How Acting Like Your Life's a Movie Can Make You More Productive
Most people who know me know I love movies. Like those two guys in the legal TV series Suits whose cinematic banter is smooth as Nutella on the tongue, I'm often referencing films. So of course what I'm about to tell you is extremely relatable to me, and I hope on some level it will be for you as well.
Earlier this year I became inspired by something Naval Ravikant, CEO and a co-founder of AngelList, said while in conversation with Tim Ferriss. Ravikant mentions on Ferriss' performance-focused podcast that one of his mental hacks is to live his life like a movie: "If you start treating your life as if your life was a movie you take a positive view of everything." You can catch the excerpt of Naval Ravikant talking about this at precisely 1:34:44 of the podcast.
What’s more, if you actually employ this hack then that means you're the hero of your movie (life) and you’re more likely to talk to someone sitting beside you on the subway or help out when you see someone in need. Why? Well, because you want the hero to advance the plot, and to set a good example for all the people watching.
Another cool thing about taking this approach is that becoming more of an observer of your life allows you to be more present. You see stuff happening as it's happening and experience each moment in a more tangible way.
And, because you experience things this way, you actually become more productive. When I began acting as if my life was a movie not only was I more grounded in the moment, I actually advanced my goals more quickly than I had in the past. For example, I stopped wasting time on social media. When I looked at myself from outside (as though I was the main character in a film), I thought, who would write a part for a character who spent an hour or more each day on Facebook? Once I did this a few times it wasn't hard to redirect to more goal-oriented tasks.
One more thing I did which was HUGE was to go through my list and focus on the BIG to-dos first. You know the ones that make a splash...a bang...like in a good movie. Approaching my life in this way even extended to taking risks in order to keep things interesting and moving along so filmgoers didn’t get bored and fall asleep.
So, here’s my challenge for you. In the next week or so pretend that you're the hero or heroine of your life and that the people you encounter along the way are secondary characters in your movie. Read the questions below and allow them to guide you during your week of exploration. Try not to focus too much on being productive, and instead focus on having fun as the heroine of a full-length feature!
TREAT YOUR LIFE LIKE A MOVIE
1) What would_______ do? (i.e., Jason Bourne, Wonder Woman, Tony Manero from Saturday Night Live)? In the above-cited podcast Tim Ferriss mentions that when he’s faced with a challenging situation he sometimes asks himself, what a certain person whom he admires would do in that situation. Think about people you know who exude certain characteristics you want to adopt and use her or him as the inspiration for this exercise. This can be a character in a movie (like Jason Bourne) or someone you actually know and look up to.
2) Is this exciting for the people watching this movie of my life? Ask yourself this periodically during the day and make adjustments to your life based on your response.
3) Where's the plot twist? Where the f*** is the f****** story arc?!! Would you watch a movie where nothing happened? When you’re on the bus or at work ask yourself what you could do to move the story (your story) along more swiftly.
4) How can I make a different choice in this situation to create more interest or action? Similar to above, periodically ask yourself what choices you could make to incite action.
5) How can I stop getting pissed at people? When you decide you can't stand people in your life, instead of just hating them you can say to yourself, "This is the villain; the villain has entered the scene. I'm going to counter-balance against this person and learn something in the process." Conflicts between the main character and others will make "movie viewers" more interested and feel like they’re learning something.
6) Don't you feel cheated when you recognize the director's manipulating you? You want a story to be TRUE and REAL and to really FEEL these things, right? When you’re in the movie of your life this requires honesty about what you want from your life, your relationships, as well as from your work. Ask yourself the tough questions and you’re absolutely certain to create a narrative for your life that’s dynamic, entertaining, emotionally gripping, and magical. And, yes, EVEN productive!