Psychologists tell us that our actions affect our feelings. Acting as if we are happy by smiling, for example, makes us feel instantly happier. Acting as if we are successful helps us succeed at work. And acting as if we are in love can bring back feelings of love.
“Motions are the precursors of emotions. You can’t control the latter directly but only through your choice or motions or actions… Go through the proper motions each day and you’ll soon begin to feel the corresponding emotions!” – Dr George W Crane
Evidence that “Acting As If” works
In Richard Wiseman’s book Rip It Up: The Simple Idea That Changes Everything, he argues that tiny changes of behaviour have a huge impact on thoughts and feelings. Wiseman recommends forgetting about positive thinking, and taking positive action instead.
1) People who cross their arms double the amount of time they persevere on a difficult task.
2) Getting people to squeeze their hand into a fist increased their willpower by 40%. Now we know all those fist pumping athletes aren’t just posing, it helps them win!
3) When asked to behave younger than they were, those in their 70s and 80s showed improved memories and faster reaction times.
4) After spending 3 minutes on a task they wanted to avoid, people felt that the task was more interesting and were more likely to complete it.
5) Car buyers who sat on hard chairs drove harder bargains and offered 30% less than customers sitting on soft chairs. Remember not to sit in those comfy sofas anymore when negotiating!
Acting As If we are confident
In The Magic of Thinking Big, David Schwartz suggests a few ways for acting as if we are confident, so that we feel and look confident. This increases our chances of success because when we look confident, others have more confidence in us and want to do business with us.
1) Be a front seater
Most people choose the back seats at meetings to avoid looking conspicuous or to facilitate a hasty escape. Success is by nature conspicuous, so practise looking successful by choosing to be more conspicuous. Take the front seat whenever you can.
2) Make eye contact
Failure to make eye contact denotes inferiority or guilt. Looking people in the eye tells them we are open and honest, with nothing to hide. We don’t have to stare, but occasionally look straight into the other person’s eyes while talking with them.
3) Walk 25% faster
Psychologists say we can change our attitudes by simply changing our posture and speed of movement. Some people have a dejected way of walking, most people have an average walking style, and a few show confidence in the way they walk, just by standing taller and walking faster.
4) Speak up
Most people fear speaking in public. We can start by speaking up in small meetings. Try to say something at every meeting. Make a comment, give a suggestion, ask a question. Try being the first to speak up rather than the last.
5) Smile big
Smile even when you don’t feel like smiling. A small or half-hearted smile doesn’t work as well as smiling the biggest smile you can. Schwartz defines smiling big as smiling till your teeth show.
Acting as if you are successful
In The Success Principles, Jack Canfield (co-creator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series) describes an “Acting As If” party he attended where everyone was to come as they wanted to be 5 years later.
Canfield went as a best-selling author with reviews of his bestseller to show everyone. One man went dressed as a beach bum which was his vision of retirement. Another went as a successful stock broker and hired someone to call him every 15 minutes with trading orders. A woman brought a mock copy of Time magazine with herself on the cover for winning an award for peace.
As we know, Canfield did go on to become a best-selling author. He says everyone else at the party went on to realise their dreams.
1) Dress the part
People frequently tell themselves that when they make more money, they will buy better clothes. Instead, buy better clothes first. Looking the part helps our own brains to believe we are successful and act accordingly. This need not mean spending more. Trying buying three times as good, one-third as much.
2) Work as if
Many people dream of writing a book someday but don’t get down to it. Successful authors write everyday. Stephen King wrote 10 pages a day, while James Joyce famously once wrote only 7 words. Do something everyday as if you were already a successful author. You’ll eventually write an entire book this way.
3) Network in the right group
Making friends with others in the field we have chosen to succeed in creates a conducive thought environment. It also helps us learn about the tools and skills we need to succeed. Join a writers club, sports group, or business network.
Acting as if you’re in love
“Be sure you and your mate go through those motions of dates and kisses, the phrasing of sincere daily compliments, plus the many other little courtesies, and you need not worry about the emotion of love. You can’t act devoted for very long without feeling devoted.” – Dr George W Crane
1) Dates and kisses
Date nights are becoming a common practice among married couples. It brings back the feelings of when they were first in love, and provides an escape for the mundane everyday cares of raising a family.
2) Sincere daily compliments
It’s ironic that we tend to be most critical of the people closest to us. Research suggests that it takes at least 3 positive statements to neutralise the damage of one negative criticism. We all need and yearn for encouragement, and learning how to encourage does wonders for a relationship.
3) Little courtesies
The little things help us not to take others for granted or feel taken for granted. Saying “please” and “thank you” are among the easiest little courtesies to practise. Other courtesies include being punctual, helping to carry things, and smiling when we see the person.
Start acting as if…
It’s nice to know that it is not so difficult to be the person we want to be. Just start acting as if we are that person!
I think I’ll start acting as if I’m 5 kg lighter and see what happens 😉 What about you?