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  • Writer's pictureLinda Peterson

When We Know Better, Why Don’t We Do Better?

Updated: Apr 13, 2022

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

You have likely heard or read this famous quote by Maya Angelou. It makes sense, right? When we know better, we should inevitably be able to do better. But time after time in working with my coaching clients the question arises, “I KNOW better, so why don’t I DO better?” It happened again this week and as the question hung in the air, I decided I needed to find an adequate answer for my clients and myself.

I believe part of the problem is that we think there is an automatic progression between knowing better and doing better. As if some magic occurs as we read yet another inspirational book, watch a documentary or listen to a great podcast. A client and I were talking this week about the number of inspirational, unread books stacked up in our homes. Perhaps believing that the next book will be the one that motivates us sufficiently to do better. Self-discovery and knowledge are critical for personal growth and development, but we sometimes get stuck in the learning process and never move to the action phase of change.

Knowing better and doing better are very different processes that require different parts of our body and distinct choices from us. Knowing better is an intellectual process involving our brain while doing better is a physical process requiring us to act. So many times, we wait for motivation to strike us before acting, when in fact, action come first and leads to increased motivation. We hope that absorbing the right information will miraculously move us to action. Sometimes this happens, but typically we read the book, store the knowledge, and move on to the next NY Times best seller. At some point we need to trust that we have enough tools in our toolbox (or books on our bookshelf) to move into the doing phase of positive change.

Doing better is a choice that involves taking even the smallest steps in the right direction. When our action steps are too large, we give up or fail to begin. I blame this on the “go big or go home” life philosophy. When we begin small, we are much more likely to persist. When you complete a small step, your motivation will increase, and you will likely keep moving forward. (Remember our HS Physics—Newton’s First Law of Motion—A body in motions tends to stay in motion). Here are a few examples of starting small.

  • I want to organize my home ~ I will organize one drawer

  • I want to walk 5 miles a day ~ I will walk 10 minutes every day

  • I want to eat healthy ~ I will add one vegetable every day

  • I want to reconnect with old friends ~ I will contact one old friend this week

We KNOW better so let’s begin small, take some action, and make a commitment to DO better in 2022, together!

Blessings ~ Coach Linda

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