At one point or another we all engage in “I know it’s bad for me behavior”; we become master procrastinators at work; we get embroiled playing addictive computer games or raid the over-priced hotel mini-bar.  There are times when we find ourselves drowning in a sea of good intentions telling ourselves “I have to break this lousy habit” Or “change that rotten relationship” or “take that life-changing step” – But we don’t.  Why?

Why would we want to indulge in self-sabotaging behavior?  Authors Jeffrey Phfeffer & Robert Sutton call this The knowing/doing gap. It is when we know we should do one thing but choose to do something entirely different.

Often we mistake TALKING for ACTION – think of a time in your life when you have engaged in this type of behavior – we’ve all done it; we have someone in our lives, be it a group of friends- a therapist, we meet up and talk incessantly about the same struggle (girlfriend, relationship, work); but all we are doing is talking about it.  We are not taking the necessary steps to correct the problem.

The danger here is we are Substituting talk for action; this is in fact, perhaps the most common way we fall into the knowing/doing gap.  We mistake talking as a form of progress even though it isn’t.

Often in a corporate setting, companies and corporate teams spend a lot of time creating strategies and mission statements to better the efficiency of their work environment but lack the follow-through by not implementing those strategies.

Like corporations we too:

  • Plan
  • Consider
  • Discuss
  • & Brood

We recognize this as action; we think we’re working toward our goals when in fact we’re spinning our wheels.

At some point we all feel stuck in some area of our lives.  What we need to do is recognize the contradictory beliefs that we have.

One way to figure out when you’re in the middle of an inner conflict is to write down a basic belief that’s driving your behavior that you want to change.

Let’s say you want to get out of a relationship, but you believe that you have to keep every commitment you ever make, this creates a conflict – you want to get out of the relationship, but you believe you have to stay committed.  Write that belief down.  Then write down the contradictory belief: I don’t have to keep every commitment.  These opposing statements both ring true.

What dictates your decision?  Is it that you’re listening to your mind, or that you’re listening to your soul?  Very often those two compete, because the mind is usually driven by ego, and the soul is connected to the Creator.  What is it that you spend your time with day to day? What is it that your soul wants day to day?

Think of it this way, what if half of a baseball team wanted to win and the other half committed to losing, that creates internal conflict that can be very destructive because it’s 2 forces pulling in opposite directions = recipe for disaster.

You can end this internal struggle by:

A.    Discovering your competing ideas

B.    Identifying the ones that feel untrue

C.    Taking action to end this internal conflict


Write down the things in your life that fall into the knowing/doing gap. (You know one thing/but you do something else)

Where are you stuck?

1.      Make 2 columns — write your belief in one column and write the opposing belief in the other column

2.      Are you holding contradictory beliefs?

3.      Try to become aware of a private struggle you may have within

One of the obstacles facing us is that often we measure aspects of our lives with things that don’t really matter. Be careful to not TRACK THE WRONG THINGS.

For instance, some people come back from a vacation desperately needing a vacation because they measure the success of a trip based on the number of sights they see.  Or big companies focus on things like hours worked rather than overall customer satisfaction.

Just remember – whatever it is you really want, count movement toward that & only that as the measure of your success.

“Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be” – George Sheehan, American physician, author and running enthusiast (1918 – 1993)

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