When you feel out of sorts, worried/sad/anxious/frustrated/annoyed/lacking in confidence etc., instead of focusing on how you don’t want to feel, The Resilient Way is to act ‘As If’ you already feel the way you’d prefer.

The  Essential First Step

The first step is the tricky bit because often the answer to the question ‘how do you want to feel?’, is ‘I don’t know, just not like this!’ Now, imagine buying a train ticket and saying ‘a ticket to anywhere except Liverpool’. Stupid right? Having a specific destination, a goal, is the number one factor in making it happen. So, first you need to identify how you do want to feel.

The Resilient Way – More Questions

Next consider the questions When did I last feel like that?’ If I felt like this now what would I be doing? What would my posture be like? How would I look? How would I sound? What facial expression would I have?’

Acting ‘As If’

Once you have a clear understanding of the state you’d like to be in, then it’s simple a matter of acting ‘As If’ it is the state you are in already. It’s not acting in the artistic sense, it’s just adjusting the things you do, think and say in order to be in tune with a different emotional state.

The Resilient Way – Let’s Pretend

Think about when you were a child and you used to pretend to be a grown up, perhaps a teacher, a nurse or a superhero. You didn’t just try on the costume (if you had one) did you? You most likely acted in the way you thought your character would, by adopting the mannerisms, voice, and posture you imagined they would have.  Consequently, you felt like them, you felt you were them.  Acting ‘As If’ is an adult version of something you’ve probably practised many times.

Fake It Until You Make It

Once you try this you’ll find it is incredibly effective. Have you ever gone to a social event when you’ve not been in the mood? When you reluctantly put on a false smile and pretended to be having a great time? If you later realised that in fact you were having a great time – that’s the ‘As if’ effect.

Your Morning Radio Presenter

You might tune in each morning to a particular radio station. Ever noticed how cheery and positive the presenters sound? At least some of the time they are faking this because no-one can always be constantly upbeat and energetic.  Some days they will have had a bad night’s sleep, an argument at home, or be feeling upset or anxious. However, sounding ‘as if’ they are feeling wonderful no doubt has a positive effect on how they actually feel. By the end of the programme they feel much better even though the problem that got them down may still exist.

Why It Works

When we use the ‘As If’ principle it affects what we do, what we think, how we look and how energetic we are. It is true that our thoughts affect our behaviour but the reverse is also true. When we act in a particular way the physiology of our actions (our posture, breathing pattern, gestures, words and vocal tone)  generate corresponding thoughts and in turn this changes our internal state.

Want to Dig Deeper?

Research Paper – From Thought to Action: Effects of Process-Versus Outcome-Based Mental Simulations on Performance

Research Paper – The Motivating Function of Thinking About the Future: Expectations versus Fantasies

Try The Resilient Way, Act ‘As If’

The next time you find yourself wishing you felt more confident, happier or relaxed, try acting ‘As If’ you are already in these states and notice what happens next!  You can even act ‘as if’ you are lucky!

My Personal Experience

I’ve used the act ‘As If’ technique for years and I find it highly effective. Sometimes I add this twist, I  pretend that I am an actress playing a role. I imagine that I have been assigned to act out  a part  ‘as if’ I am for example, a confident party host, a proficient rock climber, someone who enjoys mingling at cocktail parties etc. As soon as I start to feel any doubts creep in, I remind myself that I’m only acting ‘as if’.  I used to act ‘As if’ I enjoyed public speaking and the funny thing is that eventually it became true. Try it and see for yourself and remember to act ‘as if’ it will work!