One of the gifts in my life is the opportunity to train new Bar Method teachers. In this training process, I nurture potential into reality. I see fears conquered. I witness weakness transform to strength. I am surrounded by courage – the courage to try, to try again, to keep trying…to not give up!
When I start a training session I explain that becoming a Bar Method teacher will change their lives. Some get it right away, however most don’t. How can teaching an exercise class transform my life? Then, after the first half of day #1 in training, their eyes widen, mouths drop, brows furrow…quickly they learn what I’m talking about.
A strategy I’ve developed in teaching Bar Method – to keep trying when times are tough – is what I call my “Rocky time.”
My Rocky Time is like this: if I’m feeling anxious, off-center, exhausted, stressed, distracted – anything that throws me off while teaching – I go into the bathroom, lock the door, stand in front of the mirror and hopefully I’m wearing a hoody so I can put my hood up. I lock eyes with myself and start a little jive and groove in the mirror, bring my fists up to my chest and prance around some more, rolling my head and shoulders to shake down the stress, and quickly I’m smiling and I feel ready and excited to enter the ring!
There are a million reasons why we often feel “we can’t” perform. Part of my Rocky Time is amp’ing myself up to “fake it til I make it!”
“Fake it til you make it” is a common catchphrase that means to imitate confidence so that as the confidence produces success, it will generate real confidence. The purpose is to avoid getting stuck in a self fulfilling prophecy related to one’s fear of not being confident, e.g., by thinking, “I can’t do xyz because they’ll see that I’m not good enough…”
When I work with trainees, I stress the idea of going through the routines of class as if one were relaxed, having fun and confident, despite the fact that initially it feels forced, and continue doing this until the confidence and joy becomes real. This is an example of a positive feedback loop.
I’m not a believer in the disease model of addiction (but that’s a whole different topic), but it’s powerful that the phrase “fake it til you make it” is often associated with Alcoholics Anonymous even though it does not appear in either of the books that form the foundation of the AA program, Alcoholics Anonymous describes it as a “suggestion often made to newcomers who feel they can’t get the program and will go back to old behavior. The suggestion implies that if the newcomer acts according to the steps and teachings of the program, then the program will begin to work and the anxiety will fall away.”
It takes courage to fake it til you make it. One must leap into discomfort and struggle, wrestle with internal demons and self-criticism, and find victory. Or sometimes fail and then get back into the ring and keep trying.
As I shared earlier, my time in India and experiences with my friend Gared created an interest in Hindu traditions and Buddhism. Courage and patience appear as the first two of ten characteristics of dharma (one’s personal obligations) in the Hindu Manusmruti, which according to Hindu tradition, records the words of Brahma, a Hindi God.
It takes patience to have courage, and the more courage you have the more patient you become. (Another positive feedback loop)
I’ve been reading “the courage to be” (1952) by Paul Tillich(a Theologian). Holy smokes this is an intense book! It’s difficult to understand and absorb. After reading two sentences I put the book down, take my notebook and try to write his thoughts in my own words. This typically results in a blank page for about 30 minutes. I like this type of challenge. I like stretching my brain so much it hurts.
In my own words, Tillich believes that if we’re being – living in Truth (that’s “Truth” with a capital “T”!) – we will be courageous. The focus on trying to be courageous is superficial because we’re “trying” and not simply being.
So Paul (I prefer to call Tillich by his first name) was a theologian and had a lot of time to contemplate his navel, and as many philosophers during his time, he spent loads of time concentrating on what it means to be, to exist, to be a finite human being.
In my experience, if I simply be – exist, I won’t always do as well as I want because my temperament will get in the way and my demons (baggage) will feature. Therefore, while I want to be and have the courage to simply be, I embrace the courage to know that only being can get me in hot water and I need to work hard – to learn – to think, consider options and made mindful choices.
I don’t think one is born courageous. Rather, we’re born with temperaments and if one of our temperaments is cautiousness – then it might be more difficult to develop courage. Similarly is one’s temperament is anxiety, it also might be tough. However, if one’s temperament is thrill seeking, I wonder if they develop courage with more ease because they “dive in head first” and crave risk and the juice that comes with risk-taking. And diving in headfirst all the time might cause a lot of headaches; but it also might develop courage because there is less fear limiting one’s journey.
I’ve always believed that courage is developed – that we are born with roots of courage and then through life experiences, we build our courage muscles through trial and error — by conquering challenging situations or developing skills in particular areas.
Fake it til you make it. “…til you make it” — a key feature of this phrase – it demands that we can’t give up. We have to keep trying.