The Easy Part is Knowing What to Do. The Hard Part is Doing It

Written by on July 17, 2017 in Breaking Barriers, Self-Awareness

Knowing - Doing Gap


Obtaining knowledge, finding out what you need to do to accomplish a goal, is available in every form imaginable if you’re willing to do a little research. The fact is, knowing has become the easy part; the hard part is accomplishing something with that knowledge.

Knowledge is potential power. It becomes power only when, and if, it is organized into definite plans of action, and directed to a definite end. ~Napoleon Hill

The Gap Between Knowing and Doing

Bestselling author and motivational speaker John Maxwell has said that “The greatest gap in the world is the gap between knowing and doing.”

So what prevents us from accomplishing more? Actually, there are many reasons, but more often than not, it’s us.

You might think you don’t know enough or what steps to take to accomplish your goal, but that’s probably not true. Chances are you know exactly what that next thing you should do is, but you’re too busy thinking of all the reasons why you can’t or shouldn’t do it, why it might not work, and what you risk if something goes wrong.

We’re going to look at three ways to deal with all that next, but first I want to acknowledge the value of having a clearly defined goal and well thought out plan. That said, the reality is that you can have the best plan in the world but if you fail to act on it then it is worthless.

Pushing through that invisible layer of resistance that so often prevents us from converting our goals and plans into action is the focus of the following strategies.

3 Strategies to Convert Knowing Into Doing

It’s easy to get faked out by being busy. The question is: Busy doing what? ~Jim Rohn

Don’t Mistake Motion for Action

Motion is when you’re busy doing things that don’t actually produce an outcome. Taking action is all about achieving results.

Deciding to start an exercise program and buying a gym membership is you in motion. Going to the gym and exercising is you taking action.

Here are a few more examples …

  • Creating a plan to achieve your goals is motion. Doing the things in that plan is taking action.
  • Reading a book, attending a workshop or webinar on how to accomplish something is motion. Implementing what you learn is taking action.
  • Deciding to embrace a healthy lifestyle and talking to a nutritionist is motion. Changing your eating behaviors is taking action.

There’s a fine line between determining what you need to learn and do to accomplish a goal, and just keeping busy because it looks good or feels productive.

The real danger is convincing yourself you need to know everything before doing anything. That’s rationalizing in order to avoid the fear and discomfort of change.

It’s also the worst kind of self-deception.

There are many ways for any plan to fail, and although most of them are too improbable to be anticipated, the likelihood that something will go wrong is high. ~Daniel Kahneman, 2002 Nobel Prize – Science

Recognize Planner Bias

Planner bias is about the difference in your mental state when you’re planning vs. when you’re actually in the trenches of your day-to-day life.

If you think about the planning process, it’s common to set aside some “quiet time” to think through all of the steps needed to achieve a goal.

That may be as simple as sitting at the kitchen table for an hour or putting a Do-Not-Disturb sign on your office door and taking some quality time to plan. If you’re working on a team goal you might organize a meeting or even a retreat.

What we often fail to take into account is that in this calm “relaxed brain” state it’s far too easy to vastly underestimate the time and effort that will be required to accomplish our desired results.

And rarely do we factor in our plans the realities of existing commitments, interruptions, personal dramas or any of the things that we need to do just to get through the day.

Even when disruptions do occur, we tell ourselves we’ll just regroup and tomorrow will be less crazy, but it rarely is. So instead of making progress we repeatedly fall back into familiar patterns of doing what we’ve always done.

What to do?

Begin by identifying potential stumbling blocks or conflicts with existing commitments. How can you manage, delegate or remove them? Are there areas where you would benefit from external support?

Be honest with yourself about how much time you will commit each day to taking action toward achieving your goal.

And this is important … expect to have setbacks now and then. Accept that they are part of the process, learn what you can from each experience and be flexible enough to adjust your plans where necessary.

Then keep moving forward.

You don’t overcome challenges by making them smaller but by making yourself bigger. ~John C. Maxwell

Face Your Fears

Fear is like the proverbial elephant in the room. We all experience it, and it doesn’t just prevent us from closing the gap, left unchecked it is guaranteed to widen it.

Here are just a few examples of the types of fear we may experience when pursuing growth:

  • Fear of making mistakes or failing.
  • Fear of taking risks.
  • Fear of not measuring up, appearing imperfect.
  • Fear of the unknown.
  • Fear of appearing foolish.

All intelligent people are afraid of something. It’s normal and natural to be concerned about your physical and emotional well-being and safety. The question is, how do you deal with that fear?

It’s tempting to rationalize all the reasons we don’t face our fears, chief among them being the all too familiar “Well, you know it’s hard” disclaimer that often proceeds any conversation that has to do with change.

Yes, of course, change is hard.

But consider your options. You can use the fact that change is hard to rationalize inaction and cling for all your worth to the safe and familiar. Or, you can focus your time and energy on doing whatever it takes to close the gap between where you are and where you want to be.

What you can’t do is have it both ways.

When you grow tired of allowing fear to direct the course of your life you must face it by doing the things that frighten you one small step at a time.

When I was a kid I had a recurring nightmare of a plane crash. Not surprisingly, that left me terrified of flying. But I had a dream that was bigger than that fear, a burning desire to see the world, so I set out to push through my fear.

It definitely wasn’t easy, but that effort opened the door to a wonderful career in travel industry sales that enabled me to rack up a ton of frequent flyer miles seeing America and traveling extensively throughout Canada, Europe, Asia and the Pacific.

Final Thoughts

There are always going to be risks when you choose to take action. You may achieve your goal, or you may fall short. Your worst fear may come true – and you discover you survived after all! Or … you could achieve far more than you ever dreamed possible.

The only guarantee is that if you don’t try, you will never know what might have been.

Will you be the passenger or the driver in your life journey?
About Marquita A. Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living click here.

Thank you for sharing!

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  1. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post Joyce. 🙂

  2. Joyce Hansen says:

    I always love it when I’m working on a post or developing topics and our wires cross. Here you are again with sage advice to make me think more deeply about the direction I’m about to write in.
    Joyce Hansen recently posted…Brain Marketing Your LogoMy Profile

  3. Wonderful, wonderful post … timely for me and helpful. John Maxwell is a great one to quote from. Great writings on leadership and personal growth.
    Lesly Federici recently posted…Take Charge Of Who You BecomeMy Profile

  4. Teresa

    Marquita, I like how you decipher taking motion vs. taking action. Great insights and perspectives to help conquer inner fears and get on with creating what we really want.

  5. Edward Thorpe

    Hi Marquita,

    Generally, the fears you’ve listed are unintentionally embedded within us by society’s attempts to protect its young. We’re an adult when we realize all decisions are a gamble.

    Great post. You’ve quickly become one of my favorite bloggers. Edward
    Edward Thorpe recently posted…5 Cheap Natural Alternatives To Expensive MedicinesMy Profile

  6. I find it so hard to imagine you having to struggle with fear, but then I believe that’s the sign of a resilient individual because you are aware of your fear but don’t let it stop you!

  7. Yep, that’s a favorite of mine as well Suzie! I’m so glad you found the post helpful. 🙂

  8. You know Donna, there is a point I didn’t mention that I’d like to explore sometime and that is being aware of our strengths and weaknesses sometimes means acknowledging that we are either planners or doers. As Entrepreneurs, we often don’t have the luxury of focusing on either or, but if you know that your strength lies in planning, a great goal would be to build a team around you that will take that plan and run with it! 🙂

  9. Thanks so much for taking the time to let me know you found value in the post William! 🙂

  10. Awareness is a good step in the right direction Sue! Thanks for sharing with us. 🙂

  11. Well said Doreen, and it comes as no surprise that you are a “doer”!

  12. Rada says:

    Great article! For me fear part is the hardest. Took me a while to realize why I am not making progress.
    Rada recently posted…How to add spice to your classic wardrobe?My Profile

  13. Suzie Cheel

    This jumped out for me You don’t overcome challenges by making them smaller but by making yourself bigger. ~John C. Maxwell I really get the planner versus the actual doing and knowing just how long something will take- always more than you allocated.
    This is so timeley for me aas i am making some major shifts in how i be and how I share my message with the world. Thank you xxxx

  14. Donna Merrill

    Hi Marquita,

    Oh how familiar this sounds to me! I can make a detailed plan, then when I have to act upon it, I sometimes take one step forward and ten back. Until I get so mad at myself I just jump into it.

    Fear is a silly thing because there is no basis for it in reality (unless there is an earthquake lol) But fear of what will be can eat up all your time and energy. Sometimes it is easier to jump right in and worry about it later.

    Donna Merrill recently posted…3 Key Strategies to Sustain Blog GrowthMy Profile

  15. William Rusho

    What a great post. Reminds me of the old saying “those that do, do, those that can’t teach” I also like about being busy, does not mean being productive. We sometimes put so much effort into the act, we forget what we wanted as an end result.
    Thanks for sharing.

  16. Sue Bride

    I hate to admit that, although I’m full of ideas and often go through a planning phase, the action is often lacking. Sometimes I decide that the idea wouldn’t work out in practice for legitimate reasons but other times I know I just hold myself back. I allow myself distractions but not that productive quiet time you talk of.

  17. As always, this is a well thought out post, Marty. I am a doer. Sometimes so much so that I may not plan enough. But things almost always work out. I get quite frustrated with people who do nothing and over-plan everything.
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…what I learned at the Hershey GardensMy Profile

  18. That is SO true Jeri! I’m reminded of several inspiring quotations that ultimately say something to the effect that sometimes you just have to take a flying leap and trust that either you will learn to fly on the way down or you’ll land on something soft when you hit bottom. I think most of us manage to learn to fly. 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us, always appreciated!

  19. If the strategy is working for you RoseMary, that’s all that matters, though I must admit I’m curious about the concern over public speaking since so few authors go that route which makes me wonder about the focus of your book! 🙂

    That said, I have some background in book marketing and mentoring first time authors and I can tell you from experience that writing a book often turns out to be the easiest part of the process so you might want to overlap those chunks a little rather than waiting until you’ve published a book to worry about how to get it into the hands of readers. Wishing you all the best!

  20. Welcome Moumita, and thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us – beautifully said! 🙂

  21. I’m glad you enjoyed the post Sonal. 🙂

  22. I’m glad you found the post interesting Mark, but I think you tend to be a bit too hard on yourself my friend. 🙂

  23. Jeri

    I’m really tired of the unbearable state of discontent I’ve put myself in. I’m working hard to get out of it, and part of it is coming to terms with lack of family support . That’s hard when dealing with cancer, but it is what it is. My therapist and I have touched on a variety of things you’ve covered in this post and others. Both my love and I are of the variety of person who always wants to be prepared for everything, but sometimes you just have to dive in despite fear. If not, change will never happen.

  24. Years ago, I let the fear of what writing success would mean (in part public speaking) put me off pursuing my goal. Eventually, I learned the idea of one part of the process at a time. First write. Be published. Speak in public. One chunk to deal with at a time.
    You might call in the ostrich approach to what is coming next, but it enabled me to quash and get over, a fear.

  25. Your post is exactly to the point. I have faced all the things that you mentioned. In my opinion, fear decides mostly the gap between our plans and actions.Fear of unknown acts as the strongest one.I face this throughout the day. But I have realised that one still needs to go through many things in life to achieve something along with that fear. It’s okay to be afraid. But it’s not at all okay to not try stretching our hands towards our desires and aspirations.
    Moumita De Sarkar recently posted…Homecoming BluesMy Profile

  26. Sonal Talwar

    Hi Marquita

    Awesome post as usual! I really liked the way you have differentiated between motion and action. People usually confuse the two.

    Thanks for this great insight!
    Sonal Talwar recently posted…Keep sore muscles at bay during rainy seasonMy Profile

  27. mark

    First of all, thanks for sharing another extremely enlightening post M!

    So this explains an awful lot for me. It would seem, I definitely have a whole of motion going on!LOL!

    I can only remain optimistic, I can eventually convert some of it into some goal achieving action.LOL!

    I really like your subtle distinction between the two. Thanks so much for sharing the definition. My eyes have definitely been opened!
    mark recently posted…How Blogging Can Help Your Business And Or Service Grow!My Profile

  28. It’s not dumb Suzanne, it’s simply human nature. Failing to keep promises to ourselves is right up there with avoiding self-care, weak personal boundaries, etc. Everyone does it to a certain degree, but women struggle with putting ourselves at the bottom of the list all the time. I’m glad you found value in the post and hope it gave you some constructive points to work with. 🙂

  29. Well said Joy, and I wish you all the best! 🙂

  30. Ha! I’m glad you noticed Chery. I made that subtle change from “who you can be” to “who you want to be” after my last post because it sounds so much more self-empowering. Feel free to share my friend. 🙂

  31. Suzanne Fluhr

    This one really resonated for me. Procrastination is one of the results of not identifying and facing our fears. I’ve reached the ripe old age of 63 sometimes paralyzed by fears (i.e.: fear of failure, fear of psychological discomfort) that keep me from achieving my personal goals. Actually, I think I just had an epiphany. If a deadline is set for me by someone/something else, I may procrastinate, but I almost always complete the task or achieve the goal by the deadline. The deadlines and goals I fall short with are the ones I set for myself for things that are important to me. How dumb is that??
    Suzanne Fluhr recently posted…Museum of the American Revolution – Philadelphia Beyond the Liberty BellMy Profile

  32. Joy Healey

    Hi Marquita,

    You’ve really pointed out the pitfalls of – well anything really 🙂

    I’ve just been on a business team call that had me scribbling notes like crazy… but now I’m off the call, and I need to turn those ideas and plans into action.

    Much harder…. but being aware of the problem, gives us a spur on.

    Joy – Blogging After Dark

  33. Chery Schmidt

    Hey Marty! Awesome post as usual! As we both know nothing happens by itself, yet it is so easy to procrastinate getting things done!

    Now this is one of my all time favorite quotes right here—>>Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who want to be! AND YES Of course I am off to share it on my FB page!

    Thanks once again for the much needed kick, My Friend!
    Chery :))
    Chery Schmidt recently posted…Are You Willing To Adapt?My Profile

  34. I definitely see you as a “doer” Lenie, and your point is so true! Thanks for contributing to the conversation. 🙂

  35. I’m so glad you found value in the post Phoenicia! Our mutual friend William recently brought up another good example of what can stall people, and that is the fact that they have such a limited concept of what they are capable of accomplishing they simply don’t try to do anything different than what has become familiar. One could point to that as fear of failure, but I believe it is also a classic example of the power of limiting beliefs. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!

  36. Lenie

    Marquita, excellent post. I am a ‘doer’ and if anything, my problem is not planning enough. I just jump right in which can create its own problems. It is necessary to do both the motion and the action.
    Lenie recently posted…Salt Alert – The Hidden Sodium in FoodMy Profile

  37. Phoenicia

    Marquita – this article speaks volumes to me.

    Excellent illustrations on the difference between making a decision to take action and actually taking action. The majority of the time we know what we need to do and make excuses for failing to do it. The usual reasons are it will require a lifestyle change or a fear of failure. Often people would rather accept defeat from the onset rather than take action and possibly fail due to their lack of commitment.
    Phoenicia recently posted…What are your quirks?My Profile

  38. Emily

    I think that your point on not mistaking motion with action is so important. Especially in my experiences, I would do things that give the illusion that I am chasing after my goal and progressing towards it when I actually wasn’t doing anything at all. By really understanding the difference, you can spend your time on steps that create action and actual movement.
    Emily recently posted…No More Excuses: 8 Free Tools to Help You Blog ConsistentlyMy Profile

  39. Welcome Amber! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post and I hope the strategies work well for you. 🙂

  40. Marquita this advice is perfect for me I have been “planning” on working on a product for my blog but of course not actually getting it done just thinking about it I really must implement your advice

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