Reflecting “As If”

How you act is who you will become.

We sometimes believe that our mindset dictates who we are and how we will behave. But interestingly, the opposite is often true: the way you act changes the way you think.

Here’s a practical example: smiling actually makes you happier. This is the opposite of what our intuition tells us. After all, we like to believe that the brain controls the body…but in reality, the brain is part of the body, not its manager. Yes, your brain can change your body…but your body can also change your brain.

So knowing this, let’s talk about techniques for changing our mindset.

Acting “as if” is a cognitive therapy technique pioneered by Alfred Adler, wherein the subject is encouraged to act “as if” they are the type of person they want to be. In simpler terms, think of the old saying, “fake it ‘til you make it.”

In more recent times, Richard Watts has proposed a revised model: reflecting “as if.” In this model, we first reflect and plan before we begin the acting phase. Watts made these revisions to encourage a deeper level of thought first, to avoid acting blindly.

Reflecting “as if” is a three-step process:

  1. Reflect on who you want to be.
    If you were the ideal version of yourself, what would that look like?

  2. List how the ideal version of you would act.
    Construct a list of behaviors, ideally in conjunction with a trained therapist.

  3. Act “as if” you are that person.
    Begin by carving off some easy behavioral wins, and build from there.

The lesson here is: don’t wait for “the right mindset” to do the things you want to do. Take the actions now that will build the mindset you want to have tomorrow.

Disclaimer: Although acting “as if” is a valid and useful cognitive therapy technique, it is worth noting that this terminology has been co-opted by “law of attraction” proponents. To be clear, although some people find it a useful tool for building confidence, the “law of attraction” is pseudoscience with no factual basis.


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