How About Rethinking “Fake it Until You Make It.”

“Fake it until you make it!” is doled out as the answer to many a problem we face.  Often it is accompanied by no other directions or instructions.  Just “fake it until you make it!”  That is all we apparently need to know.  We throw this advice around like it is a magic pill or that that special red Staples easy button when pushed will resolve most if not all life challenges.

Is this really the best advice to give?  Is it really helpful to just throw this out as the solution?   Does it work?  Does it actually work?  If it works, what makes it work?  If it doesn’t work or is contraindicated as a strategy, how can we know it and recommend something better?

I think it is time that we rethink “fake it until you make it!” as a blanket strategy to cure all life ills and solve all problems.  I would like to advocate for a new and improved approach.  I believe there is something better than this!


Having spent a lot of time as a boy in the car with my mom, I learned many lessons about life and living.  One that sticks out to me is the importance of sincerity—being real and committed.  Mom taught me to be honest, committed and follow through with what I aspired to do.  She taught me to do things with sincerity, dedication, determination, and genuineness.

Sincerity has been defined as “the virtue of one who communicates and acts in accordance with their feelings, beliefs, thoughts, and desires.”  In short, it is being true!

I love this summary of sincerity I discovered recently: “Sincerity is a mix of seriousness and honesty. If you do things with sincerity, people will trust you.
Along with patience and compassion, sincerity is one of those qualities we all probably wish we had more of — and wish other people had more of, too. People who show sincerity are being serious, kind, and truthful.”

Navigating the roads of life

What a powerful statement!  Who among us does not wish to be described as patient, honest, compassionate, and trustworthy?  We all know people who are genuine, dedicated, and sincere.  We love them!

What if we approached life challenges with a little more sincerity and genuineness and a little less faking it?  How might this change things?

Author, philosopher, and civil rights leader, Howard Thurman helps us with this when he said: “There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have.”

If the genuine in us—sincerity—is to be our guide, how can we add this to navigating the roads of life and the road blocks and speed bumps we will encounter?  May I humbly suggest a few things to help us be less fake in approaching life challenges?

Clear Values

One of the best exercises I have ever done was to study a long list of values and select those most impactful to me.  I was told I could only select the top two or three influential values.  Of course, I circled so many of these values I felt were important.  How was I ever going to choose just three?

As I continued to work on this, I had to ask myself questions like “Which of these values influences most of my daily decisions?  What experiences have I had that reflect these values?”  I also found myself pondering on what value-breeches upset me the most.  What news stories of another politician or celebrity doing dumb stuff irked me the most?

As I started to narrow down my list, I came to my top three values.  I could clearly explain how they impacted what I do and what means the most to me.  I could also see them clearly on the roadmap of my life.

You see, our strongly held values help guide the way for us.  They could be the root of the most genuine in us.  We are most sincere and powerful when we are living in accordance with our internal values.  I can truly say that I have been most happy, effective, and confident when I was living true to my core values.

There is power in knowing, instilling, and living per our core values.  This is power that can be harnessed to make meaningful change in our lives.  True values shape behavior more than behavior modification does.  So, let’s get clear on our values and align ourselves with them!

Sincere Intent

An exercise leaders and counselors often have people do is write their own eulogy.  This exercise focuses the person on how they want to be remembered and what they might want said about them at some future day.  If you have not done this, I recommend it.

Doing this exercise often helps a person take their core values and move them to what they most care about and deeply desire to achieve, accomplish, and realize.  An activity like this can really crystallize what matters most to you.

When you know what matters most to you in terms of what you wish to be, you start to feel power and motivation to move.  What you really, internally wish for and desire becomes the horsepower in your engine!  It can really rev things up.

Many religious traditions speak of sincere intent (see Protestant, Islamic, LDS, for example) and often, include phrases like “a sincere heart and real intent.”  This is compelling.  It hints at digging deep inside to determine what you really want and desire.  What really gets you moving each day?

I remember learning of a summer camp as a teen called “YOUGOTTAWANNA.”  How is that for a name of a summer camp?  It is even better as a motto for successful achievement in life.  It is a truth that you must want it!  No amount of faking can overcome not wanting something.

It may be that nothing can stop truly wanting something.  Stepping on the gas of sincere intent does get the heart into it.  If you want to make powerful change, discover what you truly wish for most and go after it.

Becoming it

Awhile back, I discovered Amy Cuddy and her TED talk entitled “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.”   It was a fascinating topic to me and I loved how she summed up her work and research on presence and power poses.  Maybe her most powerful statement was: “Don’t fake it until you make it, fake it until you become it.”

Then she gave powerful direction to be present in challenging moments as you “incrementally nudge yourself to become the best version of yourself.”   This is powerful stuff here!

What do you wish to become?  What little things can you do today to move one step closer to it?  What values guide the way?  What sincere and genuine steps can you take to move closer to it?  What do you really want to do and be?  Work at it.

Please don’t just fake it until you make it.  Get clear on your guiding values.  Look with sincere heart and genuine intention toward what you want and desire most in life.  Then, determine with precision the little steps toward that and get started!

Thanks to my mom who taught me to do this!  Happy Mother’s Day!

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