How can you fake it?

March 2, 2016 by Blog No Comments

How can you fake it?

In my last blog I talked about all our habits and behaviour being stored in the unconscious mind so we don’t have to keep relearning how to do things.  Imagine if every time we approached a closed door we had to relearn how to open it!  The more we practice a new behaviour the more unconscious it becomes and a new habit is formed.

The job of the unconscious mind is to back up anything we consciously tell it.  If our inner voice is saying we are fearful of a situation the unconscious mind will “hear” there is a threat and it will produce behaviour to keep us safe from that risk.

wonder-animatedOur body language also sends messages about how we’re thinking and feeling about a situation to our brain.  If we are making ourselves “small” our body is telling us there is a perceived threat that we need to protect ourselves from.  Amy Cuddy’s fabulous TED Talk talks about practicing power poses prior to a potentially worrying situation which increases the testosterone (the hormone which makes us feel powerful) in our body. This sends the message to the brain that we are in control.  Amy Cuddy talks about “faking it until you become it” – practicing a new way of behaving which will get you the outcome you want.  Act as if you have all the resources and skills needed to achieve that goal and you can fool your unconscious mind into believing that you actually do.  The more you can take action and practice the new behaviour the more comfortable it will become and the more it will become unconscious behaviour.  A new, resourceful habit.

When I first set up my business I realised I needed to confront my fear of public speaking to start the dreaded networking.  The first couple of times I did my elevator pitch (which I’d practiced repeatedly for days in advance and knew off my heart) my brain went blank when I stood up to speak – a classic symptom of my body going into survival mode as it had detected a threat.  I somehow bumbled my way through it and used the open networking afterwards to fill in any gaps I may have missed out during my pitch.  As I got more relaxed about networking and realised that most people experience the same dread of standing up and doing their pitches I got more practised at speaking from the heart during my pitches about what I truly believed in and I noticed that when I did this I used my whole body to communicate my message.  My arms moved about when I spoke, my feet were planted on the floor and my shoulders were no longer up by my ears.  Taking the pressure off trying to remember my pitch word for word allowed me to be more grounded and more ME.

So one beautiful Spring morning when I strode into a networking group with my newfound confidence and authenticity I found myself sitting at the far end of the table which would mean I was the last to speak.  Was I going to hear what anyone else said because I was going to be so busy practising my own elevator pitch in my head while waiting for everyone to do theirs?  “Yes”, I said to myself.  “I feel completely relaxed because all I do is stand up and speak from the heart and do my stuff”.  As the pitches got closer to me I was so focussed on what people were saying and writing notes about their offerings I hadn’t realised that because the first person to speak hadn’t stood up, nobody else had chosen to stand up to do their pitch.  Suddenly it was my turn to speak and my brain said, “don’t stand up, nobody else did!”  My brain went blank and I completely fluffed my elevator pitch!

What on earth had happened, I asked myself.  My brain had heard, “this is the old way of behaving, there must be a threat!”  I was now so used to standing up and talking confidently with my body, sitting down was “hiding” so there must have been a threat!

I will never ever sit down to do an elevator pitch again 🙂

Choosing new ways of behaving may seem awkward and difficult at first.  Try folding your arms the way you would naturally do it and then try it the other way around.  The more you unfold and refold your arms the way you wouldn’t normally do the easier it becomes.  Proof that the more we practice a new behaviour the easier it becomes and the more likely it is to slip into unconscious, habitual behaviour.

What strategies can you use to help you fake it until you become it?