The 'AS IF' Mindset Hack

A few years ago I started learning about emotional labeling and it sort of blew my mind. Not the principle of it- it’s exactly what it sounds like… you identify your emotions and label them. But you do it in a way that doesn’t make you feel like you ARE the emotion. So instead of saying I’m stressed, or I’m sad, you say I FEEL sad or I FEEL stressed.

Which is a pretty awesome tool because it helps you recognized that, although it feels like it, we are not ACTUALLY our emotions. Emotions are based on our thoughts, our thoughts we have the power to change.

But I digress. What got me about this particularly mindset hack is that it’s so freaking SIMPLE! I wondered why I failed to learn about it until I was 30. But isn’t that the case with a lot of these tools- we FINALLY find the ones that work for us and we think ‘why did no one tell me this before?’

I was listening to a podcast this morning about emotional labeling which got my little brain surfing on emotions and in particular, how so often my athlete clients let themselves BECOME their emotion.  They don’t FEEL nervous or angry or unconfident. They ARE those things.

So, I can teach them an emotional labeling exercise but I’m going to shelve that for now (I’ll pick it up on a future newsletter) and go right to the emotional hack that I’ve seen AMAZING results with.  The ‘AS IF’ hack, particularly suited for an athlete that is totally consumed by their emotions.

Let me explain with this quick example.  

Sarah the soccer players HATES her coach, isn’t playing much these days and is generally feeling pretty miserable. If she’s being honest she wants to quit but even thinking about it makes her want to cry because she LOVES (or used to love) soccer. She’s built up an emotional prison that is drastically effecting her performance, ensuring she will stay on the bench. She knows this but can’t muster up the positive energy to make change.

So what to do? Introducing, he ‘As If’ Mindset Hack.

I give Sarah a VERY simple (see the pattern?) assignment: Go to practice and play ‘AS IF’ she is the happiest player on the field. We then brainstorm what that might look like: she is smiling from the beginning of practice, she is high fiving her teammates, she is cheering from the sidelines, she is brushing off mistakes with a chuckle, she is BUBBLING with unbridled joy.

Literally I might use the word ‘bubbling’.

That’s it.

Sarah will no doubt think I’m a little crazy for suggesting this but I get her assurance that HER way is in fact not at all working. So what does she have to lose?


So, she goes to practice and plays with unbridled joy. Afterwards we reconvene and dissect how it went.

  • Generally, Sarah will have learned that SHE is in control.
  • She will likely feel lighter (literally) after practicing WITHOUT the ‘backpack of emotions’ she’s become accustomed to.
  • And she will have broken this cycle of negativity that is keeping her from making any progress, having any joy, and wanting to quit.
  • But mostly, Sarah will have learned that she is NOT her emotions and that she can ride the wave of positive or negative emotions without going under.

It’s that powerful.

Try it yourself. Have a job you hate? Go into one day or one meeting with unbridled joy. Is there a colleague that drives you insane? Interact with them AS IF you like them. Dreading that holiday party? Act AS IF you’re an extrovert for an hour (then go home and watch tv:)

Remember it doesn’t have to be forever, you can try on different emotions just for fun. Mostly, it’s an exercise in learning how powerful we really are, that our thoughts contain our reality and that WE are the ones that get to choose.

Ready to start training the mental game?

If you haven't yet, make sure to snag your FREE copy of the Coaches Cheat Sheet: Top 7 Ways to Develop Tough, Focused, Resilient Athletes!  

The Coaches Cheat Sheet includes elements of visualization, positive self-talk, breathing, and mindfulness. 

This is simple enough to be a great starting point for coaches who want to begin mental training their team, and robust enough to be a great addition to any existing mental training program. 


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