One of my favorite former college professors used to have this saying: "Fake it 'til you make it." For some reason, it was one of those little things that stuck with me, and that I've gone on to apply to my life, and particularly to my athletic pursuits.
It makes a lot of sense, really: If you truly want to be something - whether that be a professional athlete, doctor, firefighter, writer, teacher... anything, really - you might as well start by playing the part.
Personally, I live by this little mantra every day. I remind myself to "fake it 'til I make it" as I go into training sessions, in racing, during recovery periods, while trying to learn more about endurance sports and how I can improve my performance, and as I face the many challenges that come along with working toward becoming a professional athlete.
For me, this concept serves as a motivating reminder that I am working toward a goal; a destination, really. I am working to become something I have longed to be for quite sometime. It reminds me that there is a reason, and a purpose, for my efforts.
The fake-it-'til-you-make-it concept also helps me go above and beyond what I might otherwise be willing to do. I know that my goal is to become a top-level professional triathlete. As such, I know there are certain things I need to be doing to accomplish that goal. Ultimately, I need to act as though I am that top-level professional already.
It seems to me that if I want top-level-professional performance, I need to be putting in top-level-professional effort, right now. I need to be working to do all of the right things, not just in my training, but outside of it as well. I am constantly working to remind myself that, as any top professional would do, I need to not only be willing to work hard, but to train smart, to recover completely, to sleep enough, to eat well, to say positive, to approach my racing with the confidence of a pro... and the list goes on.
Ultimately, I need to be reaching beyond my current capability levels. If I want to be a better athlete than I am now, I need to act like it. I need to buy into the lifestyle, and play the part. I need to "fake it" - for now - until I really make it.
This is the fake-it-'til-you-make-it mindset. In my opinion, it is a mindset and strategy that can be applied to just about anything in life, not just athletics. Personally, I believe that by acting and living as though we've already arrived where we want to be, we are that much more likely to get there.
So if you want to be X, Y or Z, you'd better start acting like X, Y or Z. Keep your destination steady in your heart, do all the things you would if you had already arrived there, stay the course, have fun along the way, and before you know it, there you'll be. I, for one, am still working on that final step, but I'm confident that if I can keep "faking" it wholeheartedly, and continue to enjoy the journey, I will in fact "make" it, soon enough.
- Kara LaPoint is an elite amateur triathlete competing for LUNA bar, and working up to the pro ranks. She has earned numerous overall amateur podium finishes and age-group wins across distances from Olympic to Ironman, and finished the 2011 season ranked as an All-American nationally among her age group (25-29). Read more about her racing and training at www.karalapoint.wordpress.com. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.