Using the As If Frame to Strengthen Beliefs and Expectations

The 'as if' frame is a process by which an individual or group acts 'as if' the desired goal or outcome has already been achieved, or by which an individual or a group pretends to be some other person or entity. The 'as if frame is a powerful way to help people identify and enrich their perception of the world, and or their future desired states. It is also a useful way to help people overcome resistances and limitations within their current map of the world.

The 'as if' frame is often used to challenge limiting beliefs by creating counter examples or alternatives. For example, if a person says, "I can't do X" or "It is impossible to do X," the 'as if' frame would be applied by asking, "What would happen if you could do X?" or "Act as if you could do X. What would it be like?" or "If you were (already) able to do X, what would you be doing?" For instance, if a company executive were unable to describe what his or her desired state for a particular project is going to be, a mentor might say, "Imagine it is five years from now. What is going on that is different?"

Acting 'as if allows people to drop their current perception of the constraints of reality and use their imagination more fully. It utilizes our innate ability to imagine and pretend. It also allows us to drop the boundaries of our personal history, belief systems, and 'ego'. In fact, it helps to recognize and utilize the notion of "I" as a function, instead of a rigid nominalization.

Many NLP processes and techniques apply the 'as if frame. In the process of creating goals, outcomes, and dreams, for instance, we first act "as if" they are possibilities. Wc create pictures of them visually in our mind's eyes, and give those pictures the qualities we desire. We then begin to bring them to life by acting "as if' we were experiencing the feelings and practicing the specific behaviors that fit those dreams and goals.

The 'as if frame is very important in creating a space in which we can begin to stimulate the neurology that can support attaining our goals. Milton Erickson said many times, "You can pretend anything and master it."

The 'as if' frame is one of the key tools for mentors and advisors. The following exercise applies the 'as if frame as a means to help someone to bypass limiting beliefs.

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