Crossing the gaps from ignorance to knowing to doing

“The gap between knowing and doing is significantly greater than the gap between ignorance and knowledge.”
– John Maxwell




What allows me to get from ignorance to knowing?
  • reading
  • listening to others
  • asking questions
Major pitfall in this step: Reading too much. Getting lost in what others think and want.
What allows me to get from knowing to doing?
  • Introspection & Reflection
  • Setting inspiring goals
  • Taking the next small action
Major pitfall in this step: Making the next action too difficult.

What this is about…

In this article I want to write about how we can reach our dreams.
This is work in progress, as I am learning. I am sharing what I am learning, processing it for myself and hopefully there will be something in it for you as well.
There is two gaps we need to close when growing to our potential. The gap from ignorance to knowing and the gap from knowing to doing. Ready? So let’s get started.

Crossing the gap from ignorance to knowing

The first step we need to cross is from not knowing to knowing.
This is very easy these times. There is so much information available on everything. First there is the collected information of mankind: Libraries filled with books, even national libraries where you can see every book that has ever been published. In the bookstore next corner you can order almost any book that is on sale now.
Even if you decide to stay at home, there is so much information like no generation before us ever had. There is the internet with encyclopedias such as Wikipedia giving a structured overview over humanities knowledge. If you need specific information you can search on the internet and you will often find detailed instructions even videos explaining and showing it.
If you have a problem that you don’t find a solution for by searching, you can ask other people around the world for help. There are countless forums and groups on social media who share a common interest, yours will very likely be there.
Most of the information you can get is free or it costs very little compared to what you would have to pay for that even a few decades ago. Information is very cheap. This democratization of knowledge also brings a challenge for us: Our brains ability to process information is limited.
Of course people are creative and tried to bring up various ways to cope with that. One way is to increase the speed of information intake: Speed-reading and speed listening. I have tried both approaches. While I agree that could be positive to make our information intake more efficient there is one major limitation to this approach. The thing is, even if you speed up your information intake by a few 100% there is still so much more information out there. And there is more information produced as you take something in.

We have to accept that we will not know it all.

This is a practice of humility that we all need to embrace. What is the solution? In my view there is only one solution: To be very selective in the information you take in. To intentionally reduce the amount of information you take in and to focus on what is most important for you right now. I think it is a good idea to get a quick overview on a topic that we want to master and then dive deep into the first step.
This is a very important step, because with all the noise out there, it is very easy to become too distracted and pulled into a million directions or become too overloaded with information. I have been there. And then our brains shut down, because they say, enough is enough.
So we need to focus. Even Steve Jobs said, that “Innovations is saying no to a thousand things.” So having the information is not enough, we need to be very selective.
One way to be selective that has been proven very helpful to me is to get an impression of a topic by browsing widely researching people with expertise and then following a few who I think will add the most value to me and go really deep on their material.
However, we need do remember: Our knowledge will always be incomplete. You cannot win this game by gaining more and more information until you know it all. There is no end to it. So we need to move to doing rather sooner than later.

Crossing the gap from knowing to doing

Now we know our stuff, there is a major gap to close. It bears to repeat the quote by John Maxwell and add a different picture to it:
“The gap between knowing and doing is significantly greater than the gap between ignorance and knowledge.”
– John Maxwell


This is really something many people miss far too often (me included). We do not act on what we know because we do not place enough value on it, or because we get lost somewhere earlier in the process.
“You grow by doing not by knowing.”
– John Maxwell
Knowledge can help doing, but only doing can help growth. Look at all the people who are successful, they are successful because they do something with what they know. There is no one who knows a lot and does nothing with it, who is successful. Show me one.
There is another quote by Carl Jung:
“Who looks outside dreams, who looks inside awakens.”
In our times it is very easy to get pulled away from our own thoughts and our own desires. The world around us is loud, everybody is shouting for our attention.

So we need to make room for introspection.

The ideas we get when we are in a quiet place with our own minds are very different than the ones we get when we are out there.
We need that time of introspection to look inside and listen to ourselves. Only when we listen to ourselves we will feel and understand what we really want.
And this makes all the difference. Let me repeat it: Feeling and understanding what we really want makes all the difference.
Once you have been to that place, you will know what I mean. It is not easy to get to this place in our times of massive distraction. But it is absolutely possible.
And knowing what we truly want makes all the difference in our motivation. Having that clarity gives us massive energy and motivation to move towards doing it.
Once we are in that place, we are in a place to set goals that truly matter to us.
In my experience it helps to share these goals with people who care about you and who are moving in a similar direction. This adds accountability, it is easy to get distracted from our goals as we are out there in that noisy world, so it is great to have people who remind us.
There is one more thing that I learned about goal setting just now:
If you want to get more into depth with goals, check out this podcast.
Here is what I have learned from it:
It is good to have goals who are inside our discomfort zone. Goals that make us a little afraid, a little uncertain, a little doubtful, a little ashamed. Why? Because these emotions show us that our goal requires us to grow so that we can reach it. This is where all the great stuff happens.
And then we need to move to action quickly. And this was quite counter-intuitive to me. This is a place we get lost in quite often. Doing two kinds of procrastination:
a) doing nothing at all.
b) overplan and get lost in making a detailed action plan.
This even happens to goals that are very close to our hearts. The thing is, goals that require us to grow are goals that we are not sure yet how to accomplish them, so overplanning will not cut it.
And doing nothing at all can also be a result of one problem: Making the next action too difficult. Actually our goals should be outside our comfort zone, so they require us to grow over some period of time. But our next action should be inside our comfort zone so that we can absolutely positively do it and do it today.
When do you make time for reflection?
What is your next action towards your goal today?





4 Replies to “Crossing the gaps from ignorance to knowing to doing”

  1. This was so helpful to me! I love learning so gaining knowledge always feels like a good thing — but it often makes it harder to get anything done. And, I love planning, so I sometimes spend too much time making the plan and never get around to implementing it!

    I want to make sure that I’m taking action every day.

  2. Hi Gabriel. This is very profound. I think so many times we want to learn so much so that we can do and get caught up in the “Sos” (shiny object syndrome), and then let fear take hold, and then we become paralyzed and end up staying stuck because we are either afraid of not knowing enough, or afraid of failure. Oftentimes it may be the failure that helps us learn and break through, if we just keep taking action. I also agree that we need that quiet introspective and then move towards those things that are actually most important to what we want to achieve. Great post. You are so point on!

    1. Brenda, thanks for your adding your experience and thoughts to this post. Actually, that is one of the reasons I am writing this blog. To share what I am learning at the moment, while it is fragile and vulnerable. To make the thoughts better as we share and discuss them. “Oftentimes it may be the failure that helps us learn and break through, if we just keep taking action.” Amen. I have the wonderful opportunity to assist refugees in learning German. I constantly push them towards action, getting them over the fear. Seeing them make progress makes me believe in progress for myself as well.

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