Act As If
Still some of the best advice I’ve received in my life, this short motto encompasses the attitude one must take in order to fully reach the overarching goals in their life. How, you may ask? Well, first let me have you watch this short clip from the movie Boiler Room to give you a gist of what this phrase can mean for you.
Now, while this post may not be about how to succeed in a stock brokerage, the video clip above does hold some relevance. In fact, it really holds the key to what is called The Law of Attraction. According to Wikipedia, “The law of attraction is the name given to the belief that “like attracts like” and that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts, one can bring about positive or negative results. This belief is based upon the idea that people and their thoughts are both made from “pure energy”, and the belief that like energy attracts like energy.” How does all this fit together?
The point Ben Affleck is making, and what I am going to explain, is that you must fully believe that you are going to achieve your goals and develop yourself in the way you truly wish to. This is done through the processes of goal setting, visualization, practice, and finally, realization. The ultimate ‘secret’ behind all of this is to “Act As If.” To Act As If, you must let go of your fears of failure, or looking like a fake. You must shed self-doubt, and only focus on the thoughts and visions of yourself exactly where you want to be. When you can do this, while taking actionable and realistic steps in your life towards your goals, you will be on the path to creating true success in your life. Let’s get started.
This is the first step to realizing any dream that you want to see become reality. It’s the easiest part, yet the hardest to actually get around to doing. No one seems to want to take the time to search their soul, reflect on their thoughts, and discover what they truly wish for themselves. Many of us spend our time complaining about what we don’t have, what bills we have to pay, or what shitty job we currently have, instead of focusing our energy on what we really want out of life. The time of complaints is over; it is time to start taking steps towards realizing your future.
When setting goals, the most important advice I can give is what I’ve learned as S.M.A.R.T. goal setting. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. I’ve mentioned these before, but I’d like to explain in a little more detail how to go about using the SMART framework. Specific means that your goal is something tangible. It has an end point. You shouldn’t just say “I want to be the best dancer/writer/salesmen/etc.” Rather, saying you would like to practice your dance routine 5 times this week, write 15 pages of your book by next week, or make 10 sales this month, are goals that you would call specific. Measurable goes hand in hand with specific. When you specify exactly it is that you want to achieve, you will be able to break down the progress to your goal in increments, or units. These units can be grouped into milestones, which will give you short yet important victories that are going to be crucial to your development through this process. Next, your goal should be attainable. Attainable goals are ones that are within your reach considering your current standing. This is the crucial step in goal setting, because if you aren’t willing to make sure that the units of progress are actually in sight from your starting point, then you will have a very hard time staying optimistic about reaching your goal. Along with being attainable, your goal should be realistic. Saying you want to become the CEO of your company in 1 year’s time would not be considered realistic if you are in an entry level position. This doesn’t really ever happen. Rather, allowing yourself more time to reach that level, or even better, setting a career goal for yourself 1 year out that makes sense, such as a single promotion (or even two), is much more realistic, and of course timely. Timely merely means having a timeline for when you want to accomplish this goal. I recommend setting timelines for 1 week out, 1 month out, 3 months out, 6 months out, and 1 year out. When you have done this, it can be helpful to look beyond 1 year goals to 3, 5, and 10 year goals as well.
The SMART framework may seem limiting, but that isn’t the point. Your goal can be as lofty as you wish, but making sure that you set actionable steps to follow in reaching it will help give you confidence, and allow you to track your progress. This can be especially helpful if you ever wish to change or modify your goal.
One final note about goal setting: I think it is important that everyone have what is called a BHAG. BHAG stands for “Big Hairy Audacious Goal.” This is that goal that you just have to achieve no matter what. Using our previous examples, becoming a dancer for the Russian Ballet Troupe, having your book become a NY Times Bestseller, or setting the Highest Sales Record for your company would be BHAG’s. These don’t have to be so unrealistic that you can never achieve them, but rather should be something that you ultimately see yourself accomplishing within your lifetime. If you don’t have one of these for yourself, then what are you really doing with your life?
Once you have spent the time to sit down, reflect, and write down your SMART goals, and of course your BHAG, then it is time to begin visualization for your goals. The process of visualization is much like meditation, but with a specific intention. That intention will always be to picture yourself exactly as you would be when you have achieved the goal. Visualization works best when you start small; picturing your milestones being reached and how you feel after each one. Planning a small celebration for each milestone, and then visualizing what you would be wearing, how you will feel, who will be there with you, what location you will visit, and even what you eat and what the paintings on the walls look like. The more detailed your visualization, the higher the chance that you will attract exactly what you envision.
When you have dreamt up every single milestone celebration you have set for yourself, it is time to start visualizing the BHAG. This can be daunting for some, especially those that have a lot of self-doubt. If you lack confidence in yourself, or you have a voice inside your head saying, “you’ll never get there,” then you need to stop and reset. Go back to seeing yourself hitting all those other milestones, and the positive energy you create will be your fuel to picturing your life after accomplishing your Big Hairy Audacious Goal. Again, being as detailed as possible here is extremely important. You want to envision your ideal daily life for yourself: what your home looks like, what flooring, artwork, and bed sheets you have, who you may live with, what vehicle you drive, what you do when you wake up, what your daily activities may include, what kind of clothes you wear, what you do for fun, who your friends are, how you give back to society, what kind of food you eat, what city you live in… the list goes on. Whatever detail you can imagine that you would like to see, picture it in your mind until you can see it as clearly as this reality.
You will start to have dreams of this goal in your sleep. You will be given visions that come to you that you have manifested through the power of positive thought. You will feel the Universe conspiring to give you what you want, and you will be able to imagine exactly how you will feel about your life after you have reached your goal. This is the beginning of empowerment. The Universe (or rather, your own Higher Self) will begin to show you all that is possible in your life and tell your heart that you can truly achieve it if you maintain the momentum you have.
One warning for your visualizations: they should be based upon your own self, who you are, and what you really want. Trying to picture a world that has nothing from your current life in it is more similar to day dreaming, and there won’t be a clear path to reach it. You will be living in a fantasy world, and be continually let down by your current reality if you don’t attach your vision to your life right now. This is why we start with SMART goals, and then set our BHAG. Going after the BHAG without actionable steps towards achieving it can be disheartening or just downright depressing. Be thankful for what you do have now, and focus on turning it into a brighter future for yourself.
When you have trained your mind, and even your subconscious, to visualize your dreams being realized, then it is time to practice. This is where the “Act As If” motto really comes into play. Another way of saying it is to “Fake It Until You Make It.” I don’t like this phrase as much, because just saying it implies that you aren’t being authentic. Rather, Act As If is a much more empowering phrase, and can be applied to every piece of practice you put into motion for achieving your goal.
Everyone says “Practice Makes Perfect,” but really Practice Makes Permanent. If the practice for your goals is filled with negativity and doubt, then you will only be working yourself into a negative state and most likely further from your goal instead of closer to it. The ‘secret’ here is to create a practice for yourself that will perfectly resemble what your visions have been showing you. Start living the life you have been visualizing, by modeling your daily activities after the daily plan you dreamed up for yourself. Wake up at the time you would wake up in your life after you have reached your BHAG. Drink the same coffee you would drink in the morning (or act as if that Folger’s is just as good). Tell your car that she will become the Tesla you see in your dreams. While at your job, have the same positive attitude and self-confidence you would have in your ideal career role. On your days off, go do the closest fun activity to what you envision for yourself, or better yet; go see someone acting out your vision in action. If you are a dancer, go watch tryouts or a professional ballet. If you are a writer, explore nature or find a private space to inhabit for the day. If you are a salesman, watch Boiler Room and Glen Gary Glen Ross, or read How to Win Friends and Influence People.
Whatever the activity, Act As If you are already in that role and are just learning from other professionals and using their strategies. When you go to bed, spend time visualizing what your next day will be like in your ideal life, and also planning out what activities you can do immediately that are within your means. This will give you inspiration throughout your day, and will help to build the confidence necessary to fill the role you have created for yourself. The Universe never gives you what you ask for when you are just sitting around. It has to find you working, and working your ass off. Every moment of every day should be filled with reaffirming thoughts that what you are doing is leading toward your goal. Be sure to track your progress toward your SMART goals, and never forget to celebrate the milestones.
Another phrase that becomes important is “Make. Believe. Become.” This is one that my spiritual teacher Joseph McDonald has taught me. “If you build it, they will come.” What I mean by all this is that as you set out on your journey towards your life goals, the Universe will start helping you along the path. Once you make your dream (goal setting), you will start to believe it (visualization), and only then can you become it. You only become something by practicing it. Like I said before, the Universe must find you working, but when it does, and you are ready, it will thrust your goals within grasp without any warning. All of a sudden, everything you have been dreaming about will be at your finger tips. It may not come in the exact form that you have visualized, but that is the mystery of the Universe. Everything comes to us exactly how we need it and when we need it. You cannot expect any more than this. But, you have the power to fully realize the potential of your visions, and start living the life you have always wanted.
Many people call this “The Secret” or the Law of Attraction. Your thoughts, actions, and feelings about your goals will ultimately bring about what you have been seeking. When you seek positivity, you will find it. When you only dwell on darkness, that is what you will receive. That is why we start with the tiniest of goals; to build your confidence and show yourself that you can achieve what you set your mind to. Moving past SMART goals to your BHAG will bring empowerment into your life, and help you not only to realize your life’s purpose and your role here on Earth, but it will help bring that to fruition for yourself. You alone have the power to change your life, but you first must accept where you are currently, what the baby steps are to reaching the next level of accomplishment are, and finally, where you imagine your perfect life to be. Then it is about taking ACTION: taking time to visualize yourself in those roles, picturing every last detail, and willing the Universe to bring your dreams to reality. Coupling your visuals with daily practice will show the Universe that you are ready to start living the life you said that you want, and before you know it, it will be so.
I wish you the best that the Universe has to offer loved ones. Never forget to Act As If you are already living the life you want, and soon enough you will be there! Namaste.