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Be the change you want to see

If you want to change something in your life, simply start behaving and acting as if you have already made the change and it is more likely to happen.

This is the central lesson of a recent newspaper article about the ‘As if’ approach to change. The article was based on many research projects that appear to debunk the myth of positive thinking.

The quickest and easiest example is:

SMILING: to make you feel happier. Try it now (a proper smile, with your whole face not just your mouth).

This extends to every aspect of our lives, including those we find hardest to make changes in, for instance habits such as eating and exercise:

WILLPOWER: Tensing your muscles boosts your willpower. Next time you feel the need to avoid that cigarette or cream cake, make a fist, contract your biceps, press your thumb and first finger together, or grip a pen in your hand.

DIETING: Use your non-dominant hand. When you eat with your non-dominant hand you are acting as if you are carrying out an unusual behaviour. Because of that you place more attention on your action, do not simply consume food without thinking about it, and so eat less.

How can this principle be applied to business change?

Once everyone accepts the need for change in an organisation, and after the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) questions have been answered, you should try to get everyone to start acting differently immediately, rather than endlessly coaching them in change management. That way you should start to see the collective benefits sooner, and so get faster buy-in. For example:

  • replace all old forms and templates on your IT systems immediately
  • move people to desks closer to their new line manager
  • operate zero tolerance policies on sticking to old procedures
  • perhaps most importantly, set the right example by being seen to embrace change yourself. By acting, and being seen to be acting, in the new way, others will be more willing to follow suit.

Here are some other ‘As if’  ideas that may help you in your business, and life.

PROCRASTINATION: Make a start. Act as if you are interested in what it is that you have to do. Spend just a few minutes carrying out the first part of whatever it is you are avoiding, and suddenly you will feel a strong need to complete the task.

PERSISTENCE: Sit up straight and cross your arms – this will increase the time you spend tackling difficult problems. Make sure your computer monitor is slightly above your eye-line and, when the going gets tough, cross your arms!

CONFIDENCE: Power pose. To increase your self-esteem and confidence, adopt a power pose. If you are sitting down, lean back, look up and interlock your hands behind your head. If you are standing up, then place your feet flat on the floor, push your shoulders back and your chest forward.

NEGOTIATION: Use soft chairs. Hard furniture is associated with hard behaviour. In one study people negotiated over the price of a used car on hard then soft seats. Those in the hard chairs offered less and were more inflexible.

PERSUASION: Nod. If people nod while they listen to a discussion they are more likely to agree with the points being made. People often ‘mirror’ the person they are with, so if you nod while speaking, they may nod too and so agree with you.

The last example in the article (here) is love, but I think the principle applies to any interpersonal relationship that you want to improve.

OPEN UP:  intimate conversation makes people feel attracted to each other. If you are out on a date (or on a business lunch), get the other person to open up by asking what advice they would give to their 10-year-old self, or what one object they would save in a house fire.

What changes would you like to make in your life or business? Can you just start acting as if they were already in place?

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