Physical Alchemy: Using Your Body to Generate Optimal Energetic States

Emotions will follow your body. Thoughts will follow your emotions. And then an opening for your spirit to shine through will appear. Suddenly, whether you know what you are doing or not, you are ablaze!

This is a super powerful concept.

They say emotion is energy in motion. E-motion.  

One of the easiest way to get your emotions working in the direction you want to go is to move your body in the way it would if those sought after emotions were strongly coursing through your body.

This idea consciously stuck with me ever since my career stint in bartending. Funny enough I was taught this concept by an aspiring actor who was tending bar at night while he pursued his acting career during the day. 

Even more synchronous was the fact the Hollywood nightclub we worked at was named "Mood".

Mood was a high volume, drink-slinging environment where you were expected to make 5-10 drinks at a time and the line for drinks was always 4-5 orders deep with patrons impatiently waiting to scream out their particular order over the cacauphony of pumping music and 100s of people getting their club vibes on.

It was intimidating for a beginning bartender to say the least. How the hell was I going to remember how to make all these drinks in such chaos?

Sensing my overwhelm my mentor delivered the sage advice: "Just act like you know what you are doing. Pretend to be confident."

Despite my apprehension and nervousness I gave it a shot.

I stood, moved, smiled, and spoke like a seasoned bartender. It worked like magic.

As I modeled & mirrored the physical behavior of an experienced and confident bartender my anxiety was transformed into excitement. The emotional excitement further bolstered my "confidence act" and before I knew it I was truly feeling confident.

The best part is not even one patron questioned my act. 

After a few nights of this I no longer had to act. I was an experienced & confident bartender.

This empowering concept was taught to me again during the beginning of my Silicon Valley startup career by Jess Lee (then CEO of Polyvore, now partner at Sequoia Capital).

I had the privilege to interview Jess for Stanford Pulse Magazine and the one thing that has stuck with me more than anything else is our conversation around "faking it until you make it." She confided in me that everyone does it in the startup world. She kicked off Polyvore's first sale by pretending she knew what she was doing when their first prospective customer called wanting to advertise them.

Jess wasn't even in charge of sales for Polyvore. They didn't even have a sales department or a revenue model at that time. She just happened to pick up the phone.

We were both laughing as she described how she was literally googling ad terms as the prospect was asking her questions.

That act sure paid off. Polyvore sold to Yahoo! for $230 million in 2015.

Even now in my role as one of the founding team-members of Ohmygreen, a Stanford startup revolutionizing food and wellness at the workplace, there are plenty times when I have no idea what I am doing and I just act like I do. I just focus on acting as if I did know while modeling others who know more than me and ultimately I learn by doing.

This doesn't mean you always act 24/7 when you have no idea what you are doing. You physically act like you know what you are doing when it counts (i.e. in a live sales pitch) and then you use all your resources (team members, communities, books, internet, etc.) to really learn.

The point is to focus on the positive momentum that acting like you know what you are doing can create for you and how this can melt away your fear. By role-playing in a powerful way that physically embodies your ideal state soon enough your emotions and thoughts will follow suit.

Another way to think about this is to pretend you were someone you admire (real or mythical) and physically, mentally, and emotionally act however you believe they would act in the given situation.

This framework was recently brought to light again in my life during a recent podcast interview with Ben Sanford, founder of Tribal Edge. Ben and his organization have strong primal roots so it comes as little surprise that his childhood hero, Tarzan, has had a huge influence on every aspect of his life and business.

To me, this is a very fun and badass way to go around living life & conducting business. In any moment you can choose any favorite superhero in any domain and act as if you were them.  

Obviously, choosing role-models that bring you the successful outcome you desire is key so don't go around using "acts" that sabotage your aim.

Darker or negative states can also be transformed with this framework of Physical Alchemy.

When you are depressed and sad you hold your body a certain way. You speak slowly and softly. You can literally hear the pain in the voice. You even breathe a certain way with shorter, more shallow breathes.  

Common sets of physiological traits accompany pretty much every emotional/mental state.   Imagine in your mind the physical characteristics of someone who is angry. Or someone who is inspired. Can you see the physical difference in your minds eye?

Most often our physical expression mimic our internal state so it can seem paradoxical that you can physiologically act your way into a different state, but once you try it a few times you will discover just how simple and powerful Physical Alchemy can be.

Alchemical Learnings:

  1. Energetic state transformation can easily be achieved through the conscious use of your body. Emotions will follow your body. Thinking will follow your body & emotions.  Unlimited spirit will be unleashed by these aspects working in unison.
  2. Modelling & mirroring are powerful modalities for rapid-learning. It's built into our genetic engineering, something called mirror-neurons.
  3. When in doubt... Act as if* (you knew, you were someone who was an expert/master, you were a mythical superhero, etc.) *Follow this up with actual learning. Close the loop otherwise it will likely catch up to you at some point.
  4. Pretending & acting with your body actually does change your phsyiology. There are scientific studies to prove it too thanks to the work of Amy Cuddy.

Alchemical Resources:

  1. Awaken The Giant Within by Tony Robbins (Chapter 7). Most material by Robbins covers state change and the power of physiology so anything by him is great. He has been my greatest resource for learning about modeling & states.
  2. Your Happy Chemicals by Loretta Graziano Breuning. This is where I first learned about mirror-neurons. Really awesome stuff!
  3. Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are by Amy Cuddy (TED Talk).
  4. Know some other great resources? Please share in the comments and I'll add them here after checking them out.

Alchemical Opportunity for the reader:

  1. Next time you find yourself in a situation where you have no idea what to do act as if you knew exactly what to do. Start with the physical presence. How would you move, gesture, speak, and look upon the world if you knew exactly what you were doing? Literally how would you "physically act" if you were a master in this area?
  2. In an energetic or emotional funk?
    • Move! Go do something physical -- walk, run, hike, lift weights, do yoga, go to an exercise class, turn on music and just start dancing. Or jump on a trampoline or go rollerblading (my two personal favorites -- hard to take life too seriously when trampolining or rollerblading).
    • Stand in front of a mirror and smile from ear to ear. Stand how you would stand if you were feeling powerful. This might feel ridiculous but it will break you out of your funk if you do it long enough. Smile big enough for long enough in the mirror and you will laugh. Laughter is powerful medicine for weak states. Or just strike a superman/superhero pose (feet planted shoulder width or wider, elbows out with fists on hips, chin up, and your best "blue steel" piercing gaze of power. Hold this physical state while pretending to be your favorite superhero.
    • Sit or stand up straight and thump your chest while forcefully laughing out loud: "HA HA HA!" [this technique borrowed from David R. Hawkins' Power vs. Force]
    • Partake in a Primal Scream like so... 
    • Take a cold shower. This sounds painful, but if you spend even just a few minutes at the end of your hot shower turning it as cold as possible it can radically change your mental/emotional state for the better. I've literally felt euphoric after doing this.
    • If those all sound too intense, go get a massage (here is a $30 discount to Soothe, my favorite in-home massage company). A massage may not put you in an upbeat energetic state, but it will relax and rejuvenate you so that you can try one of the above the following day.
  3. Before your next important meeting (interview, sales-pitch, speech, etc.) spend 2-minutes doing a power pose.  In the mirror is better, but not necessary. Science shows this will raise your testosterone (confidence, assertiveness, etc.) and lower your cortisol (stress, fear, etc.). Watch this video for the power poses & science.
  4. Award family members & friends money every time they catch you physically slouching. My Dad did this my entire childhood. Every time we caught him in a weak physical posture and reminded him to stand and sit-up straight in an empowering way he gave us a quarter. It was such a fun family habit. Still to this day he is one of the most energetic positive people I know.
  5. Practice the Doorway Drill daily [I learned this here from Jordan Harbinger]
    • Every time you walk through a doorway stand up tall and powerful-like (shoulders back, chest & chin up), put on your most charming smile, and twinkle your eyes. Physically exude charm & confidence.
    • By doing this dozens of times throughout the day you condition your nervous system to instantly jump into powerful physiological state. Then when you need this state for  an important unexpected event it will be readily available.
    • It's easier to keep up than catch up. This simple practice will help keep you in a charming & confident state -- an energetic state everyone enjoys being around.
  6. Fake it until you become it. Choose something you've always wanted to do and just pretend and act until it becomes second nature. Do this for long enough & you will wake up one day realizing that you have become what you were pretending to be.

Ultimately, our body, emotions, mind, and spirit are all linked together. This is both awesome and dangerous. It's awesome when we are in a powerful state of being. It's dangerous when we are in a disempowered state.

Yet, as always, the power to change lies within us.

Armed with this knowledge of how our four major aspects of being are linked we can easily take action using our body to alchemize our overall state into an empowered one of our own conscious making.

Me "acting as if" (aka pretending) I was confident & powerful.  

Me "acting as if" (aka pretending) I was confident & powerful. 


Along this same vein is the key to our own inner gold.  By leveraging our physiology in empowering ways for long enough we can become whatever or whoever we want to be.

Use your Physical Alchemy wisely. Your current & future state of "being" depends on it.

In alchemy & service,

Justin David Carl 🌒

P.S. A major part of consciously creating an awesome life is to have so many ways to empower yourself that it becomes an art form that you have mastered and can call upon no matter what situation you find yourself in. That is what Alchemize Life is all about. Sign up for my Newsletter to keep adding tools to your toolbox.

P.P.S. One last interesting note about the power pose picture of me above. Noelle (the photographer) literally said to me, "Pretend like you are feeling confident and powerful". At the time I definitely did not feel that way (I felt nervous), but after pretending for that photo I did actually feel confident and powerful. Similar state change story with the photo below (also by Noelle). My dear friend & creative partner Braden was splashing me with ice cold water to get me to loosen up for my first ever underwear shoot with Related Garments. Repetition is the mother of learning & skill . . .


A piece on Physical Alchemy would not be complete without a semi-nude photo... :P

A piece on Physical Alchemy would not be complete without a semi-nude photo... :P