Have you ever heard the phrase “act as if”? I heard it for the first time when I was a teenager from a friend who was into personal growth before I even knew what personal growth was. He used to throw it around haphazardly, like it was the answer to everything, and he embodied it with as much enthusiasm. The phrase was an open-ended statement, meant to be filled in with whatever your particular goal might be. In his mind, it was to act is if you already had the job you wanted, were already living the lifestyle you wanted. Act as if you were the CEO. Those were his goals.
WHAT DOES IT REALLY MEAN TO "ACT AS IF"
At the time it irritated me. I have always placed a high value on authenticity, for better or worse, and acting as if I was something I wasn't felt inauthentic. Who was I to pretend I was at a higher level than I actually was? For starters, I was a teenager. No one would fall for it. But more than that, I wondered if anyone would want to be around a person like that. Society tends to place a high value on humility, for better or worse, but something I've learned in the pursuit of my own goals is that self-deprecation is a bad habit that only gets in your way, especially in an industry where low self-esteem runs rampant.
As I’ve gotten older and delved deeper into personal growth and pop psychology myself, I understand this sentiment better now and it’s something I've adopted into my mindset, little by little, almost without realizing it. Imagine my horror when I stepped back one day and realized that my friend's words had stuck. I had set goals for myself—to become a published author, to be a speaker and teacher—and instead of waiting for an agent to come breaking down my door (ha!), I simply started setting myself up to be an author. It was a choice made out of impatience more than anything else, but for some reason, it was working.
HOW I FOSTERED A CAREER MINDSET
It started with a website. I was a web and graphic designer already so it was a natural place to begin. My website was my "face" in a digital-based industry. I spent hundreds of hours turning my website into my little spot on the interwebs that reflected who I wanted to be, not necessarily where I was in the moment. Not out of inauthenticity, but out of anticipation of reaching that goal one day...hopefully sooner than later.
Then I got more serious about designing my days to foster success. I studied people who were already successful authors and speakers and emulated their routines. I learned how to keep myself motivated, I incorporated mind-focusing techniques into my daily life, and I prioritized my career long before it would ever begin to make me money.
When I realized that on top of writing, teaching was my true purpose, I hunted down the information on how to submit my ideas to conferences and local venues. And when that didn’t take off as quickly as I hoped it would, I added webinars into my repertoire where I could host my own classes on business and productivity for writers.
And all the while, I got up each day (most days—let’s be real here) and worked as if I already was a published author and renowned speaker. I scheduled my days, I strengthened my writing habit, I outlined workshops, I submitted proposals and query letters, I ate well to increase my energy, and I reached out to others in the industry to expand my network. I still do. As much progress as I’ve made, there is still a long way to go. There is always room to grow.
HOW THE CAREER MINDSET EXPANDED MY CAREER
After years of practice, I discovered my fear of being inauthentic was unfounded. In fact, in those times of flow, when I’m not worrying about whether or not my dreams will come true, or worrying about what anyone else thinks, I’m being my most authentic self. In my mind, this is who I actually am. I’m only waiting for reality to catch up.
Act as if.
In the fourteen years that have passed since I first heard this phrase, here’s what I’ve learned it truly means: live in the mindset now of who you want to be in the future. When you live in that mindset, you take actions in the mindset and you bring your goals to life.
In other words, if you want to be a published author, act like one. Make decisions like one. Take steps now to live more like you imagine you will once you are one. The more you live like the person you want to be, the more you will believe it is your reality and believe me, reality will meet you in the middle.
Act as if.
How has living with a career mindset panned out for me? Well, when I first spoke with my agent and she offered to represent me, I asked her what made her want to offer me representation. She loved my book, of course, but on top of that, she had looked at my website and liked my confidence. People want to get behind people who believe in themselves.
When I first spoke with the woman who would become my editor, I was able to share with her how I’ve grown my platform in the many years I’ve been acting as if I already were an author, as well as all the systems I had in place to continue my growth once I had a book in print. Not only has it been an absolute joy to connect with people who love writing as much as I do (and the only thing keeping me going on the darkest days), it has been an organic way to grow the platform publishers like to see in this social media era. A few days later, she offered me a 2-book deal.
WHY "ACTING AS IF" WORKS
These are only two of the biggest examples, but there have been dozens of little steps along the way and probably hundreds of connections I’ve made without even realizing it by putting myself out there as the version of myself I strive to be, even on the days I didn’t 100% feel like that person. Low self-esteem is a cancer, I tell you, but the amazing part about "acting as if" is that you grow past the self-doubt by putting in the work each day and making progress. Working this way, you can't help but grow your natural confidence. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
It's amazing what's possible when you believe in yourself, even if you have to "fake it until you make it." Because that’s what acting as if is really about—putting on your dream like a suit each day until you believe you are worthy of that suit. When you believe, the opportunities to live in that suit arrive.
Or yoga pants. Your call.
How have you "acted as if" for your writing career? What can you do to "act as if"?
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'Acting as if' is good advice. Many times I've not felt like doing a thing, but went ahead as if it was the very thing I DID want to do. And before the project is over, I become happily involved. The results are nearly always good.
You're absolutely right, Mary. When I don't want to follow through on a commitment, I think, "I must have wanted to do this when I said 'yes,' so I'm going to do it."
Absolutely!! And this applies to writing too. No doubt you've forced yourself to write when you didn't feel like it, and if you're like me, once you get started, you get so much accomplished! I was watching a Tony Robbins video recently where he said he trained himself to ignore his moments of "not feeling like it" and that has played a big role in his success. Makes sense to me!
Yoga pants rule! Love this post, Jamie. Lots of hard-won wisdom here. Especially,
"live in the mindset now of who you want to be in the future"
Lol! And the fact that we kick ass in yoga pants is worth extra points, in my opinion. 😉
This is definitely great advice. I also understood what you meant by the authenticity part. "Why should I act like I'm *fill in the blank* when I'm not?" Your friend was ahead of his time! I've always heard if you exude a confidence, whether for a career goal, or simply the way you walk, it's an image you are projecting to those around you. There is a lot to be said about the physical/mental connection.
So true!! I hadn't thought of it as much from the perspective but you are absolutely right. And the world needs more of that kind of confidence and passion these days, am I right?
Yes, definitely! I saw a video of myself walking one day and I was shocked - much like "we" usually are when we hear ourselves on audio. (do I REALLY sound like that?) Ever since, I've tried to be aware of my slouchy posture - even when I'm here, by myself. (train the brain)
They say posture links directly to how you feel about yourself, so I think this is so smart!
Fantastic advice! Especially for women who, at times, will apologize for their lack of credentials or minimize their efforts!
Oh my gosh, such a good point. I totally caught myself doing this the other day and I was like, "No wonder people aren't taking me seriously!" No more stipulations or apologies. We must own it!
A few months ago I started "acting as if" with my writing career. It's amazing how energizing it's been. And "stuff" is breaking loose.
This makes me so happy!! I love hearing that. Keep believing, my friend! Just wait and see what comes. 🙂
The one bit of advice that pushed me over the apologizing-for-the-time-I'm-spending-writing hump was from my husband. He got frustrated with me one day for allowing everything else around me to take priority and said, "If you don't take yourself seriously, why should anyone else? You want to be a writer, then be a writer first."
Love this post, Jamie! Thank you for the reminder!
Your husband is so right! And always good to get the validation from the "the other half" that they support us in putting our writing first. It makes it a lot easier when we can drop the guilt!
Thanks for this! I'm coming out of almost 2 weeks of entertaining guests and my routines got thrown out the window. I've been struggling with getting back into my groove and I think you hit my problem nail square on the head. I've forgotten my "I am an author!" mindset.
Yes, real life is known for that. Usually, when I need a good boost after not working for too long, I join a challenge or start one myself. That always works to get me focused again. Hope you're able to jump back into it too! Hunt me down on Facebook if I can support you. 🙂
This is full of wonderful advice! Thanks for posting it, Jamie!
Thanks, Sharon! 🙂
"I’m only waiting for reality to catch up." Love it!
Thanks, Kerry Ann! 😀
Excellent article! Thanks, Jamie. This dovetails for me a bit with impostor syndrome (so common to so many of us)--and it impacts my personal life too. Sometimes I remind myself to act as if I'm the enlightened person I strive to be (and am NOT), and I find I'm moving farther down that path as a result. Thanks for sharing this!
Oh, absolutely! And imposter syndrome sure rears its ugly head when you approach your career with this mindset. But eventually, as you get more practice with it, that syndrome melts away because you start to believe you actually are that person you're striving to be. Because you are!
Thanks for the straight-forward talk on this topic of mindset. I so often feel like a "poser" and that is not going to convince anyone that I'm a writer worth taking seriously! Thanks, thanks, thanks for putting this out for me to find when I need it most (preparing a pitch for a meeting in 2 weeks with a Lit Agent).
Exciting! I'm glad you came across this then and I hope you're able to approach the situation with your head held high! (I know how nerve-wracking those pitch sessions are, but remember that agents are people too, and they are LOOKING for your book.) Good luck!!
Love this, "...live in the mindset now of who you want to be in the future." thanks for sharing. @sheilamgood at Cow Pasture Chronicles
I love this, Jaime!
[…] beyond the question of who am I? In “The Career Mindset Comes Before the Writing Career”, author Jamie Raintree discusses how acting “as if” can help you reach your goals. Who […]
A positive mindset is refreshing. I often find authors with a negative mindset. They won't stop complaning about how little books they sell and how unfortunate they are, and this looks unprofessional. If you don't sell books you should try to improve your craft, study and improve your work and not act as if you are the center of the world and readers would be forced to take any book as good.
[…] Then I stumbled across this article on Writers in the Storm. […]
I'm late with my comments Jamie, but thank you nonetheless, this was a wonderful post and truly helpful to me!
For me, my 'acting as if' was in July 2015 and RWA conference in NYC. I got on the plane in Dublin and until I got back home 10 days later, I was an author: listening, talking, pitching, learning, and networking like the professional I am.
The most valuable thing from all this however was the realization that I stopped being that pro businesswoman when I got back home. A point of regret, yes, but something I fixed. Glad to be wearing my work clothes again 😉
Best for now - Nikki.
[…] The Career Mindset Comes Before the Writing Career […]