You may love your work -- I hope you do -- but I bet you don't love everything you have to do at work.

Whether it's mundane (like updating a CRM report), meaningful (like giving a performance review), or maddening (like having a conversation with a difficult client), your workday undoubtedly includes plenty of tasks that spark a range of emotions. Unfortunately, those feelings can often lead to procrastination -- or, if you're like me, full-on avoidance -- and you're likely to struggle to give this work your best effort.

Allow me to introduce a technique called "As If." I'll say a bit more about its theatrical genesis in a moment, but first, a story from my colleague Susan, whose son Kyle was endlessly putting off his violin practice. He really, really, really doesn't like doing it. But there are lots of things that Kyle is passionate about and loves to do -- like playing flag football with his friends.

So Susan, an actress-turned-executive coach, directed her son to imagine what it feels like when he's running the ball over the goal line and pretend he feels the same way when he's playing the violin. Kyle was skeptical, but when he closed his eyes and remembered last season's playoff game, the adrenaline started to flow.

Kyle cracked a smile, and before long he was performing as the world's most enthusiastic violin student. He even gave Susan a high-five and a chest bump when he finished. This is what I love about the magic of "as if."

Actors have been using "as if" for over a century. It's a foundational tenet of method acting, the technique founded by the Russian director Konstantin Stanislavsky and practiced by the craft's greats from Marlon Brando to Meryl Streep to Jamie Foxx and beyond. "The method," as its adherents call it, helps actors fully embrace their character's emotionality by drawing on specific and authentic aspects of their own lives to create real emotions onstage.

An actress playing Laura in The Glass Menagerie might not have any authentic feelings about glass unicorn figurines. But in her real life, the actress literally cannot get enough of the drawings her daughter brings home from pre-school.

So when the curtain rises on Laura playing with her beloved menagerie, the actress has just spent 15 minutes visualizing every detail of her daughter's latest masterpiece, and her heart is bursting with love. She handles those crummy plastic props as if they were every bit the precious mementos Tennessee Williams imagined.

When you perform the tasks in your life that are boring or challenging as if they are the kind of things that invigorate you or bring you joy, you can change your experience of those moments.

Put "as if" to work right now. That CRM report -- you hate dealing with it every week. Okay, what do you love doing every week?

Maybe it's the Sunday crossword. So let's take a look at how you approach it: You make sure you have time set aside for it because it's important to you. You create an environment where you can do the puzzle without distraction -- maybe there's a special chair you like to sit in, or a bench in the local park. When you get stumped by a clue, maybe you take a walk to clear your head -- but the tantalizing possibility of finding a 10-letter word for "where elephants go to the dentist" brings you right back.

Try this: The next time that dreaded report comes due, approach it as if it were the Sunday crossword (or whatever fills you with passion and enthusiasm) by recreating the specific conditions of the joyful activity -- the timing, the location, and the inner monologue that accompanies it. See how that affects your experience.

By performing "as if," you're able to re-imagine your work and recreate it in new and surprising ways that you can actually look forward to. Transform the performance review meeting into a mentoring session, or the conversation with a difficult client into a fourth quarter court-side huddle, or the updating of the CRM report into the triumphant completion of the Sunday crossword -- in ink.

(And in case you were wondering, it's "Tuscaloosa.")

Published on: Sep 6, 2017
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