Fake it 'til you make it

Sometimes expressing your feelings and being "authentic" is over-rated. I think it's better to fake courtesy even when you don't feel like it. Here's a reminder of why... *** REPOST ***


If you've been routed through or stopped in the LA airport in the past 3-4 years, you've probably noticed that the place is stuck in seemingly endless construction.  The work isn't about a new coat of paint or replacing a tired escalator - there's something major happening there.  The work is extensive enough to cause major redirections of passengers through a maze of terminals and construction scaffolding.  In much of the terminal the ceilings are out, so the noise is only slightly lower than the decibels coming from a Justin Bieber concert hyped up on Red Bull.  The dust is bad enough that people resort to using their scarves to cover their faces as they race to baggage claim.

In the face of this mess, the construction planners came up with a brilliant marketing angle.  They chose to do something different, lean into it, and have some fun with the people they were disturbing.   They decided simply to ask people to practice a skill  that most of us are quite able to do...whether we like to admit it or not.

They asked everyone to "fake it."

Ignore the construction and "act as if" the inconvenience isn't an inconvenience.  I love this sign, and not simply because it's clever marketing in the city of Los Angeles (where every waiter and bartender is an aspiring actor or musician), but also because it reminds me of a simple truth.

Feelings follow behavior.

Let me explain.  In your high school biology class (or, more realistically, on Wikipedia) this is called a "positive feedback loop."  It means that if you act in a certain way, even if you don't feel like it, eventually your feelings will adjust to your behavior and will end up matching it.  In the case of the LA airport construction, the planners want you to you act like you don't mind the mess, so that eventually you will not mind the mess.  It's a great concept for the construction team to utilize, but I think it's also something that can be applied in just about every one of life's environments.

Think about it this way. When you're walking through the day, think about how people would be impacted if you "faked" this kind of behavior...

  • Patience when there's a long line at a store
  • Generous accommodation for the car that's squeezing into the lane in front of you
  • Helpfulness with a stranger in need (when you don't really have time)
  • Gentleness when a person says something harsh to you
  • Grace when someone makes a mistake

I realize that it may seem far-fetched, but, seriously, try it.  You'll be surprised how "faking the desired behavior" plants the seed that eventually grows into the desire to truly be that way.  Could it be called inauthentic?  Sure.  But, walk away guilt-free knowing that this little fake is laying the groundwork for the version of you that you want to be.  Think about it.

Faking it is worth it because behavior eventually changes the feelings, and changed feelings eventually change behavior for good.  In a work setting, what would happen if you acted like...

  • The co-worker wasn't being rude, but just short on words in the name of efficiency?
  • Finding the solution to the problem was going to be a fun challenge?
  • That "gap" in understanding doesn't necessarily mean that everyone is out to get you?
  • The highest goal for my work isn't credit and acclaim for me, but for the success of the team?
  • Honest feedback was a desired gift to me, not a punishment?
  • That unique, eccentric person is a truly interesting and fascinating part of the team?

With your family or in your home, what would it be like if you acted as if...

  • Your children were capable of being more independent and deserve a chance to prove it?
  • Your spouse's opinion was valid and deserves deep understanding from you?
  • Everyone in your family isn't there to serve your needs and pleasures?
  • The long-standing disagreement with your siblings is worth hammering through?
  • Your parents know a lot more than you...and you should give them your ear?
  • Your neighbors might just be a bit misunderstood?

If you're like me, each day holds surprises, challenges, and disappointments.  My goal is that I won't let my feelings dictate my behavior, but that I will "act as if" I don't mind the challenges...

...even if it takes a little "faking it."