It Sounds Great In Theory…

| | Personal Leadership

in_outThere are a lot of things that “sound great in theory”.  Yet knowing the theory doesn’t always tell you how to implement the theory in real life.

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.

What theory are you willing to put to the test?


Enter A Comment

Alli Polin   |   25 April 2013   |   Reply

Love this, Susan! Often I find myself thinking that advice sounds great but would be much harder in practice. How many times have I tried the practice? Probably not enough. Equally great point that what worked for us before may not work for us this time so instead of taking for granted that I know what I need to do – getting into doing will show me what I need to do and where I need to adjust.

Thanks for the nudge!

Susan Mazza   |   25 April 2013   |   Reply

Thanks Alli. Practice is the least rewarding part of the learning journey, but perhaps the most important if we are committed to excellence in anything. As one of my coaches used to say – you can’t learn to play from the stands!

Stan Faryna   |   26 April 2013   |   Reply


I find that great ideas can be a dime a dozen. But execution and accomplishments are something else entirely.

Recently, I made a commitment to do my small part in caring for Creation and it’s been hard work – fraught with physical and emotional challenge.


Susan Mazza   |   29 April 2013   |   Reply

Very true Stan. The one thing that seems to separate an idea from the action required to bring that idea to life is commitment. Your story is a great example of that Stan. Thanks for sharing it!

Sharon Gilmour-Glover   |   30 April 2013   |   Reply

Hi Susan,

I love that you addressed the gap between current reality and desired reality. That gap can be really hard to accept and yet, when we can look it in the eye and embrace it, we can find solutions or missing learning or information or whatever we need to close it.

Any tips for how to cope with the emotional response to an expectation gap? I’m very interested in your thoughts.

Thanks Susan,

Susan Mazza   |   03 May 2013   |   Reply

Great question Sharon. There is that element of needing to be willing to step through the fire so to speak to see the reality of the gap. Avoidance feels safer and it certainly is easier, which is why people so often don’t want to even look at the gap. I think the key lies in first getting crystal clear about what you want and making the sincere commitment to manifesting that future. You have to first get focused on the desired gain, or you will never face the inevitable pain of coming face to face with what can be the hard truth about where you are vs. where you want to be. And the clearer you are about what you want, the easier it will be to stay focused on the desired gain, and not slide back to the behaviors that take you out of the gap such as pain avoidance or settling for instant gratification at the expense of what you really want. So I think it is less about coping and more about where you put your attention.

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