Why ‘fake it till you make it” is such a powerful tool for personal development

“It is easier to act yourself into a new way of thinking, than it is to think yourself into a new way of acting”

Millard Fuller, founder of Habitat for Humanity (1935-2009)

Greatly inspired by the best selling author A.J. Jacobs that has spend the better part of a decade documenting real life experiments in his books. I will not spend too much time telling you about the books but rather inspire you to start using the powerful tool “fake it till you make it”. When you first hear the quote you might initially think of something negative or superficial but for me this tool has been such an important part of my own personal development. But first, let’s look at the empirical findings of this phenomenon.

Psychologists have found out that if we smile – even when we do not want to or are not happy at all – it tricks our mind and will eventually make us a little bit happier. When I found out about this study months ago I start experimenting in my own life. I started smiling to strangers, smiling to myself when there was no reason to smile and forced myself to stay positive and smiling in heated up situations where I earlier would have let my mind slip to negative thoughts. In the beginning I would typically feel uncomfortable because keeping a fake smile for minutes and even longer requires a great deal of effort and yes – uncomfortableness.

However, having experimented now for several months I feel much more confident and definitely happier than before where I did not have the tool to prevent myself from having negative thoughts. In addition, this has led me on a path to find out what I specifically has to do when I face situations where I need to “fake it till I make it”.

What would an optimistic and confident person do?

When I face a situation where I need to fake my smile, my confidence or even my willpower I always ask myself how an optimistic and confident person will manage a similar situation. It sounds quite easy but sometimes it requires you to be another person than you really are and this is where the quote firstly mentioned in the beginning of this post comes in handy. Because, when you start faking how you act, you will slowly change the way you think. That’s a powerful thought and a real game changer if we can manage to use the “fake it till we make it” properly.

Since I started my journey into new thought processes by using “fake it till I make it” I have found some areas of my life where the mantra or motto has made a huge impact. And that’s how I would like to finish this post – with giving you three great examples of how you apply “fake it till you make it” to your own life.

1. Waking up in the morning

Since high school I have told everyone that wanted to listen that I was a night owl (in Danish also referred to as a B-human being). This postulate made me believe that I would never be able to wake up fresh in the morning because that was not the person I was and that was an ability I simply did not have in my repertoire. However, one year ago I started to realize that maybe I could fake myself into being an early riser instead of a night owl.

So, I started forcing myself to wake up at 5AM every morning for three months and kept telling myself most of the mornings how amazing this was even though I felt horrible the first month waking up that early. This has been a real game changer for me and if you are going around telling people that you can not wake up fresh in the mornings, maybe it is time to start acting your way into new thoughts.

2. Eating healthy

As most people on this planet I love eating unhealthy stuff filled with salt, sugar and all these beautiful E-numbers. However, when you think about what superstars and some of the biggest performers around are eating you might realize that they would never be able to perform if they are not taking in the right diet.

Therefore, I started digging into what super performers and some of the most inspirational people of all time were suggesting for power foods in their lives. Honestly, some of the things sounded less fancy and delicious than the food I was eating at the moment. But I forced myself into eating more good fat, more protein and less carbohydrates. And yes, I still miss eating pasta, white bread and the like but by eating more good fat and more protein I feel much more energized during the day.

3. I can choose my own freedom

The third and last, but definitely not least, idea might be one of the most powerful things I have ever learned when studying personal development. But your open-mindedness to this fact is required here.

Viktor Frankl wrote in his wonderful book ‘Man’s search for Meaning” that:

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom”.

And that is one of the things I am spending most of my time trying to understand at the moment. Think about it for a second. When we face a difficult or challenging situation we can choose our own response. When something goes totally wrong in our life or we screw up things we should have been able to overcome we can still choose to react positively and focus on what we can learn from our screw ups. This might be one of the most impactful differences between people who succeed in life and people who don’t.

When I first learned about this concept I was quite skeptical. However, pretty fast I started faking my response in situations where I earlier would have lost my mind. It helped me getting back to my initial positive spirit just by remembering – and forcing my brain to understand – that it was totally up to myself to choose the right response.

Well, that is how I think we should end this blogpost! I would love to hear some comments from you about the “fake it till you make it”-topic.

If you are more interested in personal development and want to know more about the real life experiments of A. J. Jacobs I will recommend you to listen to this amazing podcast created by Lewis Howes. It takes you on a 50-minute journey into personal development and how to develop your body, mind and your inner greatness.

You can hear the podcast from the media player underneath or check out Lewis Howes’ homepage here.

Which kind of person do you want to be?

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world”

Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)

Almost everyday I face hundreds of people in my job at Copenhagen Airport. They are from everywhere in the world and they are traveling somewhere. Since I love chit-chatting with strangers and like to hear great stories I ask the people I serve pretty much everything from ‘how are you’ to ‘what’s the name of your cat’. However, there is a great difference in the enthusiasm, quality and happiness in their voices and in the languages they use. This made me wonder why some people tend to give me nothing to work with and others give me great experiences and a lot of interesting small talk.

Here’s what I found in the process.

1. Traveling vs. Holiday

The first thing I noticed was that the most enjoyable people to chit-chat with were typically traveling somewhere interesting. Beautiful places like Paris, Venice or California (people going to San Francisco might be the nicest of them all) and even places I have never heard of. On the other hand, the people going to charter vacation places like Mallorca or Thailand do not give me the same real enthusiasm as the travelers. The charter tourists typically have already been at their point of destination several times before. The travelers on the other hand tend to be ready to capture the world and ready to experience new things and new places.

2. Thankful vs. I-Dont-Care-About-You

Another interesting discovery I have done so far in this small in-my-head experiment is that some people seem so thankful for my presence and the way I serve them while others seem to believe I am an obstacle on their way to get some food before catching their flight. If you have never worked with service you might not have thought about it but please next time you are facing a person servicing you at a bar, restaurant or basically anywhere, ask yourself:

Do I show thankfulness for this persons presence and service or am I just showing him how annoyed I am that he is talking to ME?

3. “Let me try that” vs. “You do not have that?!”

The way we speak and use our words is so determent for how other people see us. I find the same thing being true in the airport. Some people always tend to try new stuff, being curious and just go for the alternative if I can’t help them with something or if my supply of regular Coke is out of stock. The “you do not have that?” people sometimes get really angry at me if I can’t supply them with regular coke, which makes me think about:

Why are some people so stuck with old habits that they get upset if they can’t have what they are always having?

4. “Smiling” vs. “Don’t look at me like that” 

The openminded people I truly love to serve always give me a big smile. They are naturally smiling and they want to make the world a better place to live in. They appreciate my smile and sometimes they are even impressed when I try to overdeliver in service. The other group of people are not smiling at all. Their body language tells me that they are only here of one simple reason: they just want two of my hotdogs – fast and with everything – so they can catch the flight they are already late for.

5. “More smiling” vs. “is THAT the price”?

The curious travelers have realized that buying stuff in an airport is like living in Denmark – everything is overpriced. So, even thought they might joke about the price they always pay the price with a big smile. They gladly pay $6 for their coffee because that is simply the price for a cup of coffee in the airport. However, on the other hand we have the tourists always making a comment about how this thing will ruin their budget or their financial position. I daily face people not willing to pay when they hear the price of the stuff they (voluntarily) took in the fridge and decided to buy.

Before ending this post I will like to invite you to think about the following question:

Which kind of person do you really want to be?

/Jeppe

The 7 books that have made the biggest impact on my life

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers”

Charles W. Eliot, former president at Harvard University (1834-1926)

Since I told you about why I think you should spend more time reading books I have felt great inspiration to write about the most impactful books I have read in my life. This list consists of 7 great books that are different from each other, but which all have inspired me to do some radical changes in different parts of my own life. Furthermore, the books have given me a strong belief in how important it is to read regularly to get inspired from wiser and smarter thinkers than yourself.

Here we go:

1. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari – Robin Sharma

This book is the absolute cornerstone in my own personal development process – and I am not the only one. More than 3 million people have bought this book and Robin Sharma keeps motivating people every day. If you like me have spend too much time chasing other people’s dreams or are putting (way) too much value into materialistic stuff I can guarantee you that this book will transform your life. If you want to take a look into the universe of Robin Sharma you can download his Little Black Book For Stunning Success free of charge here.

2. Steve Jobs – Walter Isaacson

When I started reading this book I thought it was a biography. But trust me, this book is so much more. It is a modern fable about a human being that was relentless in trying to achieve his biggest dreams. He might not have been the best boss, the best husband or the best dad but he has transformed all of our lives in some way. Walter Isaacson spend years following the Steve Jobs world and the book is not only well-written it is a manifesto of challenging the status quo in innovation, design and usability. I am serious: just read it!

3. The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho

This book has become classic travel literature but I will recommend you to read it when you are not traveling because it gives you so much wanderlust to travel the world and to expand your wildest dreams. The book is about a Spanish boy named Santiago that one day decides to go on a journey to Egypt to find treasure. On his way he encounters several obstacles and learn so many valuable and useful lessons that can be applied to his own life (and yours of course). Furthermore, it is a book about following your heart and your dreams, which is something that can be challenging in a busy everyday life.

4. Walden – Henry David Thoreau

A book I thought about reading for several months before I read it as the first in 2015. After living in a remote area in Nepal I start experimenting with living with less and that is a concept Thoreau valued and was inspired by as well. In 1845 he moved to a remote area in the woods of Walden in the state of Massachusetts, US, to live deliberately and a spartan life with minimum needs in order to sustain life. To me, this book has become something more and I will love to read it again because it made me realize how few of the things we have or consume that we simply do not need. I will recommend you to read it in English because the language Thoreau uses can be difficult to translate directly to Danish.

5. The Art of Happiness – Dalai Lama & Howard Cutler

On my path to finding more happiness, my grandmother lend me a copy of this wonderful book where the American Psychiatrist Howard Cutler interviews the spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet the Dalai Lama. I have always been fascinated by Dalai Lama and even though I did not visited Tibet on my Asia-journey last fall I read a couple of his books in my time in Nepal. It is a book about how the Dalai Lama believes that people inherently have the ability to find happiness but in our modern society with our superficial beliefs and materialistic needs are obstructing our way to true happiness and fulfillment. This book made me consider my own values and beliefs and has truly been a great inspiration in my everyday life.

An open mind is definitely necessary when reading this book and if personal development, mindfulness etc. are new words to you I will recommend you to start with one of the other books. However, I strongly believe that this book will help you consider what your true values and beliefs are, which might help you live a more deliberate life.

6.  7 Habits Of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey 

Stephen Covey’s bestseller from 1989 still stands as one of the most impactful books in the category of personal development. For me this book has been crucial and his 7 habits have helped me a lot on my way to develop a more sustainable and strong character. Covey’s book helps you apply his concept to your everyday life and though some of the habits require some serious willpower and personal investment. I have found especially the habits about interdependence (habit 4 to 6) very helpful to understand other people better. Right now I am reading this book for the third time and I am finding new valuable advices and inspiration every time I read it.

7. The Story of My Experiments With Truth – Mohandas K. Gandhi 

I bought this book at the official Gandhi Museum in Madurai in India for the price of less than $1, which makes it the best investment I have ever done. This biography about the life of the younger Gandhi overwhelmed me and made me understand why life should be lived for a higher purpose. Until his death he sticked to his values and beliefs no matter how ill he was, how much danger he was in or even how scared he was; he never did anything that wasn’t part of his set of values. Furthermore, he kept his needs to a bare minimum and spend everyday of his life fighting for a higher purpose and ultimately he helped India become an independent country. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know the story about Gandhi because no matter what this book will take you on a journey that will question everything you do that is not aligned with your values, beliefs or dreams. You can read the book online here.

Thanks for reading this Tuesday-treat – I sincerely hope that you will pick up one of the books within your nearest future. And please, if you have read some tremendous life changing books, share them with us in the comments!

Happy reading.

/Jeppe