As a psychologist and parent coach, I work with many people who feel stuck in some part of their lives: stuck in an unsatisfying job or relationship they feel they can't change, stuck in a cycle of anger and yelling (often followed by guilt), stuck in a pattern of misunderstanding and emotional distancing, and so on.
In most cases, the people that I work with already know what their "stuck" issue is and they have often read books or sought guidance in the hopes of resolving it. But they still feel stuck.
Why? Often, the reason we continue to feel stuck lies in the difference between knowing and doing. Reading a book and acting on it are not the same thing. Having an idea and putting that idea into practice are not the same.
The difference between knowing and doing is a critical one. While we generally cannot “do” without first knowing how, if we know but do not act on what we know, then change will not happen.
All of us have experienced examples of this: we know we shouldn’t eat a carton of ice cream, but we do it anyway. We know we should exercise regularly, but we don’t. We know we shouldn’t yell at our kids, but we do.
One of the keys to creating positive change in our lives is not just knowing what to do, but in actually doing what we know.
Doing what we know takes effort and practice. It is not easy, for example, to get up and go exercise when we really don’t feel like doing it. It’s definitely not easy to stop ourselves from yelling at our kids when they ignore us or disrespect us.
We know it’s the right thing to do, but it’s difficult to actually bring ourselves to do it (or not to do it, as the case may be).
Sometimes this is because we don’t know exactly how to do what we know, and sometimes it’s because we aren’t taking the final step into action.
Ultimately, we need to know “what” to do, we need to know “how” to do it, and then we need to actually “do” what we know. This is the 3-step recipe for change.
So if you find yourself feeling stuck, ask yourself these 3 questions to pinpoint where you need to focus:
- Knowing What: Is this an issue of not knowing what to do?
- Knowing How: Is this happening because I don’t yet know how to do something?
- Doing: Am I feeling stuck because I know what to do and how to do it, but I’m not yet putting that knowledge into practice?