3/31/22: How acting "as if" affects feelings and results

Sent 3/31/22


  • One comment about last week's email on SMART goals. I received an email that having a framework for goal setting makes it much easier than having nothing at all. That's true! SMART goals are not "bad" in all settings. But, they were designed for business teams so we should be a little wary of blindly applying them to our athletic pursuits. Just make sure your goals are challenging and meaningful, too!
  • I published an article over the weekend titled What are three rules you live your life by? It was inspired by a text from my niece and it was a fun challenge to decide which three I wanted to focus on.

This week's Think Better Newsletter is about one of my mom's rules: "act as if" (aka feelings follow actions). 

The Idea

Over the weekend I received a text from my niece asking me for three rules I live by. I came up with the following:

  1. Don't get offended by other people's choices or actions. Understand them.
  2. Leave things better than you found them.
  3. When in doubt, trust in yourself that you can figure it out.

My article linked above explains a bit why each rule resonates with me. It turns out my niece asked other people as well, and my mom shared her rules in an IG comment. Can you tell she works in customer service?

  1. Assume good intentions.
  2. Be kind. Kindness begets kindness.
  3. Act "as if." If you don't "feel" forgiving, or loving, or whatever, "act as if." Feelings follow actions.

My co-host Jon Rankin is a motivational speaker and one of his key messages is: You need to be that person before you become that person. He often uses the phrase "act as if" to summarize the idea. If you want to be X in the future, the only way is to start living as X now. Results follow actions. 

But what about now, in this moment? What if how you feel is holding you back?

Negative feelings--sadness, doubt, fear, stress--can cause us to change our behavior and decision-making. Often for the worse.

But they don't have to.

Many elite athletes use a strategy called "neutral thinking" wherein they consciously separate feelings from behaviors. They acknowledge the feeling but set it aside in order to choose the most positive action. And then they focus on executing it. The more they focus on positive actions, the less power their feelings have over them. 

Doing positive things generates positive feelings. Feelings also follow actions.

Maybe not immediately, and maybe not 100%, but the relationship goes both ways.

An example. When I was 19 I did a study abroad trip to Greece. I went with 40 students I'd never met. The first night everyone went to a club. I'd never been to a club, didn't drink alcohol, wasn't comfortable dancing, was awkward with girls, etc. I felt out of my element. My inclination was to skip it or "stand in the corner."

Instead I chose to act "as if." Nobody knew me, so I could be whomever I wanted to be. I chose to act as if I was confident and comfortable. I talked with everyone, I danced with everyone, and I just...did it. I was conscious not to go overboard, but I literally "acted" as if I was a more confident version of myself. Within about 30 minutes I felt like that person.

And for the remainder of the trip, I was a different person. Heck, I'm probably a different person today because of that experience. I certainly enjoy dancing more.

Strong feelings are a part of life. But they don't need to dictate our behavior. In fact, choosing a different behavior can have a strong and lasting effect on how we feel.

The System

The system is pretty straightforward: Pretend positively!

Actions lead to results. Actions also lead to feelings. Figure out what you need to do and even if you don't want to, do it.

Don't feel confident? Act confidently and watch your feelings change (and your results, too!).

Don't feel like working out? Get your clothes on and get out the door. Give yourself 5 minutes and your feelings will change (and your results, too!).

Don't feel like you can forgive someone? Act positively toward them anyway. Give your feelings a chance to change (and your results, too!).

Acting "as if" is a powerful system. And here's the crazy thing. You're already doing it right now. We all are.

So are you acting "as if" you are the person you intend to be?  

The Question

Do you have rules you live your life by? (Please tell me! I'm genuinely curious.)


Go Be More,

Bryan Green
Author of Make the Leap: Think Better, Train Better, Run Faster and the companion Think Better Workbook
Co-host of the Go Be More Podcast
Co-host of the Fueling the Pursuit Podcast

“If we have a goal and a plan, and are willing to take risks and mistakes and work as team, we can choose to do the hard thing.”
— Scott Kelly



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