!)? Commit to doing what you know is right, what you know needs to be done. Put blinders on your Dark Horse and reunite the knowing and doing sides of the self.

Happy Achieving!

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