Knowing vs Doing


There is no question that knowledge, is important. But is there a point where we become so obsessed with obtaining that knowledge that we forget the most important part? You know, the bit where you actually have to get up and do something.

I can certainly put my hand up and admit to this more times than I care to remember.

My profession (health and fitness) is heavily personality based, but to be a really good coach we actually have to know our stuff.

There are a vast array of subjects we have to know in detail to be considered a "professional". Exercise physiology, biomechanics, anatomy, nutrition, supplementation, change psychology, how to read the latest research, the science of strength training, correct exercise selection, exercise programming for multiple population types, stress management techniques and lifestyle management techniques. The list goes on and on. 

I like to prepare properly for most things that I do. I like to learn about a subject, study those that have been successful at it and analyse it to death to make sure whatever I do is the best I can do it. This Approach has served me well for most things that interested me in my life, but sometimes it doesn't.

I will take you back to 2014. I was studying on fitness business course in LA,  I learned many a valuable lesson from a very successful coach in my industry called Alwyn Cosgrove.

One lesson that stuck with me was about “gardening the mind”. Essentially, read, watch or listen 30 minutes a day on something health and fitness related to grow and improve your craft. 

Excellent advice and something I took to heart. 

The problem was, I became so obsessed with reading, listening to audiobooks and “levelling up”, that I became less present in what I was actually doing each day. 

I would watch videos from the personal development gurus, read the latest "5 life hacks that successful people use each day", and follow the advice of successful people in my industry. 

It was all about getting better and preparing for the future. It was all about getting ready. Preparing to arrive. For what exactly, I’m not entirely sure now that I think about it. 

Eventually, I didn’t have enough time to fit in all these “life hacks”. I would jump from one subject to another, nutrition to personal development to exercise programming and so forth. I wasn’t giving myself time to digest and absorb this information let alone practice it.  

For example, I would read about self-compassion, how to practice and why it was so important. 

Then I was onto mindfulness and the importance of daily meditation...

Then onto goal setting and why writing down your goals before bed was the best way to enhance productivity...

This cycle continued and although I was learning some useful skills I wasn’t actually doing any of them. In the end, I felt like I was spinning my wheels and exhausting myself thinking about all these new habits and hacks I "should" install into my daily routine.

I had the impression I was moving forward and getting better, but on reflection, I was going nowhere.  

A fantastic article that made me aware of the difference between knowing and doing was by James Clear called "Being In Motion vs Taking Action".

After reading this I realised I was constantly in motion, but not taking much action at all.

So what is the lesson I learned? 

For starters, I stopped reading and listing to audiobooks temporarily. If I had an idea, I had to commit to practising it myself for at least 2 weeks. If not then I would take note of it and move on. 

If I hadn't tried it or was not currently practising it I wouldn't recommend it to my clients or friends. 

For example, if I wanted to meditate or take time out mentally I had to actually practice 5 mins a day of "headspace" for at least 2 weeks. 

There was no point in me learning more about meditation and it benefits anymore. Do it and learn through experience or don't bother at all.  

Taking a break from all this "learning" actually improved my coaching as it all became a little more free flowing and "in the moment". I wasn't distracted thinking about all the stuff I didn't know. 

In summary, although it is important to have a good understanding of what you are doing and the urge to develop yourself is certainly a positive one. Being present, working with what you have and getting your feet muddy out in the field is one of the best ways to learn.

Now to read that book on my shelf that's been staring at me disapprovingly since I bought it...

Yours In Health

Patrick Fallis

Founder of Leaner