The Gap Between Knowing and Doing: Why Achieving Excellence Is Difficult.

It’s no secret that excellence, true excellence is difficult to achieve. When it comes to achieving excellence, inspiration and aspiration will only take you so far. Achieving excellence isn’t always related to a person’s skill level either. While a lack of skill definitely impacts achievement, it’s not the critical element that prevents one or an organization from achieving excellence. The difficulty in achieving excellence is related to the gap between what we know and what we do. In other words, we often possess the needed skills or can obtain them through training, development, practice, etc. to accomplish the task(s) before us and do so in a high-quality manner. It isn’t the skill that’s missing. It’s the discipline to consistently execute the behaviors we know are necessary to accomplish our goals at the highest level that prevent us from achieving excellence. This is true in multiple facets of life-socially, personally, professionally, etc. The truth is very few people execute the discipline needed to consistently apply the skills and behaviors needed to achieve excellence. Allow me to provide you with an analogy to make this point clear. Let’s say you have a desire to lose weight. What do we know is necessary for weight loss? Eating less, making better eating selections, and exercise, right? Well if we know that why is it so hard to lose weight? Is it because we don’t know what it takes to do so? Absolutely not. It’s because we don’t execute the discipline to eat well and exercise consistently and because of that, we struggle to lose weight. Sounds simple, right? Hold that thought.

Discipline is the gap between knowing and doing. It is the missing element that prevents us from achieving what we often are so quick to say we want to accomplish. The question, then, is what makes consistently executing what we know is an effective behavior difficult? Structure. We are often quick to immerse ourselves in the work we are doing without creating a structure to ensure we are doing the work at a quality level that aligns with our desire to be excellent. We lack strategy and structure and therefore assume being busy and getting things complete means we are doing our work.  We quickly become compliance driven.  That may be true, but if the goal is to do the work and achieve excellence, we must design a working structure that counters the unconsciousness that can occur when we are deep in practice.

As mentioned in a previous blog, I thoroughly enjoy studying effective leaders who have been able to achieve excellence. For me, it isn’t about how they are perceived; it is about the body of evidence that provides the evidence that they have been able to achieve excellence. Perhaps my line of thinking is off base, but I’m convinced that leaders who are able to achieve excellence have a defining factor in common, and that is, that they are disciplined enough to operationalize strategic behaviors on a consistent basis. While the words disciplined, strategic, and consistent sound simple, they are actually very difficult to operationalize. It requires an acknowledgment that we aren’t naturally disciplined, strategic, or consistent in behaviors that we know are effective to achieve excellence. To support our unnatural tendencies, effective leaders develop a structure to support our ability to be disciplined, consistent, and strategic.

That structure can happen in a variety of ways. It might be in the way we schedule our time, in the organization of resources, in how we monitor our progress toward achieving our goals, or how we develop and monitor processes for working with our colleagues, or using data to drive our work. We aren’t naturally structured and organized people, but it’s quite interesting that we operate sometimes as if discipline, strategy, and consistency come naturally to us.

So there you have it folks. Excellence is difficult to achieve because discipline, strategy, and consistency are the gap between knowing and doing. Now that you know that, how might you approach your work differently? What structure might you add to help support your ability to be disciplined, consistent, and strategic about your work? Good luck to all of you. I’ll be working alongside of you to improve my ability to close the gap as well.

Until next time-be you, be true, be a hope builder!


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