Jan. 7, 2023

Know, Feel, Do: Reverse Engineer Your Behavior

For two years I dropped everything to go on a two year service mission. Every waking moment I was praying, studying scripture and trying to share the gospel with anyone that would listen. There’s an obscure line in our teaching manual that always stuck with me, and it applies to just about everything we do, or don’t do.

Know Feel Do

Learn what someone should know, feel, and do because of your teaching.

Preach My Gospel

Let’s start really basic. Most of the things you do every day are things you already know how to do, or know you should do.

Similarly, a lot of the things we do each day are things we want to do, or feel like doing.

Sometimes the activities we know and feel like doing are the same things, which usually leads to an enjoyable activity.


The more I learn (know) about data breaches, the more I feel like freezing my credit, along with Mrs. FrugalStu and even our kids! Having knowledge of the severe issues from identity theft is a strong motivation and creates an urgent need where I have plenty of motivation to do these things.

Knowing something can lead to feeling something, and vice versa.

For a second example, I like ping pong. I feel like playing it often. I also am competitive by nature, which creates a desire to learn new spins, serves, better technique in general. The way I feel motivates me to expand what I know, and helps me improve what I do. This is Feel -> Know -> Do.

Why Do We Do What We Do

Five days a week I wake up before the sun is up, get ready and commute to the office. I don’t usually feel like doing this, or doing this as much as I do, but I know I need to in order to provide for my family. This sometimes leads to dread and unfulfilling work.

Just knowing my family is depending on me to do this is a very powerful motivation for me, and for most people. This explains why millions of people around the world spend large amounts of time away from their families to do something they hate – to provide for them. They feel love for their family and know they are responsible for their well being.

Lining Things Up

If you can get these things lined up better, you can often find more happiness. What if the things to know you need to do, and feel like doing are the exact same thing? This creates a desire to do those things. There wouldn’t be any reason to procrastinate doing those things other than time and energy.

This might need a more nuanced flow: Know -> Feel -> Desire -> Do.

In the work example, we know we need to work because we feel for our family, we don’t desire to do the work but do it anyway.

Note: For the most part I enjoy my job and the people I work with, but would I prefer to work less? Absolutely.

Biblical Support

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.

Mark 12:30

God is asking us to love Him with our heart (feeling), mind (knowledge), and strength (action). This is how we were expected to serve in the mission field. I observed several missionaries who did the work, but wished they were at home. This leads to dread and burnout.

Others lacked the motivation to do much work at all, but had felt like they should do more, which leads to intense guilt and depression, and even less work.

Having the right amount of knowledge matched with positive and healthy feelings allows you to be the most effective.

Reverse Engineer Yourself

Sometimes there are things we know or feel we should do, but don’t. Often it because we are missing one or the other.

Know -> Feel -> Do

A lot of people feel like they are falling behind financially but don’t know enough about investing to get started.

Many parents feel inadequate but don’t take the time to read parenting books (or read books to their kids).

I would guess that many people feel like they need to eat better, sleep more and get healthier but don’t know the best way to go about it and change their habits.

Know Feel Do
Need to know something? Read a book, watch a Youtube video, or Google it.

There are countless things we feel strongly about but simply don’t take action to address this underlying feeling.

I imagine this causes stress and to do lists with tasks that have been there for weeks or months.

On the flip side, when we lack knowledge, we often run into analysis paralysis. We try to learn a lot and figure out what we need to do, but end up taking no action

Know -> Feel -> Do

This is where things get the most tricky. There are tons of things we know we need to do, but we procrastinate them. This is largely due to our feelings.

Here’s a short list:

  • I know I need to take the garbage out but I don’t feel like moving
  • The dishes need done but this couch is nice
  • Laundry needs folded but it’ll get done
  • My kids want me to play with them but I am comfortable where I’m sitting
know feel do
Caring deeply about someone or something is a powerful motivator when couple with knowledge

Maybe you’ve experienced these situations before, or similar. This is usually where Mrs. FrugalStu cracks the whip and I spur into action. This is because she makes me feel guilty and instills a sense of urgency in me.

Only Do What You Want

This is the ideal. Do the things you know and feel you should do, not the things you know OR feel you should do.

This means you might need to expand your knowledge deeply in many aspects so you can better do the things you feel you need to.

It also means you might need to change your mindset and attitude to FEEL better about the things you KNOW you need to do.

know feel do
Be happy with everything you do when you know and feel the right stuff.

Changing diapers isn’t fun, but I care deeply about my little boy, and KNOW it makes him uncomfortable and can make a mess. The combination of love for my son and knowing he needs changed prompts me to action quickly.

The best work I do in the office is the work I know how to do and enjoy, or feel like doing.

When you have both you are so much more effective.