Stories have shaped human communication as long as we’ve existed. Look around. Our money, our religion, our businesses are all stories. And your story can shape your physiology, too. If it sounds like new-age manifestation mumbo jumbo, hang tight. I’ll show you how the story you tell about yourself helps or hinders your progress.


Henry Ford said it best: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right”. Imagine how dismal our favorite stories would be (Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or Star Wars) if the heroes just sat back and moped that they couldn’t do it. Not much of a story there, right? Instead they find some blind, often borderline foolish, belief that they can. And then they do.


You’re the hero of your story too. Act like it.


The As If Principle

There’s an interesting principle at work when we switch from positive thinking to positive action. The “as if” principle was first theorized by psychologist William James and popularized by author Richard Wiseman in a book aptly titled The As If Principle


If you want a certain trait or quality, act as if you have it already. This is the old idea of “fake it til you make it." Contrary to popular opinion, our actions aren’t determined by our feelings. Quite the opposite. Our actions can start to guide our emotions once we get the ball rolling.


We’re seeing more and more evidence to support this in numerous venues. There’s the influence of “power posing” in business and communication,1 or the strange link between holding a pencil in your teeth and feeling happier.2 Across the board we see that acting differently can lead to feeling differently. 


It all comes down to ownership of your story. Believing you can improve is one thing. Doing something about it is a different beast. So how does this work?


More Than Body, More Than Brain

We can look to the blossoming science of embodied cognition to give us clues. What we typically think of as “mind” seems to emerge from the infinitely complex interactions of all of the trillions of cells that make up the body.3 It’s not locked up somewhere in the brain.


Your actions change your body. Your body is your mind. Change your actions, and you can change your mind. It starts with the belief that you can. But it doesn’t end there. If you’re the hero of your story, it’s time to start acting like it.



1. Cuddy, Amy J.C., Caroline A. Wilmuth, and Dana R. Carney. "The Benefit of Power Posing Before a High-Stakes Social Evaluation." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 13-027, September, 2012.

2. Buck R. “Nonverbal behavior and the theory of emotion: the facial feedback hypothesis.” Journal of Personality & Social Psychology. May, 1980.

3. Wilson A.D. and Sabrina Golonka. “Embodied cognition is not what you think it is.” Frontiers In Psychology. February, 2013.


Headline photo courtesy of Pixabay.

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