Bridging the Knowing-Doing Gap

Sign Up For Weekly Tips! Get Trevor’s Weekly Tips Straight To Your Inbox!

I ran into someone a while ago who reminded me of someone I really dislike from my past: my younger self; unmanaged and self-absorbed.

A few random memories come to mind from my halcyon youth:

  • A girl in high school telling me in a group setting that whatever group I was a part of, she would run the other way from
  • A random guy approaching me in college telling me that he had always deeply disliked me because I was such a jerk
  • My wife sidling away from me in retail settings when she could see my temper bubbling up

I just thought these people were all crazy and way too sensitive.  After all, my blunt nature was one of my greatest strengths.

My moment of reckoning

When my family was very young, we went to a fast food restaurant to pick up lunch.  I ordered at the outside menu board, and the very young employee taking my order gave me a sassy response.  My temper went from zero to eight in under 1.4 seconds.

I went to the window to pick up my food, and this young adolescent boy gave another insolent response.  So I did what I did best: I blew up.

I told him what I thought of him, told him to keep his stupid food, squealed the tires on our SUV and stormed on to the main road.  I felt fantastic.  Wow.  I’d just bested a 16 year old minimum wage worker.  What a triumph.

I felt great until I looked at my wife.  She was quietly furious.  Then I looked in the rear view mirror at the shocked faces of my (then) two kids.  Plus, we had nothing to eat.

This was my moment.  I went home and did some serious thinking about my life and this recurring temper/hissy fit problem.  I felt truly ashamed of my behavior.  I felt embarrassed to think I had become this person.

The knowing/doing gap

We all struggle with our issues.  We know how we should behave.  We’ve read the books.  We’ve taken courses.  We shouldn’t lose our temper.  We shouldn’t procrastinate.  We shouldn’t max out our Visa card. And yet, our behaviour doesn’t change.  Why is this?

It’s called the knowing/doing gap.  Just because intellectually you know what you should do, your knowledge doesn’t find its way into your day-to-day life.  Knowing versus doing.

There are four stages in real change

They are:

  1. Unconscious incompetence: You don’t even know what you don’t know.  You’re completely unaware of your behaviour and the impact it has on others.  You have a gap in your self-awareness that you could drive a truck though.
  2. Conscious incompetence: You’re suddenly made aware that you have a problem, and that it needs to be fixed.  Your eyes have officially been opened.  This was my fast food moment.
  3. Conscious competence: You decide to get better.  You watch your behaviour.  You get accountability structures around you.  You do whatever it takes to get it fixed.  When the why is strong enough, you figure out the how.
  4. Unconscious competence: You’ve practiced your skills for so long you don’t really think about it anymore.  You’ve changed!

How my terrible day got better

Back to our lunch with no food.  I felt so contrite and embarrassed by my own self that I pledged, with God’s help, to never again have a public blow up.

I had to do some reading.  I explored the triggers that set me off.  I learned to avoid situations that played to my weakness.  I learned to simply walk away when I felt my temper boiling up.

Today, many years later, I’m somewhere between #3 and #4 with my temper.  Mostly control of it is unconscious, but not always.

Just a few days ago I had a moment where I could feel my inner Sauron rearing his ugly head.  Without saying one word (it would have been a bad one) I walked out of the house and hopped on my motorbike and went for a ride.  I bought a creamsicle.  I cooled down and felt better.  I shook my head at myself and went home.  And no one was mad at me.

Which was nice.

Recommended Resources:

Uncover your strengths and weaknesses with our complimentary assessment. Boost your effectiveness at work and with your team.

Free Resource Library: Access our extensive collection of valuable resources for instant support in your personal and professional growth.

Explore Our Course Library:

Enhance your leadership skills with our diverse selection of courses. Take your abilities to the next level and become a more effective leader and team player.
Written by Trevor Throness
Trevor is a veteran coach, keynote speaker, and the author of the book “The Power of People Skills” released by Career Press NY in 2017. He’s also written for or been featured in places like Forbes, Inc, The NY Post, The Globe and Mail, Entrepreneur, CEO Magazine, and numerous podcasts and interviews.


Our Clients Love the Professional Leadership Institute

Your team will, too! Check out some reviews from our students.
The PLI program was invaluable to our network.
The range of topics delivered, the open dialogue, experience, and examples that PLI brought to each session were outstanding and provided a path for our Franchisees and Managers to look at leadership, coaching, and connecting with their teams in a new light. Many have implemented these strategies in their bakeries and have seen immediate results.
Michelle C.
COBS Bread
Highly recommend to help your team move forward
We have locations around BC and Alberta, so getting people on the same page can be very difficult... Until now. Our entire management team and location managers take the same great courses and then meet monthly online with our coach to apply it to our situation. People are engaged, the courses are excellent, we love our coach, and we are all learning together!
Jason Fawcett
President, Kelson Group
The result has been a transformation of our culture. 
We decided to implement PLI's strategies across the country in over 150 locations and over 3500 employees.  The result has been a transformation of our culture.  People's lives have been positively impacted - professionally and personally.  Morale is high and sales and profits are up as a result.
Daryl Verbeek
Daryl Verbeek
We’ve learned how to fix ongoing personnel issues once and for all
The roadmap laid out set our business up to quintuple in sales.  We've learned how to fix ongoing personnel issues once and for all, attract top talent, and spend our time focused on results, not internal staffing problems.  I highly recommend PLI to you - it's worked for us!
John DeJong
Satisfied Client
I had no idea that running a business could be this fun!
In less than 18 months of working with Trevor, he has transformed my business from being average to exceptional, where mediocrity is not acceptable, where being great is standard.  Working with PLI has allowed me to realize my dream of not simply owning a job, but owning a business.
Justin Bontkes
Principal, Caliber Projects
Our culture has taken major steps forward this year
Our culture has taken major steps forward this year with Trevor’s help.  He is funny, relatable, and his tools are very very practical and have helped us focus and upgrade our teams throughout our retail network. Trevor recently spoke to an employee group, and one person remarked, “I could listen to Trevor all day.”   We would highly recommend Trevor.
Stan Pridham
Founder, KMS Tools
The results have been remarkable
At first, we resisted, “This just won’t work with a law firm.” But we persisted and the results have been remarkable: our client base and profits have steadily improved, and staff engagement and morale is the healthiest its ever been.
Doug Lester
Partner, RDM Lawyers
Helped our fast-growing business become what it is today
I've experienced PLI's approach first hand and it's been crucial to sustaining our growth.  I can't imagine a business that wouldn't benefit greatly from his help.
Brian Antenbring
Founder, TEEMA
Provided practical ways to make positive changes
Trevor was incredibly well-received by the entire organization. He was able to articulate people issues that many of our franchisees were experiencing and provided them with practical ways to make positive changes. We have implemented the Star Chart tool across the organization and see it as vital to building happy, effective teams.
Aaron Gillespie
President, COBS Bread
Scroll to Top

Start Learning Today

For Individuals

Unlock your potential and accelerate your career with sought-after management and leadership skills.


Transform Your Organization

For Teams

Book a consultation to discuss your challenges and discover how we can help you build a winning team.


Sign Up For Weekly Tips!

Get Weekly Coaching Tips Straight To Your Inbox Every Monday.