Why does there so often seem to be such a big gap between theory and action?
I’ll suggest it is because to apply the theory we have to first change the way we think. Just because a concept makes sense to us intellectually, doesn’t mean we have embraced the new thinking or beliefs and integrated them into our mindset.
Your thoughts, which are always based on your personal context, mental models, beliefs, etc., are the source of all of your actions. Change the way you think and you will change the way you act.
It makes sense, doesn’t it? Ironically, if I just stop there this concept easily become just another one of those things that “sounds great in theory”.
The only way it won’t is to take action to test it out. It is only when you take action that you can begin to observe the gap between what you think you know and understand and what you actually know.
I was reminded of this while trying to lose weight over the last year. I discovered that knowing how to eat healthy and how to eat to lose weight were not the same thing. I had thought healthy eating would result in weight loss. The scale proved otherwise. Yet it wasn’t until I committed to losing weight and was failing at it that I could discover the flaws in my thinking. I really thought I knew what I needed to do. Clearly I didn’t.
Why did I believe I knew how to lose weight? Because what I thought I already knew had worked for me before. It was only when I came face to face with the gap between my current reality and my desired reality that I could see I now had more to learn.
So the next time you read something that sounds good in theory, take action and test it out. It is the only way to learn how to apply that theory in real life.
The key, however, is to take action in service of a heartfelt commitment to a specific outcome. Because if you don’t have a specific outcome you are working towards, it will be hard to clearly see the gap between your desired reality and your current reality. You will also risk too quickly drawing a false conclusion that the theory doesn’t work.
In fact, it probably won’t work unless you are willing to do the hard work of changing your thinking so it can work.