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Where There’s a Will When Education Isn’t Enough
I love books. This will come as no surprise to anyone. I love to talk about books, I love to visit bookstores and libraries, and I love reading. Learning new things and exposing myself to new ideas is one of my greatest joys in life. Being an avid reader means learning a lot, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that knowledge is not the same thing as will. Just because we know something doesn’t mean we are good at putting that knowledge into action. One thing we hear about a lot today, when faced with all the world’s problems, is the importance of education. “We just have to educate people about the issues,” some say. “Then they’ll do what they’re supposed to do. Bad behavior just comes from a lack of education.” I disagree with this. While it’s important to make sure people are educated, that won’t magically solve all the problems. There are so many times in life when we know what we should do, but we just don’t do it. Take diet and exercise, for example. I know I should eat better and work out daily, and I know what will happen to my body if I don’t. But I often don’t follow through on this knowledge. I, like many others, am on the wagon, off the wagon, then on again when it comes to my health. The will to commit isn’t always there. On a bigger scale, the discrepancy between knowledge and will may exist in aspects of a person’s character. Everyone knows the importance of being patient, kind, and loving. We’re taught to practice these traits from the time we’re children. But when you look around, you can see all the struggles that arise because people are impatient with each
expert in applying will to knowledge. Finding the will to put our knowledge into action is hard. Like everything in life, addressing our shortcomings starts with recognition. When we realize we’re doing wrong, we must stop blaming other people, stop blaming our circumstances, and look inward. Admit the problem begins with us and start that mental shift towards improvement. Then you have to get practical about improvement, which looks different between each person. The “best thing” might be to eat a strict diet and work out for an hour every night, but I have a wife and two kids. What I eat for dinner has to work for my whole family, and I can’t do yoga every Tuesday and Thursday night at 7 p.m. — we have homework and softball practice! So maybe I start getting up at 5:30 in the morning to work out, instead of waiting until after work. Maybe I go for a run and drink more water instead of going strict vegan. Other people might have a better solution, but in order to find the will to put knowledge into action, I need to find what works for me. The best thing anyone can do is to pay attention to themselves. Instead of trying to save the world and educate everyone, we could do more by focusing on ourselves. If each person decided to start finding the will to put knowledge into action, the world would improve for the better.
Finding the will to put our knowledge into action is hard.
other, they choose not to be kind, or they practice hate over love. We know better, but we very easily refuse to do better. When it comes to my practice, I see the gap between knowledge and will all the time. People know that going into debt is bad, yet we still go into debt willingly every day! Sometimes it’s unavoidable, like business debt or medical bills, but more often it’s because our economic system and markets encourage debt. I’ve written about this paradox before. Our moral system, our sense of personal responsibility, acknowledges that excess debt is bad and should be avoided, but our economic system pushes us to go into debt in order to buy what we want or “improve our credit score.” And quite often, many of us don’t have to will to resist that push.
–Matt Dunaway 1 Phone: 205.705.3590
I don’t claim to have all the answers in this area, and I certainly don’t claim to be an
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