Act As If


One of the few maxims that has profoundly changed my life is to “act as if.” What this means is to act as if you are already capable of, or the type of person who, does certain things. For example, a professional writer gets up and writes at the same time every day. I get up and write at the same time every day.

Before exploring this in more detail and explaining why it works I’d like to give another example. When I wanted to get of my crippling fear of failure in my mid twenties I felt helpless. Everything I began would get discarded before I had to risk public exposure. I remember one particularly terrifying experience — entering into a business plan competition. My group had what we believed was a great project. This meant we would have to get up in front of a large audience (twice if we did well) and give a presentation. Then answer questions.

Public speaking was not my thing. Upon entering graduate school I’d given two or three speeches and felt terrified each time. During the first semester I had a class where everyone would practice giving speeches or interviews. To make things more challenging the teacher filmed us. Then we watched the film while the whole critiqued it! The class was uncomfortable for everyone. I was no exception.

To prepare for the business plan competition I decided to throw myself into any activity that would allow me to practice. I volunteered to be the presenter for any group projects in my other classes. I signed up for the venture capital competition to practice speaking in front of strangers every week. I practiced in front of the mirror. I practiced in front of roommates.

Why did I do this?

I decided I needed to act as if public speaking was my favorite thing to do. It was that simple. Public speaking had to become my ice cream!

How did I accomplish this shift? I said out loud, “Public speaking is my favorite activity in the world!” Afterwards, I signed up for anything, I mean anything that someone who loved public speaking would sign up for. I pretended that public speaking was my jam. I noticed that I began to enjoy it a lot more. It happened fast!

This was a huge lesson for me. My team ended up having to present twice and taking 3rd place in the competition. And yes, it was still terrifying. I was nervous and uncomfortable. I didn’t choke though. I didn’t fall apart.

How can you begin adopting an act as if mindset for yourself? Let’s go over why this works. It isn’t complicated when you dig in. Essentially, your brain is wired to mirror behavior. Watch any child around their parents and you’ll get a quick sense of this. When you start to act as if you’re a certain type of person you immediately begin rewiring your brain to be that type of person. It happens fast because we are built to adapt to new situations. It’s amazing.

Here’s how you begin:

1. Tell yourself that you are the type of person you want to be — say it out loud!

2. Write down what that person does.

3. Do it.

It’s that simple! Give it a try for yourself and let me know how it goes. I’ve used this process to change my behaviors dramatically over the last 8 years. I’ve faced some deep-seeded fears, and helped friends to do the same with this technique. It can work for anyone who commits.