5 Signs You May Be Stuck in a Knowledge Trap

pile of covered books

“If knowledge is not put into practice, it does not benefit one.”
Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri

While I was writing an article on how knowledge itself was not power, I came to the realization that many of us become stuck in a cycle of learning and not applying the knowledge we obtain. This was the seedling that was the inspiration for this post.

Have you ever found yourself trying to learn something new and never actively attempting what you learned? If so, you may be stuck in something I like to call the knowledge trap.

It’s easy to get sucked into the overwhelming amount of information we have today, feeling like we don’t have enough knowledge to go after our dreams and goals. Don’t worry, anyone can get out of the knowledge trap and start applying the things they learn if they truly want to.

First things first, what the heck is a knowledge trap?!

A knowledge trap is a never-ending void of learning something you want to implement into your life, however, you never apply what you learn. Instead, you end up in a cycle of buy, learn, and repeat. It can cause things like procrastination, stress, overthinking, fear, and doubt.

This is a cycle of trying to achieve a goal, dream, or desire, learning all you can to achieve what you have set in your heart, but never applying the lessons you learn. If you keep finding yourself back at square one after learning you may be stuck in this trap. Down below are five signs you may be experiencing this situation.

1. Attempting to learn a new skill for an extended period of time but never actively putting what you learned into motion, with the excuse I’m not ready.

This can lead to self-doubt and eventually backing out of what you set in motion for yourself. While it is good to listen to your emotions and make sure you are ready to go after your dreams, being sucked into the knowledge trap makes it hard to see that true learning comes from doing.

Fear and doubt can make it hard to believe in yourself. Spending hour after hour learning and researching without acting can make these emotions intensify.

The truth is no one is ever 100 percent ready for anything, no matter how much they studied or read. Everyone experiences things differently, you and the author, instructor, and other people in general, will never have the same exact experiences.

Unexpected situations happen, things don’t go as planned, and the way people perceive things are always different. You can never be 100 percent certain until you actively do what you have learned.

The trick is to tell yourself you are willing to learn from all situations, including those that do not go as planned. Honestly, mistakes and unfortunate situations can be the biggest teachers in our lives.

It’s okay to not have all the answers, taking a leap of faith and applying what you do know will open the doors to all the answers you need in time.

I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. — Michael Jordan

2. Buying book after book, course after course, spending hours learning about a topic, and burning out your interest in what you were trying to achieve.

Investing in yourself and your dreams is always a good thing until it’s not. What I mean by this is you can become addicted to buying books, courses, and classes, and spending all your time and money on a particular topic you wish to implement into your life.

This can be for a career, a hobby you enjoy, a side business you wish to start, a goal you want to achieve, and the list goes on and on. Where the knowledge trap comes into this is not getting back the investment you spent. Your perceived asset becomes a liability.

Overspending on a topic to add some type of value (emotional, money-wise, physically, etc) to your life can lead to financial and mental stress. When you don’t apply what you have learned you can easily see the money add up and moods decrease.

This can turn your passion into uncertainty and can burn away any desire you had in the beginning. Thinking the investment was too costly for your liking. Without the realization of missing one crucial step in seeing the return in those investments: doing what you learned.

“Know what you own, and know why you own it” -Peter Lynch

3. Trying to find new material on a topic, only to find yourself relearning what you already knew.

When you find yourself unable to find any more new information on a topic you plan to implement into your life, it may be time to put what you learned into action.

When you take a leap of faith after acquiring all the knowledge you can, you have a beautiful opportunity to add to the knowledge you just learned.

Who knows? Maybe you figure out something no one had ever thought of. Furthering the information for more people to benefit from, that is if you choose to share your revelations.

We all experience things differently. By sharing our own experiences for others to benefit from we, are in a way, adding to our topic of interest.

“Those people who develop the ability to continuously acquire new and better forms of knowledge that they can apply to their work and to their lives will be the movers and shakers in our society for the indefinite future.” — Brain Tracy

4. Using research and studying as a way to procrastinate and avoid mundane tasks

Another name I like to call the knowledge trap is procrastination with a little more head value. Once you notice your daily tasks begin to pile and you keep pushing them off with the excuse “I’m in the middle of researching”, you may need to take a step back for a moment.

We all have things we need to do daily to keep up with ourselves, social life, household needs, etc. When these everyday things keep getting pushed to the back burner they can pile up and lead to you feeling depressed, overwhelmed, and unwilling to tackle the everyday tasks in fear of missing out on “study time.”

Personally, I love learning and researching. I found out it is how I relax and enjoy myself. Just as a gamer enjoys video games and can get swept up in the game, so can researchers with their studies and fascinations.

However, indulging in anything to the extent of avoiding your other tasks and procrastinating to the last minute can lead to anxiety, depression, irritation, and many more unpleasant feelings. Finding a good balance can be beneficial.

“If you choose to not deal with an issue,
then you give up your right of control over the issue
and it will select the path of least resistance.”
― Susan Del Gatto

5. You find yourself with the motivation and desire to read, make lists, and plan to follow through, but never actually following through with the obtained knowledge.

This comes in the form of writing out to-do lists, promising yourself this time I’m going to follow through, and pumping yourself up only to find yourself saying “I’ll do it tomorrow”, but tomorrow never comes.

This habit can be mentally draining and can cause you to feel “stuck.” If you take a moment to reflect on your true efforts you will realize you were never really stuck. We all have choices and sometimes “unsticking” ourselves is uncomfortable or hard in the beginning so we settle where we are.

The way to get out of this is to go ahead and do what you planned, even when you don’t want to. This builds discipline. If you want to complete any goal you have set for yourself discipline is one of the best things you can teach yourself.

No one can make you disciplined, you have to do it. You have to put your foot down and take action. No one else is going to do it for you. People can help you out but ultimately it is your choice.

Either you keep doing what you’ve been doing and getting the same results or you take a new direction by learning new skills and putting them into action to help you along your journey through life. The decision is up to you.

The secret to getting ahead is getting started. — Mark Twain

The knowledge trap isn’t all bad

Being stuck in this cycle is not all doom and gloom, it does have its perks. For example, being well versed in the topics of your interest. This can help you become an expert in that particular area once you apply what you learned. The ability to advise others on a topic at a deeper level can also be highly beneficial in your life, as well as others.

I like to think of the knowledge trap as a type of cocoon. Once you break free you have new wings of knowledge to explore different areas of life with. If you never break out of the cocoon, how can you fully experience your knowledge?

Breaking free

Ah, the liberation of breaking free and implementing the lessons learned into your life. You get to experience firsthand what you spent all your time and money learning. You get to see results, new doors open, and more opportunities for learning to present themself. It’s a wonderful feeling after the uncertainty settles down.

It’s not easy to break free from the knowledge trap, but it is doable. Here are some of the ways I started getting out of the knowledge trap, hopefully, they can benefit someone else.

  1. Reading and writing about how I felt and what I learned after reading or taking a course. This helps me jot down personal notes, to see if I truly understood what was read, and the ability to see if what I learned can realistically be put into action. Additionally, this allows people to add value to the topic from their perceptions, which may be able to help someone else in the future.

  2. Removing old habits and replacing them with new habits will be beneficial in the future. When breaking habits I found out it was better to replace the old habit with a new one or another habit will form in its place. Sometimes it’s a habit that isn’t beneficial. As you can see, the best thing was to go ahead and replace the habit with something that was beneficial right from the start. I replaced my book hoarding with reading, writing, and giving back before getting a new book.

  3. I started balancing my “knowledge” spending habit. I thought if I was buying something beneficial then I could spend all my money without worrying. However, I was not applying what I learned so they became a financial burden. One time I did not pay my phone bill because I “needed” a pricy book to help me. If it gets to this point the best thing is to come up with a price each month you allow yourself to spend on books, courses, material, etc, and stick to it.

  4. I realized addiction comes in all forms and some can be disguised as being a good thing. If anything takes over your life to the point you are struggling, avoiding others, becoming mentally drained, etc.. that is addiction. You can be addicted to drugs, video games, gambling, sex, and yes, even things like books, material objects, self-help, fitness, etc. If it is overtaking any part of your life you may need to take a step back and re-evaluate. There is a balance to everything, it’s just finding it and implementing it in your daily life.

  5. Most importantly I promised myself to take at least one thing from the knowledge obtained and try whatever it was for two weeks to see if it worked for me. Not everything is meant for everyone. We are all different and will have different outcomes. Giving yourself a two-week trial area where you implement what you learned will allow you to try what you learned and see if you want to keep it in your life or move on to something else.

Parting Thoughts

Breaking out of a cycle is rarely easy. However, once you do, the wisdom gained is astounding. The ability to perceive things in a new light and a new awareness starts to form in the mind.

After all, awareness is the first key to breaking a cycle. Once you become aware of a problem you can start learning how to overcome it, just don’t forget to apply what you’ve learned or it won’t be much use other than being locked inside your mind, which can fade away with time.

“Awareness is like the sun. When it shines on things, they are transformed.” -Thích Nhất Hạnh

Thank you for taking the time out of your day to read this post ❤

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