You cannot depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus.” Mark Twain
Welcome to this Year of Conversation Imagination! This actor’s tool you’re about to learn activates your brain’s amazing powers to positively anticipate and come up with a fresh way of seeing a situation. Actors use it to develop intriguing, layered characters. Professional athletes use it to change behaviors, performance levels and attitudes.
And speaking of performance, as a leader in your company, you are called to perform to different audiences….all the time. Your upcoming performances may include:
- interviewing a job candidate (or being interviewed)
- making a presentation, or keynote speech
- pitching an idea to investors, top executives or bankers
- expressing your point of view in a meeting
- coaching your reports
- explaining why you deserve more PTO and a raise
- telling someone that you forgot to pick up the dry cleaning….again
As William Shakespeare put it, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts.” (From As You Like It.)
Performance anxiety is completely normal. Think about it this way, if you’re feeling antsy, you probably face an upcoming performance. The feeling that you’re out of place, out of your league, not ready yet or simply awkward can shake your confidence before any big moment.
On top of that, anxiety or any negativity blinds you to all kinds of opportunities staring you in the face; you don’t see them if you’ve already decided things are not working out in your favor.
In each performance venue, you address diverse audiences, who all have different expectations for you. To perform at your best, you want to tailor your message to each different audience without pandering. You have different roles for the different audiences: you don’t speak to your mother the way you speak to your boss! (Even if your boss does sound like your mom.)
To make things even more interesting, you have different desired outcomes for different scenarios. In one, you want a report to stop his stream of negative comments and from an executive committee, you want budget and approval for a new project. Or how about approaching the topic of becoming a partner? Different goals require different approaches that you’re not always immediately comfortable with.
There is something you can do to vastly improve the outcome for you in ANY scenario: use the Act as if imagination activator.
Athletes use Act as if to get the ball in the hole, to run the fastest, score the most, jump the highest, score the best endorsements. They imagine beforehand the desired outcome.
How does Ann Hathaway nail such diverse roles as awkward intern on The Devil Wears Prada, single mom turned prostitute on Les Miserable and tech company hotshot in The Intern? How does Daniel Craig suspend our natural cynicism and suggest we believe in James Bond one more time more than 50 years after he was created by Ian Fleming? Simply this. Act as if.
“I believe in imagination. I did Kramer vs. Kramer before I had children. But the mother I would be was already inside me.” Meryl Streep
What you want to do before any sort of performance is to use this tool to redirect the power of your imagination: Act as if.
As if… this presentation knocks their socks off….. this meeting is productive…. you can handle this…. you absolutely can figure it out…. you are more than ready for the next step…. the boss agrees to your raise…. the job is yours…. your point of view matters.
Because it does matter. Even if you don’t feel it.
See where this Act as If tool can really help you: at the micro level. Of course you can act as if you’re the CEO, the diva, the rock star, in a general, everyday sense.
But even more powerful, you can act as if before any significant conversation, meeting, interview or presentation. Here’s the process:
1. Define your desired outcome.
2. Act as if (what you want t0 happen) is the inevitable reality.
3. Inhale and exhale deeply.
Act as if becomes Act as is.