Audio: Act As If [Time – 12:45, File Size – 12 MB]
If you are a regular PBS viewer or a reader of self-help books, you’ve no doubt come across Wayne Dyer’s famous words of encouragement from his book, The Power of Intention: “Act as if everything you desire is already here… treat yourself as if you already are what you’d like to become.”
If you’re like me, you find these words inspiring, encouraging, and motivating! When I hear them, I say to myself, “Yeah! I can do that! I can imagine myself doing a great job at that next presentation, or training session, or marketing call, or whatever.” And for a while, I feel buoyed up by these thoughts, hopeful, and somewhat empowered. And I set about creatively visualizing my performance in that powerful new state of being. Eventually, however, the voice of my skeptic pipes up and says, “Well now… exactly what does this mean ‘Act as if your desires are already here…’ Just what is that supposed to accomplish?”
Now it used to be that I had no answer to this challenging voice. But, knowing that Wayne Dyer has led me in some great new directions and wanting to give him every benefit of the doubt, I’d try to ignore my skeptical voice and simply go ahead and “act as if…” whatever I am trying to manifest is already here. I mentally rehearse the victory, see myself overcoming the obstacle, or whatever. And it has always seemed helpful.
Recently, however, I’ve learned that there really is a deeper explanation for how this “act as if…” practice works. In his book, Get Out of Your Own Way, Robert K. Cooper writes: “Brain scans show that simply imagining a complex and compelling goal will actually fire the same neurons that will be required to actually achieve the goal.” And, what’s more, Cooper says: “In order to sense a new idea or shape a better future, we must first create it in the brain as a possibility…”
Now this is consistent with Maxwell Maltz’s assertions in his groundbreaking book of several decades ago titled Psycho-Cybernetics: A New Technique for Using Your Subconscious Power. Consider these quotes from that book:
- “Your nervous system cannot tell the difference between an imagined experience and a ‘real’ experience.”
- “Imagine how you would feel if you were already the sort of personality you want to be. If you have been shy and timid, see yourself moving among people with ease and poise–and feeling good because of it. If you have been fearful and anxious in certain situations–see yourself acting calmly and deliberately, acting with confidence and courage–and feeling expansive and confident because you are… This exercise builds new “memories” or stored data into your mid-brain and central nervous system. It builds a new image of self. After practicing it for a time, you will be surprised to find yourself ‘acting differently,’ more or less automatically and spontaneously–‘without trying.’”
So both Robert Cooper & Maxwell Maltz are describing a process that is both mentally and physically transforming. And they provide substantial support for Wayne Dyer’s simple, yet inspiring, advice to “Act as if everything you desire is already here… treat yourself as if you already are what you’d like to become.”
Here’s an example from my early professional life of how I intuitively applied this “act as if” strategy to get through a particularly daunting situation, though I hadn’t yet heard of any of these authors or their ideas. Just after completing my masters degree, I accepted a position as the head of a learning resources center for a small private university. They had been awarded a grant to create a multi-media production center to support faculty members in developing self-study packages for students.
When I arrived on campus, the learning resources center was not yet built. One morning shortly after starting my new job, I found myself face to face with the no-nonsense, ex-military facilities manager for the university. He informed me that his construction people were ready to get started and that tomorrow we would all be meeting to design the TV and audio studios. Construction would then begin almost immediately. He gave me a list of questions he wanted to have answered related to such things as the diameter of pipe to be used in the studio lighting grid, placement and voltage of electrical outlets for studio equipment, acoustical requirements for the TV and audio studios, and so on. I swallowed hard, forced a smile, and told him I was looking forward to going over all this at our meeting.
Now, at this point in my career I had the following professional experiences: one year of teaching high school English; two years as a college teaching assistant working my way through grad school; and numerous courses, projects, and a brief internship in TV and other media production techniques. I also had substantial hands-on experience in instructional design and development. However, I had absolutely no construction experience, nor had I ever thought about the physical design or electrical or acoustical requirements of the media studios in which I had done my various projects. As you might imagine, I had no idea what I was going to tell these construction guys! So, that afternoon, I made a bunch of phone calls to my grad school advisers and faculty media specialists. They provided me with answers to most of my nitty-gritty technical questions and told me where I could get answers to other questions that might come up. And they assured me that my grad school training would serve me well in my new endeavor. One of these advisers said to me, “I really envy you! You get to design this place exactly as you want it. What a great opportunity! You should relax and have fun with it. And don’t be afraid to act like the expert and tell them what you need. After all, who else at that university knows as much about media production as you do?” Now that question gave me pause! Yeah, I thought… Who indeed?
Later that night, after a long discussion with my wife and a lot of reflection on what I was facing the next day, a shift in my consciousness happened: I realized that these construction guys (all experts in their fields) were looking to me for the broad strokes of leadership related to the project, not the nitty-gritty details. And I realized that I had to “act as if” I knew what I was doing and inspire confidence in them in our project’s overall vision. So I pulled together my notes from all my phone calls, organized my thoughts, and prepared for the meeting. Before I fell asleep that night, I imagined the meeting and how I would take charge. On the way to work the next morning, I anticipated how the meeting would go, mentally rehearsing what I would be doing. Finally, at that meeting the next day, I stifled my doubts and “acted as if” I was exactly suited to my job title: Learning Resource Center Director.
Within a few months, we had our beautiful new studio complex and were busily producing multi-media productions for faculty members. And, while I would experience many more intimidating moments, especially when helping produce media for faculty members who were renowned experts in their fields, I would remind myself that I needed to play my role of facilitator, consultant, and sometimes even coach. They were the experts. What they needed from me was my technical support and encouragement. In other words, they needed me (fresh kid out of grad school that I was) to “act as if” I was a seasoned media producer and instructional design consultant. And together, playing our assigned roles, we generated all sorts of great self-study packages for the students.
So are you wishing you were a more creative manager? … a more dynamic leader? … a more empathetic supporter of your team? … a savvy financial wizard? Is someone on your team wishing they were more skilled in giving presentations? …in analyzing problems and solving them? … in dealing with that irritating client or subject matter expert? How might you or your project team members apply Wayne Dyer’s advice to “Act as if…?”
Reflect on these questions:
- What new skill or ability or insight do you wish for?
- How would you act if you had that skill or ability or insight?
- Do you dare “act as if” you possess this trait and try to manifest it?
- What skills or abilities or insights might your project team need to acquire?
- Who among you team might manifest these needed skills, abilities, or insights if you were to encourage them?
- Is there someone on your team who is already “acting as if…” they were able to do something that is currently outside their scope of authority or job specifications? Should you be supporting them?
Ask your team:
- What skills or abilities or insights do you wish you had?
- How would you act if you had that skill or ability or insight?
- What kinds of support from your managers or supervisors would help you manifest these?
- Then how about this: Just give it a try! “Act as if” you possess the trait you are wishing for and see if you can’t manifest it.
Project Manager Challenges
- Listen with your heart to your team members. Hear their cautious or tentative wishes for growth or for new skills and abilities.
- Try to get your project team members the information or training or on-the-job experiences that can give them a chance to try these new skills or abilities in a “safe” environment.
- Quietly suggest ways they can practice and stretch their capacities.
- Take action to remove obstacles that frustrate your team members’ growth.
- Make it a point to praise them and cheer them on when they “act as if” and grow into their new skills or abilities.
- Finally, be vigilant: Is there someone on your team who is already “acting as if…” they were able to do something that is currently outside their scope of authority or job specifications? Should you be supporting them in their efforts? If so, how?
- Go to PhilosophersNotes and download the full notes and MP3 versions of the following 3 books:
- The Power of Intention by Dr. Wayne Dyer
- Psycho-Cybernetics: A New Technique for Using Your Subconscious Power by Maxwell Maltz
- Get Out of Your Own Way: The 5 Keys to Surpassing Everyone’s Expectations by Robert K. Cooper
- Get Wayne Dyer’s 4 1/2 hr. abridged narration of The Power of Intention from LearnOutLoud.com
- Or visit Amazon.com and find all three of these great books, as well as related audio materials.