We've all heard these words, but they really work, even in our spiritual lives.
Fake it ’til you make it.
I first heard that phrase in college, and it has helped me in so many ways since then. I think the biggest reason it’s so helpful is that it prompts action. But you don’t have to know exactly what you’re doing to start changing your behavior. You just have to start. So, in college, I considered the things I wanted to be better at and asked, what would make me better at this? And then I tried to take the steps required to get there.
For example, I wanted to be better at studying, and brainstormed what someone who is good at studying would do. I noticed people finding special study spots, and wearing earbuds. So, that’s what I did. I found a place in the library to hide from people and distraction, and I put in earbuds. I didn’t listen to anything because I can’t focus with music on, but it made me look more shut off from the world and engrossed in what I was doing. And it helped! With fewer distractions and more focus on learning the material, my studying improved.
A great way to use this phrase “fake it ’til you make it” is to let it help you become a better person in your everyday life. Do you need to be better at a certain virtue? Then act the way you think a person with that virtue would act. Want to be more joyful? Think of what joyful people you know are like and copy them. Maybe that means you’ll try to smile more and focus less on stressors. Want to be more generous? What generous people do you know, and what do they do? Maybe that means you’ll say yes to more invitations, or share the food you love.
Why does “fake it ‘til you make it” work in the spiritual realm? Well, virtue isn’t about acting in accordance with feelings. It’s about forming good habits that you can fall back on no matter how you are feeling. So if you don’t feel like being patient or generous, but you’ve been working to do the things a patient or generous person would do, you have hopefully developed a habit of doing generous things or being patient. That habit is what will make you better. The more you reinforce the habit, the more you won’t have to rely on “feeling” like it. Instead, you’ll be able to rely on doing the things a good person does because you’ve done them over and over again.
For myself, I want to have more patience every day when little things go wrong. I imagine that a person who remains unruffled by things throughout the day would approach frustrations with a smile, and would not be overly concerned about things getting done by a certain time or in a certain way. So, that’s what I’m faking (or, more nicely stated: forming habits in) lately.
So the meal I worked hard to make that just fell on the floor? The spotty internet preventing me from getting my work done? The bathroom floor inexplicably covered in little white flecks that resist the broom and dustpan? I’m taking a deep breath, smiling, and tackling the problem peacefully and slowly. Feel free to join me.