Is fake it until you make it the best advice we can get?

How many people are already dropping off from their new year’s resolutions? In January we jump on new activities and by February we’re off track and falling back into old habits. We have all gone through some challenges in our life. Some people fight with their introvert tendencies, others wish to be more charismatic and popular, someone else would like to become a good listener, others want to be confident talking to the opposite sex and mastering the courage to ask someone out on a date while others would like a better job but consider themselves inadequate.  Why do we want all these things? What’s the end goal really? If we say to ourselves “if I will be more confident I will be finally…” or “if I will get the job I want, I will finally be…”, how do we finish that sentence? The majority of people would conclude with “… I will finally be happy.” because that’s what we’re craving, happiness, contentedness, peace, safety and the acceptance of our peers.

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We, as human beings, have many gifts but we also live too much inside our own heads. We are flawed and we wish to be perfect. I’ve read many so-called self-help books and I learned a lot from several of them and they have at least one point in common. There is one advice that we keep hearing and I certainly heard it in the past given by a concerned friend or aunt trying to help me become happier. I said it to myself as a teenager trying to find my place among my friends and to get the attention of the boy I liked. I’m sure you said it to yourself as well or heard from others offering advice at a certain point in your life or maybe you even said to someone else.

Fake it until you make it.

It’s a catch-all phrase and part of our shared knowledge about creating change in our behaviour and ultimately reach our goals. I have been reflecting about role models and how there is value in taking inspiration from the life of exceptional individuals but, at this point in my life, I found myself questioning if it was really good advice. I’m a strong believer of being yourself and nurturing your own identity, appreciating who you are and the traits that make you unique. At times though we need help and that help can come in the form of a mentor or role model that shows us a path, an example, but how can we stay true to ourselves and still follow the footsteps of our role models? I reviewed my previous experiences and I discussed with several people about their own attempts to become who they wanted to be. I compiled a list of key points we need to consider if we want to be successful and reach our goals. Quick spoiler: simply copying someone’s shallow behaviour will not produce the results you wish for. The key points are:

1.    CLARITY

2.    VALUES

3.    INTENTION

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CLARITY

Think about what is that we want to achieve. I know it seems obvious and you may be rolling your eyes reading it but the main mistake people do when trying to change an ingrained habit and step outside their comfort zone. We might be trying to change too much too soon at the same time.

Pick one clear thing and focus on the expected outcome. Would you like to be more outgoing? Why? How do you imagine yourself behaving in this new version of yourself? Are you relaxed in a big group, enjoying meeting new people? Then maybe your main goal is not to simply be more outgoing but to be confident and relaxed with bigger groups or work events. I enjoy mind mapping and I cannot recommend it enough as practice to clear up some head space and find those nuggets of gold at the base of our main decisions and choices. There are many options online and free applications as well.

Dedicate 10 minutes of your time to describe the best version of yourself. It’s not an imaginary description of an ideal self but practical descriptors of how you see yourself in the best possible light. For example, you might imagine yourself dating and living with a great partner. Be specific about how you would like to behave and feel in that situation (ex. I can share my interests with my partner, we cook dinner together, we’re affectionate with each other, I trust her/him).

If you don’t know what you really want, all the faking in the world will not give you results that could truly affect your life in the way you’re hoping for.

VALUES

We all have our own intrinsic values that shape how we see things and what we prioritise. These values show what you consider important above anything else in your life. For instance, your family might come before everything else! Several people made financial and career choices based on the time and opportunities they could provide to their families.

If you had to summarize the three most important things for you, what would they be? I can share mine here with you: Family, Abundance, Growth. Family and loved ones are always extremely important for me and I make sure to show them daily with my actions and my commitment to them. Abundance is a new entry this year in the list of my priorities and values. I did a lot of searching and work on myself to feel comfortable admitting that I want abundance in my life; economic abundance to afford the lifestyle I desire for myself and my family, the abundance of time to enjoy life and to have a healthy work/life balance. Growth had to be included as I’m constantly looking forward to learning new things, practically and academically. I need the constant movement forward within myself and my knowledge to ensure that tomorrow I will know at least something new compared to myself today.

These are only the three main values but there are few more that I consider when deciding on an important course of action and pondering consequences. There are many lists online of core values that you can check to see what resonates with you. I suggest you pick seven values to start off and then choose the top three among those. To fully benefit from this exercise, you can try completing the following sentence for each one of the values you selected.

“Success for me is…..”

These sentences will help you create a comprehensive vision of which results would satisfy you and avoiding wasting time chasing something that, in the end, you’re not interested having in your life.  

INTENTION

If you followed the two steps above, congratulations, you’ve done the majority of the work already! You now know what you want to obtain and the values that guide your choices and now it’s time to act upon them! However, you will not be blindingly faking to have fun at a party and then go home feeling drained and miserable because you couldn’t relax or enjoy the evening. Following this example, you would know that your main intention is to get to know new people so you can spend the time at the party genuinely showing curiosity towards the people you’ll meet. Ask questions, learn more about the person you’re talking to and remove unnecessary expectations from yourself.

In practice 

So where does fake it until you make it come into play? Let’s say you want to become fit and strong and you have been looking at a sports hero o actor as a role model in that area, is what they are doing aligned with your priorities and values? Are you following the example of someone that you could be proud in emulating?

I don’t think there is someone perfect and that can be copied in every aspect of their life so you need to choose and take away specific actions or behaviours that will help you achieve what you want.

Maybe the actor you admire has a great work ethic or the person you admire at work is always kind to everyone in the office and that’s why they’re appreciated by their co-workers. Faking it will work only if you know what you’re really pretending to be. Another way to express this same concept would be to challenge yourself doing something that makes you feel uncomfortable and it doesn’t come naturally to you. If you’re an introvert, talking to people might feel daunting and that’s the moment where you can channel your best impression of your role model. Test it, try it out and then make it yours adding your own flavour and personality to the mix. I challenge you this week to start gaining some clarity on what you truly want to achieve and who you want to be. 

What are your goals? Let me know if you'll try this approach to reach them, I'm curious to hear from you!