Why the belief "knowledge is power" is total crap
If I gave you 30 seconds to come up with something that you know you should be doing but aren’t, could you do it? I could name about 10 things without even stopping to think.
And the real kicker? I totally believe I would be happier if I did them. That ever present, annoying, self deprecating thought comes in:
“I KNOW BETTER! WHY AM I DOING (or not doing) THIS?”
Here’s the thing. It’s not about knowing. I know how to budget, how to eat healthy, how to establish new habits, how to lose weight. I know the benefits of exercise and fully believe them to be true. I know the science behind gut health and anxiety management. I know the importance of good sleep or the importance of not procrastinating. Am I super powerful?
Knowledge isn’t power.
It’s not about knowing. We know what we need to do, the reason we aren’t doing it is because we are focusing on the wrong thing. We keep building up knowledge in hopes that it will somehow magically spur behavior change. But behavior change is prompted not by knowledge, but by how we feel, and believe it or not, this is easier to control than you may think.
So let’s follow this through. I should ________ (fill in the blank). How do you feel when you say that? I generally feel frustrated regardless of what I filled in the blank with. I should have had the salad. I shouldn’t have yelled at my kids. I should have exercised today. I should have spoken up for myself. You get the jist.
It would make sense then that if I changed my behavior then I wouldn’t be frustrated. But it is actually the frustration that drives the behavior and what is frustrating is the thought “I should have.” (or one of my personal favorites "If I was more dedicated/stronger/disciplined/better I would...")
Stay with me- this will be worth it.
So how do you want to feel? When you are rocking all the good decisions what are the feelings that are prompting the behavior? Here’s my list of feelings that I have when I am doing all the things.
These feelings cannot follow a thought of “I should have.” Trust me, I am an expert at this one. I have tried it and it’s a no go. So let’s pick a new thought. Let’s reframe (my fav).
“I am so glad that I know all the steps to ______________. How can I craft my day to get one step closer?”
“I am good at figuring things out, I will figure this out.”
“Everyone has to practice at what they want to be.”
“If what I do today doesn’t work then I will re-evaluate and try something else tomorrow.”
“I am going to work on this because I want the end result. I will keep working on it until I get it done.”
“This is so hard but I can do hard things.”
I like to think like an Olympian. Obviously, Olympians practice on the regular, but what I find reassuring is that they need a coach. Even at the top of their game they have someone guiding them to the next level. You don’t make it to the Olympic team only to have them say, “you should know what to do, you’re on your own” or “ if you could just follow through, this would be easy.” And yet we say that to ourselves all the time.
OK so let’s break this down, our steps to true power.
Step 1: Don’t just rely on your knowledge.
Look at what you feel and use that as a window into what thoughts you are having about it. This could look like “I’m so annoyed because…” or “I can’t do it because…” Whatever follows the “because” is what you are thinking.
Step 2: Decide if that thought is moving you toward or away from your goal.
Let go of whether or not you feel justified having that thought- justified doesn’t get you results, it defends thoughts that keep you stuck.
Step 3: Try out some new thoughts until you find one that works for you.
Remember that negative thoughts never result in positive outcomes. Try writing them down. (This uses multiple parts of your brain and is therefore more effective than just thinking about it- another subject for another day.)
Step 4: Build a team.
Keep in mind that this is something everyone struggles with. Even Olympians have coaches, coaches that may not be able to do what the athlete can do but can still help them reach their goals. Coaches that help them practice. Who helps you practice behaviors in your life that get you closer to your goals? If you can’t name anyone then maybe start looking. This may be a friend, a coach, an online group, a Pinterest board, a book, a podcast. Be creative and find support rather than evidence that you can’t do it.es with. Even olympians have coaches, coaches that may not be able to do what the athlete can do but can still help them reach their goals. Coaches that help them practice. Who helps you practice behaviors in your life that get you closer to your goals? If you can’t name anyone then maybe start looking. This may be a friend, a coach, an online group, a pinterest board, a book, a podcast. Be creative and find support rather than evidence that you can’t do it.
Doing it on your own adds a level of difficulty that is simply unnecessary.
SO DON’T DO THAT!
Simplified even more? Thoughts create your feelings. Feelings prompt your actions. Actions get you your results, good or bad. Therefore, THOUGHTS=RESULTS.
Of course all of you who know me know that I am actually a big fan of knowledge, of learning new things, of trying out new ideas. I truly believe that knowledge (and taking action) can make our lives so much better. But really I love knowing things so that when I can get my thoughts in line I have the info I need to make progress, to up level my life.