Bill Cottringer

“What the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” ~Napoleon Hill.

But will I actually do it—go from knowing to doing—is the dangling question after Napoleon Hill’s quote above. Great self-development and self-help sources of information are now nearing 1 billion “hits” on Google, and growing by the second. Maybe the problem is that this is too much information overload. What source is the best to start with? The right answer is that it doesn’t matter. Besides, if the shoe seems to fit, put it on and try it.

Consider the following possibility. It would only take each person a few successful applications of going from knowing to doing from this pool of valuable information to rid the world of all the problems, which all this knowing and doing is designed to solve. Or in the alternative, just read one or two books on David Riklan’s 101 A-list reading of influential self-growth books for little and big life-changing ideas. But this doesn’t seem to be happening as quickly and easily as intended. Why not?

There are two good reasons why you can’t think yourself from knowing to doing:

• Writers, teachers and trainers need to be clearer with their audiences on how to best learn what their information is trying to teach. In learning psychology this is called setting the mind up with an “advance organizer” in preparation of learning what is to come.

• Readers then have to learn how to go from knowing it in their minds to doing it with their own hands. A huge part of this going from “knowing to doing” process begins by identifying the common ways you are most likely not going to apply the information and get rid of the problem.

The logic here is that if you want to start a good habit you have to learn what is actually involved in doing that, rather than just knowing it. But first you may have to discover and unlearn what might be getting in the way. And then you just may have to spend some time and effort to undue a bad thinking or behavioral habit that is likely in the way (and taking up needed space in your dwindling attention span because of the overwhelming information overload that confronts us all). Many of us get lost in this murky translation period.

In different words, you can’t improve or cure yourself from an addiction, depression, laziness, learning disability, lack of leadership ability or any other problem merely by practicing sobriety, optimism, hard work, learning strategies, leadership laws or any other matching “solution.” Admittedly this positive psychology notion is a very popular one resistive of disproving or displacing, at least until you take a hard look at the real doing results which unfortunately aren’t that impressive, given all the cures that are available for the asking.

Here is a way to open the door to the possibility that maybe we have over-embraced a half-truth here for the immediate need gratification in the perennial quest for quick and easy cures to all of life’s problems. Try these questions out to see what resistive factors need to be questioned, to accept the proposed full picture here—of undoing the bad habits first and exchanging them for good ones in bringing about lasting success in whatever you are trying to conceive, believe and achieve.

1. Do I really want someone else to tell me their answer to my problem or would I rather find it out for and by myself…or why does this even matter?

2. How many times have I believed something to be the whole truth to die for, only to find out it really wasn’t’ true, but never-the-less continued believing it…or what does this have to do with anything?

3. How many times have I improved, fixed or cured a problem, only to have it rear its ugly head again, just in another form…or what does the past have to do with what I am trying to do right now?

4. How much good is good enough or is growing never finished and I have to learn to accept that wearisome and intimidating possibility enthusiastically and wholeheartedly...or why do I try to deny this obvious reality?

5. What will I have to give up in order to do this, and when I do it what will I get in return…or why can’t I just wait and see?

6. How many good habits have I implemented to see them just fade away and go back to same old samo…or why do I have to use past failure as an excuse for getting a present success?

7. When am I going to realize I don’t know nearly as much as I would like to believe I do…or what untrue information do I have to un-know so I can learn what I really need to know?

8. Why is it necessary for me to have someone else change for the better before I am willing to focus on me and do it first…or why do I have to be the follower and not the leader?

9. Why am I so sure I can delay doing the right thing and keep getting away with doing that…or what am I waiting for?

10. What is the real score card on giving into the tempting lure of “try it you will like it”… or why is it so hard to let go to doing something I already know will work?

And, here is a bonus question to ask, in case the above list doesn’t do the trick: Am I actually ready to know and do so and so…or is this just another lame excuse keeping me from knowing and doing and going from failure to success? And maybe another one for good luck: Are these good questions for me, or should I be asking other ones?

After understanding the gap between knowing and doing, the simple ABC winning formula for donating a little short term pain for the cause in being rewarded with a lot of long term gain, is this:

A. Stop and think about the thoughts you have that keep you from applying reasonable self-help information (even advice from a friend), remembering there is always a gap between knowing and doing that has to be closed. You always have to cross a bridge to get to the other side.

B. Work a little to un-think and un-do the things that interfere with a good replacement habit to take hold, remembering each new situation is a brand new opportunity and that all you think you know might not necessarily be so. What you can conceive and believe you can achieve, but not with the wrong information in the way.

C. Don’t critique the information or evaluate the change until you have given it a fair chance, remembering the connection between what you expect and what you get, or in Henry Ford’s famous words,

“If you think you can or you think you can't, either way you are right.” ~Henry Ford

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is Executive Vice-President for Employee Relations for Puget Sound Security, Inc. in Bellevue, WA, along with his hobbies in being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living in the scenic mountains and rivers of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, “You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too” (Executive Excellence), “The Bow-Wow Secrets” (Wisdom Tree), and “Do What Matters Most” and “P” Point Management” (Atlantic Book Publishers), “Reality Repair” (Global Vision Press), and Reality Repair Rx (Authorsden). Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 454-5011 or