Have you ever noticed that the gap between what we learn and what we apply is often like the Grand Canyon? Why is that? While you could easily argue that it’s impossible to do everything you learn, it is also true that most of us could do better at closing our knowing-doing gap. “Doing” is the great separator between people who learn and people who grow. Until learning translates into behavioral changes, the learning has done little to benefit you.
I believe one essential ingredient to apply what you learn is CLARITY. If the road to application is coated with confusion, your attempts to apply what you’re learning will only result in frustration. In other words, if what you learn is not accompanied with clear application points, it will be lost in the wilderness of theory and philosophy.
Say for example you develop a personal growth plan with a goal to improve your communication skills. To help you reach this goal, you read a couple of books on communication, attend a communicator’s seminar, and hire a communication coach for six months. As you read, study, and learn, you are faced with an excess of communication strategies and ideas.
You quickly realize that every communicator is different and that what works for one will not necessarily work for another. So you organize your learning into two categories: big picture concepts and communication techniques. The concepts have broad appeal and can be used by any communicator. The communication techniques, on the other hand, are very specific ideas that focus primarily on delivery style.
At this moment, you’re faced with a decision–one that needs clarity. Which delivery styles match your personality? This is an extremely important question and will undoubtedly influence how well you communicate. It needs to be made carefully, deliberately, and strategically.
Now imagine what would happen if you proceeded to give your first speech to 100 employees, managers, or students without first gaining clarity on the communication techniques you will employ. You open with an engaging story that captures everyone’s attention. To your delight, it works beautifully. So you follow your story by jumping into the main thrust of your talk.
After ten minutes you sense you’re losing your audience, so, with a hint of desperation, and off the cuff, you tell a joke to lighten the mood. It bombs! You feel your credibility melting away. Now you’re scrambling. For the remaining fifteen minutes of your presentation you feel like you’re climbing Mt. Everest. “Which technique do I use next? What if it only gets worse? I think I’m boring myself!”
What was the problem? Did you learn before giving the speech? Yes! Did you clarify? No! If you find yourself lacking clarity about how to specifically apply what you are learning to your everyday life, there’s a good chance you need to back up and spend meaningful time reflecting on what you’re learning. Capture your thoughts on paper, ask questions, share them with a coach, decipher the good from the bad, and look for the best takeaways.
Your goal in applying what you learn is not to get airborne quickly, but airborne with clarity. At the same time, let me caution you that you will never be 100% certain. You must get clear about your application while recognizing that your fears and uncertainties will never fully disappear. If you wait for your fears to go away, you’ll never grow. Get clear about specific ways to apply what you are learning to your life. When you do, you’ll turn your “learning” into “doing.”
Question: In what areas of life are you attempting to grow yet lack clarity about how to apply what you’re learning? How does clarity build your confidence to turn learning into doing?