“Fake it till you make it.”
Have you heard that phrase before? So have I. And if you’re like me, chances are when you heard it, you dismissed it, because how accurate could that statement possibly be? What kind of advice starts with the words “fake it”?
Well, this adage may be more powerful than you think, and it may be the key to unlocking an aspect of your potential greatness.
Two weeks ago I was on the book tour in Arizona. During an interview on KAZT’s morning show where we were discussing the book, the host asked me, “Well what if you can’t change?”
Not really understanding the question, I replied, “But you CAN.”
So she repeated her question, this time with a slight shift in emphasis, “I get that a person can change, but what if you CAN’T?”
Meaning… I get the concepts but as hard as I try, I can’t seem to be able to implement them.
This time I understood the question, and quite frankly, I did not have a great answer. So I replied with the first thing that came to my mind, “If you think you can’t do it, okay, but how about you pretend for a half-hour a day?”
The host seemed surprised by my response. As any trained lawyer would do, I jumped on her hesitation.
“It’s normal to be certain you can’t change. People have decades of neuro-connections solidified in their minds. Even if you learn a new idea or insight, it’s difficult to apply that knowledge because of your feelings and emotions to the contrary. And even as you start to change, it doesn’t feel natural so you feel inauthentic. So you give up, and assume it’s because you just can’t.
So what do you do?
For a period of time each day, don’t try to change yourself. Just pretend you are already there. Pretend you are naturally powerful, kind, gracious, or fearless, even if you know you are not.”
She looked at me and said, “You mean ‘fake it till you make it’?”
“Exactly,” I responded, “Fake it till you make it.”
We all want to grow. To get better. Many of us are trying to make authentic changes in our lives. So we start, but it feels fake. It’s not the true us. We see people that appear disingenuous or inauthentic, and we look at them with disdain. We assume that by acting in a manner that is not characteristic of us, we are being fake, inauthentic, and that is a problem.
That’s why we are hesitant to adopt the mantra “fake it till you make it.”
Perhaps that is the wrong approach. Maybe that’s what is holding you back.
There is great research done by Professor Richard Wiseman about how luck works. In his studies, he discovered that we can actually become “luckier” if we understand what luck actual means. Luck is not something that happens to a person, but rather something that a person creates. If a person believes he is lucky, he sees challenges with a different lens than those who believe they are unlucky. “Lucky” people are more positive, work harder, and have a broader vision that identifies opportunities presented to them. “Unlucky” people tend to be very fatalistic. They see challenges as proofs of their bad luck, and as such fail to persevere when they face the same difficulties as everyone else. They narrow their perspective and miss opportunities that come their way. Wiseman’s studies speak to the theme that our mind can affect our reality. How we perceive luck can actually determine whether we are “lucky” or not.
And this is where the idea of “faking it till you make it” comes into play.
Amy Cuddy, an esteemed researcher, did research on this mantra. What she found is that physically embodying actions of success can actually make you more successful. Cuddy uses the example of smiling. By forcing yourself to smile, by putting a pen between your teeth and creating a smile, you will actually feel happier. When you open up your posture and stand taller and wider, you will actually feel more powerful. It is possible to fake the mentality by portraying the physical signs which can elicit the sincere emotion.
Feeling powerful can allow you to better overcome challenges. But pretending to feel powerful can help you do the same. Why? Because mind can’t tell the difference between when you are faking it and when it feels natural.
That is the key that most people don’t fully comprehend. The part of your mind developing the traits that you desire can’t discern between actions you do authentically and those you fake. As soon as you send your body a signal to do something your mind sets forth to do it. It’s agnostic to the reasons behind that action, it simply executes, and by creating new neuroplasticity, adapts your mind to be able to do that action again.
If you are waiting for a desired trait to feel natural, you are missing how your mind works. (For those that have my book, check out the concept of “Be Do Have” in Chapter 10). To change how you feel, you havae to first change your mind. To change your mind, you have to change your behaviors. New actions, even if forced, will create new neurological connections that will eventually make it feel natural.
So what’s the first step? Faking it. Changing your actions so your mind can adapt to those actions as your own. Faking it until it actually becomes a part of you.
Pretend you are already courageous, confident, generous, or even lucky, and act accordingly. You’d be surprised by just how fast you will adapt to your new self.
Fake it till you make it (even for a half-hour a day).