When was the last time you consumed information that seemed like it had the power to change your life? Maybe it was Brene Brown’s inspiring TED Talk on The Power of Vulnerability or Napoleon Hill’s self-help classic Think and Grow Rich. You listen and read intently hoping that the ideas will spill into your mind and have life-altering effects, but the moment the video ends or you’ve read the last chapter the ideas from them slowly fade and your actual life comes back into focus unchanged.
If this sounds like you, know that you’re not alone. Many people I meet through my work as a coach have experienced this at one point or another – if not repeatedly. The problem is that, while there is endless information out there that truly can help alter your life, simply consuming the information is not enough. People often overestimate the impact that knowledge can have on their lives, while greatly underestimating the value of implementing that knowledge.
The fact of the matter is that knowledge without action is useless. You can learn from thought leaders like Brown and Hill on how vulnerability or positive thinking can improve your life, but simply knowing the power of these ideas is not enough. You can read 100 self-help books, but if you don’t put one idea into action then your life will remain unchanged.
Nothing Changed For Me
Years ago, I was bit with the “self-help” bug. While getting brunch with a friend in Chelsea she told me of this book she had been reading called The Law of Attraction. At the time, I had never heard of it and the concept felt foreign to me. The basic premise, as she explained it, was that our positive and negative thoughts bring positive and negative experiences into our life. I remember being skeptical but also slightly intrigued.
When I got back home, I downloaded the book and began to listen. I listened to the book and slowly became captivated by the ideas it presented. Could I actually attract positive things into my life simply by thinking of them first? It sounded almost too good to be true.
Amazingly, while listening to the book that week, I felt a ray of hope creep up within me. Even though my days still consisted of making 50+ cold calls at work, something felt different. For the first time, I could see the light to a better life. I remember thinking that if I could just attract my way into a better situation then all of my problems would be solved. I figured I’d be onto greener pastures within the month.
However, things didn’t work out that way. Not even close. That Sunday I finished the book and while the glow stayed in me for the remainder of the day, by Monday the ideas from it and the hope started to wither away. While I tried to pump positive thoughts into my head at night after work, they were overtaken by the pervasive negative thoughts that filled my head. After a week filled with positivity and hope, I had relapsed back to my pessimistic thought tendencies.
I ended up staying in that job for another year before making it out. In those months of uncertainty, I remember thinking that maybe the law of attraction was too good to be true. After all, nothing had changed for me.
But, years later, I can see where I made my mistake. While I consumed the Law of Attraction’s ideas and principles, I never actually put them into daily practice. After the book was over, I allowed my negative thought patterns to creep back up which translated to more negative experiences. You see, my brain had been programmed for years and years to think negatively, and switching the tune to positive thoughts was going to be a daily challenge. I didn’t do enough back then to overcome it.
Today, I have finally started to witness the benefits of the Law of Attraction’s teachings. But that’s only because I have implemented daily systems to clear out my negative thought patterns and let the positivity flow in. By thinking this way I have been able to move to Brooklyn, meet my girlfriend and start a business.
How to Go Beyond Knowledge
If you want to use the knowledge you’re gathering to change your life then you will need to commit to implementation and disciplined practice. For example, positive thinking is not something you can just do on Saturday and expect your life to change. It must be a daily practice.
So how do you go beyond knowledge and implement what you’ve learned? Here’s what you can do:
First, create a page in the Notes App on your iPhone called “Ideas to Implement.” Then, using Google Calendar, create an hour-long time block called “Implement New Ideas” that repeats weekly. Pick a time of the week that will be uninterrupted and that can allow you to be consistent. For me, I use Saturday morning.
Now when you’re reading a book, watching a TED Talk or listening to a podcast and something deeply resonates with you, write down a note about it on the “Ideas to Implement” list. This allows you to table it until you have enough time to dig in deeper.
Finally, when the “Implement New Ideas” time pops up on your calendar each week you must dive into the list and pick ONE idea to implement. Do not try to implement all at once. Work on the list one-by-one until each is successfully integrated into your life.
If you want real change then you’re going to have to go beyond learning. You’re going to have to put the new ideas you’ve gathered into practice. Only then will your life start to move in the direction that you desire.