Monday, December 01, 2008

Exercise of the Week: Acting As If

Telling someone to fake a feeling sounds slightly disreputable. But as many a famous author, movie mogul or businesswoman will tell you, sometimes to get ahead you've got to pretend you've got more on the ball than you actually do.

When Defying Gravity was no more than a pipe dream, I walked and talked as if I were already a "real" writer. Before I ever put pen to paper, I called up prospective interviewees and said, "I'm writing a book about late bloomers and was wondering if I could take a few hours of your time to hear your story." I never told anyone I was published. That would have been an outright lie. I simply acted as if I were a serious author. Doing so helped me gain the confidence and skills to actually become one.

The "act as if" principle can be applied to all sorts of aspects of your life. In Philip Galanes' Social Q's column that appeared in yesterday's NY Times, a woman wrote in to say that her boyfriend dumped her and that her heart was broken. She wanted to know how she should act when she sees him again. Galanes, in essence, told her to act as if she's already moved on. Here's an excerpt from his reply:

Every morning, set your iPod to the song “So What!” by the pop singer-slash-philosopher known as Pink: “So, so what/I’m still a rock star/I’ve got my rock moves/And I don’t need you.”

The volume should be deafening; you should listen to it at least three times in a row; and ideally, you will sing along — at full throttle — in front of the full-length mirror in your bedroom.

Not only will you feel better, but you will also learn how to behave in front of your boyfriend: You will act "as if" you’re just fine without him, thank you very much. And you will fake this feeling — as if your life depended on it — until the real thing comes along. (P.S.: If you don’t like Pink, feel free to substitute any proud breakup anthem by Alanis Morissette or Marianne Faithfull. And until further notice, please banish all traces of Joni Mitchell from your household!)

Great advice, eh?

Keeping both these stories in mind, this week's exercise (the last until further notice) is to act as if you're already where you want to be.


  1. I agree with this post, it's similar to mine today that talks about "owning" your choices. When you do, that choice does become a part of your identity.

  2. Anonymous7:21 AM

    I'm a strong believer in act as if. In fact, you gave me an ah-ha moment! Today I am a boarding a plane to Turks & Caicos as a travel writer (something I've visualized and "acted as if" for years) and here I am.

    "See" you up on my return. :)

  3. I don't know where this "Acting as If" originated but I first heard about it in a 12 Step meeting and it has worked for people for eons. When I find myself uttering a groan as I get out of bed, I try to remember to catch myself and "get grateful." Anothe famous saying. They go hand in hand.
    Carolyn Howard-Johnson
    Author of the multi award-winning novel, This Is the Place