When I was training as a coach, one of my classmates said that even though he didn’t feel confident about his ability to coach someone outside of the class, he was going to pretend to be confident. Though of course we all laughed with him about this (I think we were all feeling the same way, but nobody else was brave enough to say so out loud), our group leader pointed out that this was a good way to develop that confidence. In fact, it’s something that we coaches often ask our clients to do — to change first their behavior incrementally, with the understanding that their self-concept will also change as a result.

I was reminded of my dear friend’s bold admission this morning when reading The Guardian’sThis Column Will Change Your Life” feature. It was about self-perception theory, which posits that we observe our behavior, then reach conclusions about who we are. I clicked through to a post by Dr. Timothy Wilson, on Edge.org, titled, “We Are What We Do,” which further details how our actions influence our view of ourselves. Well worth reading.

It’s helpful to think about what kind of person we want to be and then to think about the behavior that we can change in order to also change our way of being. Right now, I’m struggling with my freelance projects. They aren’t particularly difficult, but I’m having a hard time getting things done in a timely way. Procrastination seems to be the order of the day. I’m tired a lot and find it hard to concentrate. I daydream. I clean house (classic freelancer avoidance mechanism). Then guilt strikes, I worry, and insomnia hits, which makes it even harder to get things done. It’s been a brutal merry-go-round the last month or so.

Looking at this behavior through the lens of self-perception theory, it strikes me that what I need to do is act like a productive person, not a procrastinator. Getting a certain number of tasks done in an allotted amount of time will reinforce my view of myself as productive, and I will feel better, not guilty for once again having gone wool-gathering when I really wanted to finish a task. Thinking back on the good days I’ve had in the last couple of weeks, they were good because I accomplished what I’d set out to. I’m going to build on that.

What changes would you like to make? What could you pretend to be?