When We Know But Don’t Act

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Mark LundegrenAfter almost two years of work, I’ve nearly finished a book spanning my seven Natural Strategy workshops. All that’s left is a last look at the introduction and a final proofread of the book overall (though this may take some time).

This last bit of effort, however, requires some distance from the project and a fresh set of eyes. So I’m spending some of the summer on vacation and away from this work.

Knowing Versus Acting

As People or Groups, We Can Know, Act, Do Both, or Do Neither         full-size

Since it will be several weeks before I will post here again, and several more weeks after that until I can begin to post regularly, let me share an idea from my book before I head out for a summer adventure. Hopefully, this idea will engage you until I am back. And really, it is an idea that we can use over a lifetime and in many domains, if we want.

As summarized in the graphic above, the idea I want to share is that we can – and should, if we seek more optimal life and work – learn to better separate and examine our instances and potential states of knowing and acting. You no doubt understand the concepts of knowledge and action, so I won’t spend time on definitions m here. Instead, I would like to move right to a personal learning challenge to you.

A Personal Challenge

Over the next week or more, I’d like you to use my model to observe, say at least ten times, when you: 1) know with reasonable certainty, 2) act with good or progressive intentions, 3) do both in concert, or 4) function with neither attribute. To help you judge the quality of our knowing and acting, you can use the standard of functioning that helps, might help, or is believed to help us or others advance our health, vitality, and quality of life.

For example, we might know, or at least believe, that we need to take a particular course of action to advance our lives or groups, and then we may either act on this knowledge or not. Should we act in this way, we may or may not succeed in our goals, but we will almost always at least achieve learning, or new knowing, for the future.

Alternatively, and quite commonly, we may also know and/or act in ways that are predictably less apt to lead to progressive outcomes or learning. As a case in point, think of an inconsequential pastime or endeavor. This might include various activities involving trivia or a preoccupation with any number of arcane topics, to begin a list.

By contrast, we of course also may not know – that is, have impactful, noticeable, and addressable barriers to adaptive knowledge or learning. And once again, we may then either act or not amidst this absence or lower state of knowing. My model makes these potential conditions of knowing and acting easier to understand, and also easier to perceive in our lives and the world around us. As you can see, the model highlights four archetypical states: regressive apathy, uninformed feeling, passive knowing, and progressive engagement.

As the title to my post suggests, I personally view knowing without acting or passive knowing as a special modern problem and frequent progressive opportunity for many of us, owing to the profusion of science and information in our time. But really, all of the quadrants of the model, except the upper-right one, represent personal or collective functioning that is less than our full potential to know and act in ever-advancing or more adaptive ways.

Your Knowing & Acting

So, do you have a good sense of how much time you, others, or your groups spend in each of the four quadrants of my Knowing Versus Acting model?

Regardless of how you answer this question, you can quickly and steadily gain new appreciation of this essential model of all natural functioning, simply by observing your own knowing and acting, or that of others, and then locating your observations on the four quadrants of my graphic. Once more, I hope you will do this in the next week or more. In this way, you will gain familiarity with this important model and can begin to use it to spend more of your time, or help others to spend more of theirs, in the state of progressive engagement.

I should add that if you want to pursue your observations more formally, you can do a random sampling of your personal or collective functioning with an electronic timer and notepad. This extra step will help to give you data that is less likely to be biased or skewed. At the same time, your exposure to this broader set of data is also likely to improve how accurately you sort functioning against my four-quadrant model.

In any case, either approach can help you to spot instances of low-value knowing and acting, or often still lower-value conditions of not-knowing and not-acting, as or after these states occur. Both approaches will also help you to creatively probe how less valuable forms of functioning might be replaced with higher-value ones. And over time, either approach will allow you to reflect on and achieve added perspective on your observations and data, helping you to steadily make your functioning more progressive and successful.

So, as I head out for a break from my own progressive efforts, let me encourage you to take my challenge and pay more attention to your current and potential states of knowing and acting – and to gradually explore functioning that is more likely to be progressive for you and others.

Health & best wishes,


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