You've heard the sayings 'fake it till you make it' or 'deed before creed'. But how far can a little self delusion really take you?

I recently had the opportunity to attend a talk by author and journalist AJ Jacobs who put an interesting spin on the concept of making it until you fake it. An upholder who most definitely does something when he says he will, Jacobs has completed several long term experiments where he pretends to be something he is not, simply in order to see what it is like. There are few more challenging projects than his year of living biblically – which as the name suggests had him spend an entire year following every rule in the bible.

Living in modern USA, this sounds an impossible task even before you consider all the preposterous and conflicting rules to be found in the old testament. As Jacobs describes, one such rule was that a man must not sit in the chair that a menstruating woman has sat in, as this chair has become defiled. His wife took offense to this rule and deliberately sat in every chair in the house whilst menstruating, meaning that Jacobs had to spend most of the year standing in his own house. That’s the extent to which he follows the rules! A pretty amazing feat for most of us that begin to wobble on our New Years resolutions by mid-January.

So this story might seem ludicrous and it is easy to wonder what the point of such a project might be. But along the way Jacobs made the realisation that if you pretend to be a better person, you will eventually become a better person.

If you pretend to be a better person, you will eventually become a better person.

Cue the art of self delusion.

“Used in the right way” Jacobs explains, “self delusion has the power to make you more confident. More optimistic. More anything.”

And it wasn’t just in his crazy projects that self delusion proved useful. When Jacobs found himself procrastinating over his own marketing, he asked himself the question – “What would a creative / successful / optimistic / confident person do now?”.

What would a creative / successful / optimistic / confident person do now?

By asking questions like ‘how can I make this more creative?’ or “how can I reach a different audience?” Jacobs reframed the thing he didn’t want to do as fun or art. And in the process was able to come up with unique ideas about how to increase interest in his work. He took advantage of every opportunity that came his way and pretended he was enjoying it. And eventually he really did start to enjoy it.

But does it really work?

An amazingly simple, but overlooked premise – this concept of ‘Fake it till you make it’ or ‘Deed before creed’, had been around long before Jacobs recent epiphany. However it is something that is still being explored and discovered today. There are many studies today about the power of positive thinking and body language, including a Harvard study that links the power position to an increase in testosterone levels. Nothing to be afraid of for women that don’t want to suddenly start growing a beard. But just enough to boost your confidence and prove that there are physiological reasons why ‘talking the talk and walking the walk’ actually works.

Of course this idea doesn’t just have to be about building confidence and individual development. Pretending to walk in another persons shoes can help us to understand, connect with and influence those people.

Pretending to walk in another persons shoes can help us to understand, connect with and influence those people.

So perhaps before you ask for your next pay rise, you should try walking in your bosses shoes.