In a recent client discussion, the phrase "fake it till you make it" came up, so I asked my client how he felt about this approach. I enjoyed his response, "I'm no athlete, but to stay in shape and keep the stress at bay I sure train like one." He doesn't lie, nor does he claim to be an athlete, he's just acting like one to achieve his physical and emotional health goals.
The idea of faking it till you make it is a controversial one, with some identifying this behavior as being inauthentic and ego-driven. I view a misinterpretation of the phrase as being the culprit here. This old aphorism is not meant to suggest that you tell lies or take a position for which you are strongly unqualified. Properly interpreted, this concept is about ramping up your confidence, pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone, and learning new things. There is a plethora of research available to prove that embodying the persona of a successful, happy individual is one of the most effective methods to meet your goals and achieve your dreams.
Follow these dos and don'ts to successfully fake it till you make it when you lack confidence or feel intimidated by the steps you must take to bring your goals and vision to fruition.
Ask yourself what you would do if you felt confident.
Reflect upon a recent situation in which you felt inadequate or disappointed in your behavior due mostly to a lack of confidence. Now, ask yourself, "If I were the confident person I want to be, how would I have acted?" Challenge yourself to approach an upcoming situation with greater confidence. Be bolder at the next meeting or put your hesitance aside and commit to approaching three new people at the next networking event. Your brain will build upon these experiences just as your muscles build with exercise.
Tell your body to direct your brain.
Having a bad day? Smile. Facial expressions and body positions create what researchers call a feedback loop. This process causes the brain to interpret and respond to a smile and strong posture in such a way that triggers a desired chain of events. In this study participants were asked questions that identified their emotional state before and after smiling. The subjects overwhelmingly scored happier after smiling. In one study, participants watched themselves smile in a mirror. These participants showed a more significant change in mood than those who smiled without the mirror.
Focus on your goals.
Rather than focusing on your discomfort, spend some time thinking or writing about your goals. This study had groups of participants prepare for a group exercise in three different ways. One group wrote about their desires and aspirations, another group was asked to write about their duties and obligations in life, and yet another about their commute to the location. In the next step, they were separated into subgroups containing one person from each exercise category. They were directed to create a hypothetical startup company. Finally, participants were tasked with ranking the initiative of each person in their group, including themselves. The individuals who wrote about their goals and aspirations were most respected and admired by their teammates. They were also viewed as more proactive and competent.
Writing, thinking, and talking about your dreams and goals will give you the boost you need to stretch your comfort zone.
Don't just act the part, do what it takes.
Observe the behavior of the leaders you admire to learn how to respond in various scenarios. Improve your communications skills by studying reading materials and accessing tools like DISC and Myers-Briggs. Commit to things that provide learning experiences and challenge yourself with tasks to raise your skill level. Faking it till you make it does not mean faking knowledge that you never bother to gain.
Watch for the traps.
There is a danger of falling into The Imposter Syndrome patterns if you believe you're faking your success by lying to get what you want. But you are not an imposter, not if your intentions are honorable.
Reinforce the understanding that you are not lying. You are emotionally positioning yourself to step into the role of a successful entrepreneur. With each success, no matter how small, remind yourself that you actually did it, you did not lie your way into it. You may have acted more confident than you felt by telling your client you'd deliver on something you've never done, but you did deliver. You can't fake that.
Observe yourself leveling up as your actions and behavior become more natural, creating a powerful foundation on which to build.
Do it for the right reasons.
Those who fake being something they are not, and probably never will be, are often seeking to boost their own ego. Their actions are more pronounced and artificial, making them easy to spot. This concept is not meant to feed the ego, it's meant to boost confidence. If something does not feel truthful and authentic, don't do it. Don't lie about your experience and qualifications. Instead lean on your ability, passion, and work ethic.