I spent two days this week being Tawsin Jones. Not, I hasten to add, involving any form of dressing up (or make up), just being someone else for a couple of days as part of an assessment centre role play.
Being someone else is a funny feeling. It allows you to say and do things that you would not normally do and act out of character. This is pretty useful if you want to change your current character, and good fun. It also gave me a glimpse into what it must be like to be a really good actor.
The idea of acting “as if” is at the heart of a lot of personal change work because it is how we learn to be who we are in the first place. A lot of childhood is spent acting “as if” you were someone else until you find a role that seems to fit best and then you stick with it, calling it reality.
So, if you want to change your habits, behaviour, routines or achievements then one of the quickest ways of doing it is to go back to your childhood ability to act “as if” you were someone else. In fact one of the questions we often ask clients who are chasing a big goal is “aan you act as if you've already got it?" If they can, then we know that there’s a fairly high chance of them getting the goal.
Why does this work? Well, if you want more confidence, the quickest way is to act as if you are confident and the feeling will soon come along. Want more courage? Act courageous. Want to be slimmer & fitter? Act like a slim, fit person would. Want more motivation? Act motivated. And so on.
You learned to be the way you are now by repeating it over and over again. This strategy works well for learning to be someone else as well. Although I can’t find the reference, I recently read the story of a divorcing couple who agreed to act with great politeness and care to each other for three months before the final split. Pretty soon, they fell in love again. Maybe you've got into the habit of acting “as if” your partner was a frog? What would happen if you made a habit of acting “as if” they were a prince? What would change? How would you be different?
To make this really kick you have to study in detail the people who have what you want.
One of the biggest contributions of NLP was the idea that we need to study success instead of failure. You don’t find out how to cure a problem by hanging out with people who have the problem, you’re more likely to find out something useful by studying the behaviour of people who remain problem free.
Why go to a diet club full of fat people when you could hang out with slim people and find out what they do?
So, who do you want to be more of?
Find some people who are already like you want to be. Study their behaviour, habits and actions. Find out all you can. Sometimes a prop helps (that’s why so many financial advisors use Mont Blanc pens!) And then act “as if” you were already like them. Pretty soon, reality will catch up with you. Or as Tony Robbins puts it - fake it until you make it.
PS - Now at this point some people say to me “but that’s not real”. The thing about reality is that it is often just a bad habit - it only seems real because you do it all the time. If you did something else all the time then that would become real…
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