When I first started writing these pages I thought although there are so many clearly wise quotes, it’s often unclear how we can use them in our everyday lives. The saying ‘fake it until you make it’ is one of these sayings. Besides it takes a lot of effort for me to pretend to be good at something or comfortable with something that make me feel uneasy. Is that really being authentic? Even now I find myself asking, “Can I be more self directed and less, well fake?” Yet as I find myself playing the devil’s advocate I can’t help but notice that it kinda works. Still there must be a better way of breaking ‘fake it till you make it’ down so we can all use this like a real technique.
The player of the inner game comes to value the art of relaxed concentration above all other skills; she discovers a true basis for self-confidence; and she learns that the secret to winning any game lies in not trying too hard.
—W. Timothy Gallwey, The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance
Judson Brewer, MD, PhD, Director of Research at the Center for Mindfulness and Associate Professor in medicine and psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, explains, in his book The Craving Mind: From Cigarettes to Smartphones to Love? Why We Get Hooked and How We Can Break Bad Habits, that the mindfulness skills of curiosity and attentiveness are keys to both living more fully and kicking bad habits and even breaking addiction.
Turning my own experience and having that experience confirmed by the likes of Brewer, I try to avoid faking “it” and instead I try to be with “it.” In the beginning it was particularly difficult when I felt unwanted emotions. “Unwanted emotions” is code word for me feeling cranky, angry, frustrated etc. But after learning to stick with the unwanted I realized that I can use this to more fully appreciate happy, joyful, peaceful moments too. So here’s what I do to be more with the moment with my emotions. I S-T-O-P.
Take a breath
Observe my experience (notice any thoughts, physical sensations and emotions)
Proceeds with something that will support me in the moment
How and why does S-T-O-P work? It is a way to slow down and pay attention to whatever is going on. So simple, but by stopping and slowing down (what Brewer calls being attentive) then taking note (being curious) you can clearly see both what’s going on, how what’s going on effects you and then weight the results depending on how you decide to respond. Plus you gain the added bonus of building in a moment of reflection. With time S-T-O-P can become your default reaction. In the moment between an event and your response you can decide whether the behavior is going help or harm you. All this makes it possible for you to identify your blind spots, break habits and overcome craving. It really is kind of wonderful. If something pleasant is happening, you’ll be position to appreciate it more and if something, not so pleasant is happening you’ll be in a position to decide how to best react to it too. That’s what I call a process.
It’s a little act no one will notice while we’re doing it, but they will certain notice how all of a sudden we are responding to people, things and situations differently. I still chuckle when I remember the first time Sebastian started to comment on how I has begun to change how I responded to things. “Oh, you don’t usually do that…” Even funnier is when I’d fall off the wagon and he’s ask, “Have you meditated today?” because he didn’t know exactly what had changed but something had. In any case, with a practice you can start to build a sense of balanced self-knowing and peace of mind built on a firm appreciation of reality, so the real authentic me can shine through. This is a process we can call on whenever and where ever we want or need it. And you can benefit again and again no matter what’s going on because you’ll always be able to choose to do what’s appropriate in the moments.
But that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Once you’ve applied this technique you can build on it. Here are three ways you can take this knowledge out into your world:
- Know you have what it takes. Call on your increased self-awareness to get to know your inner game. Your inner game is what takes place in your mind, fear, self-doubt, lapses in focus, and limiting concepts or assumptions. Steven Pressfield describes his inner game like this when asked when does a writer get to call himself a writer he said, “You are when you say you are.” He goes on to say, for him, this meant he had to start thinking like a professional if he wanted others to take him seriously, so success was all in his head. Pressfield small step toward success began in his mind.
- Behave as if it’s true. This is like learning how to invest your money before you win the lottery, so you won’t loose when your numbers hit. John Grisham said when he decided he wanted to be a writer, he got up every day and treating his hobby like a job. He wrote a little bit every day. He didn’t quitting his day job or taking a giant leap. He just took one small step in the right direction every day. Frequent small steps beat occasional big leaps every time and gets you ready for the big day.
- Learn. Build. Repeat. Use this new information in your decision-making to reflect and build on what you have learned from previous steps. This is important because every time you act, reality changes. Sometimes the step you take gets you nearer to what you want; sometimes what you want changes. If you pay attention, you always learn something. So after you act, ask, “Did these steps get me closer to my goal?”
Start in the present moment, then take small steps and over time you will become your dream because little steps add up. But the process is just as valuable as the outcome. Try to not let that fact slip your attention. Why? Because during the time that you are becoming your dream, you learn and perfect your craft. So while you shouldn’t rush, consistency is the key. Michael Hyatt, author, blogger, speaker, and the former chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, says with regards to taking small steps to achieve your goals that “Before you know it, [taking small step] you are no longer dreaming of being a writer or an entrepreneur or an artist. You will become your dream.”
So, start collecting small successes and build on them. You don’t have to start by looking fear in the face or doing anything scary. Just take one step forward and do it well. That how you start to build real tangible success. Once you have that going, if big leaps are to be made, after you S-T-O-P, you’ll know it when you see it and you’ll make that decision when the time is right.
Becoming more you is readily doesn’t have to be daunting if you have the patience to be where you are. And what’s even better is this is a little thing that will help you build your self-confidence as well as your success – after all, your confidence will come from real, solid achievement that prove you are what you say you are. No one can take this away from you! Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter write in their book Everything to Gain: Making the Most of the Rest of Your Life, “You can do what you have to do, and sometimes you can do it even better than you think you can.” Now go do you, no one else is qualified for the job anyway.