The Science Behind “Fake It Till You Make It”

Max Weigand
3 min readDec 6, 2017


“Even when everything is going terribly and I have no reason to be confident, I just decide to be.” — Derek Sivers

I love this quote because it makes it so abundantly clear that no matter what happens in life, taking control of your mind is always a choice.

We often tend to think that we need to feel confident, outgoing, happy, energetic, or motivated first in order to do something. That, if something doesn’t feel right from the start, it’s not supposed to be.

But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

When you’re trying to make a change or build a new habit, it won’t feel right in the beginning. Our brains are designed to conserve energy, and the best way to do that is to run the same mental loops over and over again so you don’t have to spend precious energy on active thinking.

And so when you finally decide to change, it will feel wrong. It will feel awkward. Loving yourself, smiling for no reason, becoming more confident or outgoing, they will all feel like you’re lying to yourself.

When that happens, most people give up. I certainly have, more often than I like to admit. You get stuck in analysis paralysis, question your entire life, and wonder why you can’t will yourself into being a better version of yourself. Not a good idea.

Luckily, research has shown a better way:

Act before you think

By acting in a confident, outgoing, happy, or motivated way, we can change our mental state.

Here’s just three examples:

1. Amy Cuddy from Harvard Business School found that standing in a more confident“power pose” actually makes you feel more confident. While the research community is still debating over her results, I think that the most important thing is this: It works.

Just try it out for a few seconds: Stand (or sit) up tall and make yourself as big as possible. Chances are, you won’t need a psychologist to explain to you that you feel better.

2. Tim Wilson from the University of Virginia has found that the best way to change our identity is to change our behavior first.

Here’s Tim:

“Often, if we want to change who we think we are, one of the best ways to do it is to change our behavior first. If we want to become a little more extroverted, then act that way for a while. Force ourselves to act in an extroverted way. If we want to become better, more pro-social, helpful people, well then go out and do some volunteer work. Often, the story follows the behavior change.”

Act before you think. The feelings will follow.

3. Flash a smile. This is easily one of my favorite life hacks of all time because it’s so simple. Just smile. You don’t have to feel like it. You don’t even need to be in a good mood. Smiling is a physical act, so you can always do it.

Through a feedback loop between your facial muscles and your brain, you will automatically feel better. Don’t trust me? Just flash that beautiful smile of yours!

Just Do It

There is something special about Nike’s slogan that makes it stand out from the rest. Do you remember Adidas’ slogan? Or BMW’s? Me neither. And I’m from Germany.

I think it’s because “just do it” rings so true. It’s so easy to get stuck in overthinking and analysis paralysis that we often forget this simple truth:

If you want something, go get it. Period.

If you liked this article, I am sure you will LOVE the science-backed ebook I have written on building willpower and self-discipline! You can download it here for FREE.

Read Next

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The Science Behind Fake it Till You Make it

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Max Weigand

I help ambitious individuals achieve their goals and boost their happiness and mental strength. Find more content at