Many years ago I did lots of clinical work in alcoholism. This entry's title comes from one of AA's most helpful slogans. I would drag new people to AA meetings, and experienced AA members would tell the newcomers to, "just keep coming back," and to, "fake it 'til you make it." Act as if something's true, they were saying, and, soon enough, it can become true.
I was reminded of this idea reading Seth Godin's blog this morning. In it, Seth tells a tale of two Starbuck's. Waiting outside the store, he hears employees kvetching about their jobs, their hours and #%$^&@ customers. Inside, he experiences their brethren as authentically enjoying making herbal tea and enthusiastically waiting on customers. The difference? Seth says:
[The insiders] had decided to enjoy their jobs, they were enjoying their jobs and it was helping not just Starbucks, but it them, too.
Human freedom is the ability to determine, and embody, our own attitude about any set of circumstances. Where one person decides to kvetch and complain, another makes an entirely different commitment.
Now, what AA's slogan taught me is that your whole heart does not have to be in an act from the very first moment in order for that act to be authentic. We may have an intent for something to be true and then bring it to life in our behavior; giving intention momentum through action.
So, the enthusiastic Starbuck's employees may not have been all that gleeful when they woke up that morning, but by deciding to take steps that would enable them to become enthusiastic (faking it until they could make it), they actually became so. Which makes all the difference in the world.
This idea, by the way, is closely aligned with one of the greatest pieces of wisdom I ever learned: we become what we think about.