Act As If

On Friday night I took myself off to a hotel for a little spot of lying by the pool, drinking Aperol Spritz and reading like there was nothing else in the world for me to do.

But for the first couple of hours, I just thought.

It’s hard to think deeply in your normal routine, because there is a non-stop cacophony of stuff competing for your attention.

There are endless interruptions, errands, obligations and procrastinations, and none of it helps you see what really matters.

Obviously, this is a problem. It’s like going ocean swimming, without ever looking up to see whether the shore is still in view. Bad news bears, coming your way. Or bad news sharks, maybe.

My point is that to get where you want to go, you need time to think about it every now and then.

Because when you make time to think about it, you can start acting as if.

When you think about where you want to end up, you can reverse-engineer what that would actually look like day-to-day for you — and then start acting as if everything were already in place for you to do it.

Let’s say, for example, you want to write every day. What would that actually entail?

Well, first it might mean figuring out how long you want to write each day, or how much. An hour? Three pages? What would work for you as a daily practice, given the demands of the rest of your life?

Then it might mean figuring out when and where you write each day. Would you write in bed? In your home office? In the garden? What time? Before breakfast and coffee, or after? When the kids are in bed? On your lunch break?

Then you could think about what else would need to be in place for all this to work. Would you need to ask anyone to leave you alone for that period of time? Find a place to leave your devices out of reach? Rearrange any obligations?

Acting as if is about pulling your ideal future into your real present.

It’s about doing the things that would make you into the sort of person that does those things.

It’s not just true of writing. What would it look like to act as if you were a runner, or a cellist, or a mentor? What would you do each day? What would be different if you were that way already? What would be the same?

Find an open-ended stretch of time to just think this week, . Give yourself a stretch when you don’t have to hurry off to do something else.

If that’s impossible, act as if it is: when would you do it? What would you need to make it happen? Give yourself the gift of time, the gift of space, the chance to look up and take a breath and make sure you know what you’re swimming towards.

Figure out where you’re going, and then start to act as if.