Fake It Till You Learn It

05.04.2017 |

Episode #6 of the course Confidence: The secret to your success! by Eileen Purdy


Let’s face it—change isn’t always comfortable. Even good change.

But don’t take it personally. Humans have a tendency to take the easier option more times than not, and researchers now say this view may actually be hardwired in our brains. A recent study has found that the more mental effort something requires, the less likely people are to do it. They say it is so powerful, it can even change what we think we see to make the easier option more attractive!

Improving one’s confidence definitely isn’t the easier option for most people. Talk about having our deck stacked against us! But just because we may have an obstacle in our path doesn’t mean there aren’t ways around it. For ways around it, we look no further than the cause of our obstacle itself—our brain.

Introducing “fake it until you learn it.” Researchers have found that “acting” a certain way allows your brain to “rehearse” a new way of thinking and can set off a desired chain of events in the future.

Professor of organizational behavior Herminia Ibarra writes in the Harvard Business Review that one highly effective strategy you can use to improve your confidence as you “fake it until you learn it” is to mimic someone else around you who displays the skill sets you are desiring, even if your first inclination is to worry about appearing like an imposter.

So think about an area in your life in which you’d like to improve. Next, find a person you admire who has the qualities you’d also like to have. Pick three specifics about that person you can mimic.

Think of it like an experiment or a game. This “acting the part experiment” allows your brain a low effort opportunity to move in the direction you are desiring. Continue this strategy over time and it will start to feel more comfortable. You’ll see the shift from mimicking to becoming.

Before moving on to the next strategy, let me include an important caveat here. “Fake it” doesn’t mean pretend you know important information that you don’t or know how to do something critical when you don’t. For example, you wouldn’t want your doctor to use the “fake it until you learn it” strategy with your health. You’re not misrepresenting your knowledge when people’s lives depend on it, you are using it to cultivate attitudes and behaviors to get you to your goals.

Another strategy to use is the “self-fulfilling prophecy” effect. The term was coined by sociologist Robert K. Murton to describe a phenomenon that dates back to the Ancient Greeks’ “Pygmalion effect.” Basically, a self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction you make about the outcome of a situation which then invokes new behaviors that directly or indirectly lead to the prediction coming true.

In order to set yourself up for success in building confidence, predict that you have what it takes to practice the needed skills to become confident. When doubts enter your mind, tell yourself those doubts come from old habits of doubting yourself. Reaffirm your prediction that ”I’m going to do this!” Straighten your posture and keep going forward.

Now the caveat for this one is that when it comes to self-fulfilling prophecies, we are also impacted by other people’s opinions and expectations in addition to our own. Be on the lookout for this. As you work to improve your confidence, stay true to your course and don’t let others influence your behavior!

Today’s action assignment is to think of a person whose qualities you admire. Pick three specific things about that person you can mimic. Maybe it is that they write a blog post three days a week, they smile more than you do, and they have a cool signature quote at the end of their emails. Find three things and then go for it!

Tomorrow, we’ll be getting social. Introverts and extroverts are on equal footing here, don’t worry.


Recommended book

“The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are” by Brene Brown


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