I’ve noticed the phrase, “fake it ‘til you make it,” in the media lately. I first heard it discussed in a TED talk and saw it on the cover of an issue of Harvard Business Review. I later heard it echoed by a local author, Merilee Boyack, during a community outreach luncheon. This concept deals with the human ability to imitate a behavior until it becomes habit. If you’re able to observe another’s successful traits, imitate that behavior, then pull it off convincingly, others will likely treat you as if that’s just the way you are and have always been. Continuation of these kinds of interactions cause you to adopt the personality style.
Maybe the jury’s out on how effective this strategy can be, but we can agree that it’s an encouraging concept. You can be whatever you want to be! People grasp at ideas like this. All of us, I think, hope to achieve ultimate human status and, since we can’t just plug into The Matrix and acquire knowledge instantly (yet…), imitation becomes the next best option. Most everyone is capable of this approach. Why, then, is it so tough to get started?
It can be uncomfortable to deal with knowing you’re imitating someone/something else. Maybe some have no trouble here, but others will find this difficult, and for perfectly valid reasons. Perhaps someone will see through the imitation. Maybe they will notice your sudden change and disapprove. Or maybe you’re a sincere advocate of originality, and feel that imitation is somehow cheating. Why do these fears exist, and from where do these ideas develop?
The truth is, of course, no one’s actually telling you it’s wrong to want to change. No universal laws exist prohibiting imitation for self-improvement. It’s you—only you—who is capable of harboring those doubts. And what a shame, considering how ceaselessly humans continue to change the limits of what is possible. So, what do you do? I offer my simple, layman’s method of how to overcome these kinds of doubts.
1. Everyone has doubts. Acknowledge them, move on.
Doubts happen. It’s okay. There’s a good chance that at some point you’ll feel like giving up on your new goal and that’s normal. The logician Bertrand Russell once stated, “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.” Achieving thorough change isn’t easy. Obstacles exist for everyone (except honey badgers), and every act of greatness is hindered in many various ways. There will be challenges, but they don’t matter. You’re going to get there anyway.
2. Write it down
In our lightning fast world of thought and idea migration, we all know what it’s like to become impassioned about something and then almost immediately forget about it. Keep a running list of why you’re making a change and some plausible steps to achieve that goal. Post it some place where you’ll see it often. It’s okay if your motives change, or the means by which you’ll achieve it also change. Your entire body cycles through totally different cells after every 5-7 years. Why wouldn’t your goals and motivations follow suit? Just make sure to keep reminding yourself of your direction so you can continually make progress.
3. Go for it
Know what’s not very likely to help you reach your goal? A Netflix marathon (unless your goal is to watch everything on Netflix—in which case, bravo). Kurt Vonnegut, the classic American author, said in a commencement speech at Fredonia College, “I suppose you will all want money and true love, among other things. I will tell you how to make money: work very hard. I will tell you how to win love: wear nice clothing and smile all the time. Learn the words to all the latest songs” (http://www.brainpickings.org/2014/05/12/kurt-vonnegut-if-this-isnt-nice-fredonia/). Nothing worthwhile ever materialized without effort. It would be great if we could figure out how to improve ourselves without having to actually do anything, but, of course, we haven’t yet, so you’ll have to exert actual effort. Keep going though. Stick to it, and after enough repetition you’ll habituate and formalize those behavior patterns. It’s just fine tuning after that.
Without trying to be too cheesy here, what do you have to be afraid of? You are the extent of everything that this planet has yet produced. You live on a rock that orbits a star! Your brain and body are sequences of electrical impulses that give you your own unique personality. Even at your worst, you’re a fascinating network of activity. Your existence is statistically near impossible. If there’s something you want to become, nothing can stop you, except asteroids…and honey badgers, maybe.