12/27/2013 02:52 pm ET Updated Feb 26, 2014

A Problem Many of Us Face: Knowing vs. Living It

Written by Jan Cloninger

I think it's a universal issue most all of us deal with at one point or another in our lives -- especially when we're parents! As the holiday season draws to a close and we begin a new year, it's a good time to think about those things we know to be true and important but don't necessarily integrate into our daily lives.

There was a time in my life when a crisis precipitated a serious self-assessment of who I was, what was most important to me, and how to reorder my life. I dove into an extended period of reflection, reading every book I thought might help, taking classes, talking with people who I thought might have the answers I was looking for. I just knew that if I found the answer, my life would neatly fall into place.

As I encountered new information, tools, and inspiration, I instantly felt compelled to teach what I had found to anyone willing to listen. Input-output. After all, if I found value in what I was discovering then wasn't it my obligation to share it with everyone around me?

After continuing this process for a while, I began to notice: I knew a lot. I was able to tell people how they could change their lives. But I wasn't feeling better about my life. I knew how I was supposed to live, but I wasn't living it.

That began the looooong process of attempting to integrate what I had come to know about how I wanted to live my life into actually living that way on a regular basis. There were changes I needed to make. Tough decisions I had to face. Tension living in between who I was and who I knew I could, and wanted to be.

Did I mention it was a long process? It's lasted years. And it continues to this day as I try to live as my most authentic self.

So what does this story have to do with parenting?

I think that if we're 100 percent honest with ourselves there are times when we try to teach our children how we want them to act or to be, but we aren't necessarily living that way ourselves.

It's so much easier to follow the old adage, "Do what I say not as I do," but we know that children learn so much more by watching us than they ever do by listening.

I wanted my child to be a reader. But did that mean I had to turn off the TV and read along side of him until he found value in spending time with a book?

I wanted my child to do his best in school. But did that mean I needed to create a routine and atmosphere at home that engaged him and continued the learning process outside of school?

I wanted my child to develop empathy and be kind to others. But did that I mean I had to demonstrate kindness and empathy to the people I encountered?

If the system of turning knowledge into daily habits were easier, I know more people would do it!

But unfortunately, it can take effort. It can be frustrating. It can be challenging. And, it usually takes time.

Take a few minutes to write down all the hopes and dreams you have for how your child will be and act. Then revisit the list and decide how well you are modeling those values and behaviors on a regular basis.

Where there's a match -- celebrate your efforts! Where you come up short, consider ways you can set a better example.

It's not always easy, but it is definitely worth the effort.

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