Knowing or Knowing and Doing?

Knowing or Knowing and Doing

You may have seen some of the free online educational offerings during this COVID-19 pandemic. If not, I’ve given you plenty to review in the links below!

I started one on Coursera that was dubbed the most popular online course at Yale: The Science of Well-Being. Happiness is a fascinating topic to me. My interest was fueled by a class I took a few years ago called The Happiness Advantage. If you watch nothing else, view founder Shawn Achor’s TED talk. He is a masterful storyteller.

While I ended up choosing to stop the Well-Being course after just one class (Professor Laurie Santos drove me crazy with her overuse of the non-word “kinda.”), Santos made a valuable point. She refers to it as the GI Joe fallacy.

The cartoon show GI Joe ran in the mid-1980s. I have fond memories of my son Tim watching its reruns. The end of each show featured a short PSA (public service announcement) for kids such as not getting into cars with strangers and being fair.  The closing in each PSA has the kid saying, “And now I know.” And the hero’s response was, “And knowing is half the battle.”

As a cognitive scientist, Santos believes this old adage needs to be retired since knowing something is not enough to change behavior. Apologies to any smokers reading this, because smoking is a wonderful example. It was 1964 when then Surgeon General Luther Terry released the report that first exposed the dangerous health effects of smoking.

It’s been over 50 years that we’ve known (and continue to know more) that smoking cigarettes is extremely hazardous to our health. But a CDC 2018 report showed that nearly 14% of US adults over 18 are still smoking cigarettes. What, those 34 million people have no idea that smoking is terrible for them? Highly unlikely. It’s just that knowing is not enough to change their behavior.

I love learning. I am an advocate for lifelong learning. And yet you and I and everyone reading this likely has some valuable knowledge inside us that is stagnating due to our inaction. This “down time” of isolation might be a good opportunity for us to ponder what that knowledge is and develop a plan to put it into action. Or we can gain new knowledge in something we’ve always wanted to learn and move that into an action plan.

A favorite quote of mine by Christian author Lysa TerKeurst is this:

“Inspiration and information without personal application will never amount to transformation.”

In the end, what we have done with what we know matters so much more than just the knowing.


Shawn Achor’s TED talk, less than 15 minutes. WATCH IT, please!!

Parade’s March 24 link to 28 free courses (NOTE: Some may have expired by now.)

Class Central offers “free online courses from top universities around the world like MIT, Stanford, and Harvard.”

Free college classes from edx

Free classes from Coursera

NPR’s list of free viewings from Broadway plays to Gold’s Gym workouts

GI Joe original PSAs

2 thoughts on “Knowing or Knowing and Doing?

  1. Judy Jones says:

    so here are the Norma quotes on my refrigerator:
    The notepad is titled REMEMBER
    Norma quote #1. ” But someone sharing a spark of hope can be a lifeline in the darkness#”
    Norma quote #2 “Inspiration, Information, Application, and Transformation”
    and at the bottom of the page is Confucius. …..
    “Our greatest glory is Not in never falling, but in Rising every time we fall.”
    Thanks my friend!!!!!

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