Act Yourself Into a New Way of Thinking



“Few of us ever live in the present. We are forever anticipating what is to come or remembering what has gone.” ? Louis L’Amour

You can’t think yourself into a new way of acting.

But you can act yourself into a new way of thinking.

Most people try to think their way into a new way of thinking and then hope that their behavior will change.

A better approach is to behave your way into a new mindset.

When you start acting differently, you build a new frame of reference, and your thinking will follow.

In the book, Anticipate: The Art of Leading by Looking Ahead, Rob-Jan De Jong shares eight practices you can use to act yourself into a new way of thinking.

You Can Act Yourself Into a New Way of Thinking

You can change yourself with new actions faster than you can change yourself with new thinking.

Via Anticipate: The Art of Leading by Looking Ahead:

“My good friend and actor Bruce van Barthold once explained how actors can learn ‘to live inside the character.’  His acting instructors taught him that you cannot think yourself into a new way of acting, but you can act yourself into a new way of thinking.  He had to repeat it to me twice, but once I got it, it made a lot of sense.”

You Can’t Just Tell Yourself to Be Better

Just telling yourself to do better or be better is not enough.  You have to practice the actions that build the muscle to be different.

Via Anticipate: The Art of Leading by Looking Ahead:

“Developing a mindful mindset is similar: There are behaviors and practices that can help you.  You can’t simply tell yourself to start re-categorizing from now on, or to be open to new information, or to stop taking a single perspective.  That wouldn’t work, and Langer’s three elements of mindfulness would remain purely theoretical.  But you can use a repertoire of behaviors and practices that, through repetition and perseverance, will help you develop that mindset.”

8 Practices for Developing Mindfulness

You can grow your mindfulness by developing three behaviors through eight specific practices.

According to Langer, growing your mindful state boils down to three behaviors: 1) creating new categories, 2) welcoming new information, and 3) adopting more than one view.

Rob-jan De Jong provides 8 practices we can use to help practice these behaviors and develop our mindfulness so that we can re-categorize information, stay open to new information, and stop taking a single perspective.

3 Behaviors for Mindfulness 8 Practices for Mindfulness
1. Creating new categories 1. “Yes, and …”
2. Break the pattern
2. Welcoming new information 3. Powerful questions
4. Appreciative inquiry
5. Radical exposure
6. Unblind your blind spot
3. Adopting more than one view 7. Learn to listen
8. Opinion swap


Here is a quick overview of each of the eight practices for growing your mindfulness.

1. “Yes, and …”

Swap out “but” with “and.”

Via Anticipate: The Art of Leading by Looking Ahead:

“In the next few days, try catching yourself when you say ‘Yes, but …’  Nine out of ten times you will be stopping a thought or an idea that isn’t in line with your current thinking and is blocking a creative idea or alternative perspective in the process. 

To combat this tendency, immediately rephrase your action to ‘Yes, and …,’ allowing you to make your point by remaining open rather than closed.  Keep up this practice until ‘Yes, and …’ becomes your default reaction.  It should not take you more than two weeks of practice to make this saying a habit.  Remember, just one word can make a huge difference.”

2. Break the pattern.

Do the opposite of what you normally do.

Via Anticipate: The Art of Leading by Looking Ahead:

“A deceptively simple practice to increase your chances of seeing things differently is to deliberately break your normal pattern of working, communicating, thinking, reacting, and responding.  For example, if you are normally the first to volunteer, hold back.  Or if you are always the one who holds back, now volunteer.  If you’re very punctual, arrive late (as confronting as it might sound). “

3. Powerful questions.

Ask better questions.

Via Anticipate: The Art of Leading by Looking Ahead:

“Artfully designed questions generate curiosity, are thought-provoking, challenge underlying assumptions, and invite creativity.  Moreover, they give us energy, making us aware of the fat that there is something to explore that we hadn’t fully grasped before.  So train yourself to catch poorly designed questions, asked by you as well as others, and reformulate them.  Keep the three dimensions in mind: 1) why, what, how constructions, 2) scope, and 3) underlying assumptions.”

4. Appreciative inquiry.

Ask questions that appreciate what’s going well.  Help reveal why things are going well.

Via Anticipate: The Art of Leading by Looking Ahead:

“Develop a set of appreciative questions aimed at discovering what is going well, and why.  Use them when analyzing problems, withholding the temptation to first ask what went wrong.”

5. Radical exposure.

Expose yourself to radically different people, experiences, and events.

Via Anticipate: The Art of Leading by Looking Ahead:

“The radical exposure practice promotes a deliberate effort to engage, with some frequency (e.g. once a month), with a subgroup that is profoundly different from the usual suspects you hang out with.  Visit a conference of a very different profession, hang out with skaters, join an arts club, buy a magazine randomly off the shelf, things like that.”

6. Unblind your blind spot.

Reveal blind spots by putting more options on the table and looking for the non-obvious.

Via Anticipate: The Art of Leading by Looking Ahead:

“Group dynamics often make what’s on the table appear as though it’s the only possibility.  But it rarely is. It’s just what the group is most comfortable with; once an option is chosen, the group is unlikely to consider anything else.  Whenever you engage in a conversation aimed at clarifying or making a decision, ask, at the appropriate moments: 1) What other options exist? 2) What are we not seeing or saying?”

7. Learn to listen.

Get curious and develop your curiosity.  Don’t treat information like a broken record, find a new groove.

Via Anticipate: The Art of Leading by Looking Ahead:

“Consciously and deliberately go into listening mode.  This means not taking over the conversation with your idea or observation, no matter how much you want to.  Just keep asking questions, and don’t dismiss anything your conversation partner mentions, no matter how odd it sounds or how disconnected the person’s views are from yours.”

8. Opinion swap.

Try another perspective on for size.   This will help you see things from new angles.

Via Anticipate: The Art of Leading by Looking Ahead:

“Choose someone at work who is least like you — not someone you dislike, just someone very different.  You two might differ in character, taste, thoughts, or actions.  Think of a subject you normally disagree on.  It might be something simple, like a product, marketing message, or television program that you avoid or find trivial and the other person really likes.  Imagine yourself adopting this person’s opinion, like you’d try on an outfit.  See things from this person’s point of view and come up with some reasons why he or she loves what you hate, or vice versa.”

Naturally, you’re probably already thinking about these practices, and whether or not they’ll work.

And that’s exactly the opposite of what to do.

The whole point is to actually do the practices and then notice how your thinking changes in unexpected, and perhaps, profound ways.

That’s right … act your way into a new way of thinking.

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