03/20/2013 06:06 pm ET Updated May 20, 2013

Using the Monkey See, Monkey Do Theory in Your Dating Life

For many years, I was a competitive tennis player, both on the junior tournament circuit and at college. One of my favorite pre-match activities was to watch a professional match on tape, featuring the best female tennis players in the world. I'd study their strokes, their perfect racket follow-through, their footwork. I'd also observe their focus, their confidence, their body language, their fire (Serena!). I'd then attempt to emulate their stroke precision, footwork, and persona in my own matches, especially when I was nervous, competing against a tough opponent, or my game was feeling off. I'd visualize the women I had just watched and pretend to be one of them while on the court. Monkey see, monkey do, also known as "modeling."

This strategy proved to be very helpful for me. I believe one of my strengths in my tennis game was my mental toughness, which helped me push through my fear and nerves when it just might have been easier to lay down, "tank" (as tennis aficionados like to say), and give in to the pressure.

I'd argue that the same monkey see, monkey do modeling strategy can be helpful in the dating world. A lot of the women I work with in my dating coaching practice feel a sense of panic, not only about the fate of their love lives ("What if I end up alone?" or "I hold on to non-committal men with whom I have chemistry, because I'm afraid another man like that will never come along.") but also about their ability to get that second date with men they like ("What am I doing wrong?" or "I keep screwing things up.").

There's a lot to unpack with those statements. And while the client and I certainly work to get to the bottom of what's behind those statements and to understand the client's limiting core beliefs about themselves, dating, men, relationships, intimacy, and the like, I also encourage women to give the monkey see, monkey do concept a try in their dating lives. That means taking on a persona, faking it until you make it, in a sense. This sort of modeling can influence their thoughts and actions with regard to their experiences in the dating world, and, when used successfully, can ultimately aid them in the creation of new, more positive beliefs and attitudes.

For example, I ask women to watch this video. I ask them to observe the women who are singing. Notice their strength and confidence but also watch their movements, which are slow and soft and intentional. Watch the way they are emotionally expressive, vulnerable, feminine, tender.

Next, I ask them to watch a short ballet routine by the inimitable ballerina Polina Semionova. I tell them to watch how composed and confident she is but also to appreciate that she is emotionally expressive, soft, tender, curious, inviting. She trusts herself, (of course she does, she has practiced a ton!). She's in charge of herself, knows who she is and what she wants. She's not desperate. These are qualities that men love to see in women but ones that many women have a hard time projecting.

Stepping into this persona, modeling these women and visualizing the beautiful qualities they project (instead of just telling yourself to "be more confident or patient this time around") when you have moments of panic in your dating life or you feel yourself walling off or getting anxious on dates, can help you relax and enjoy the moment more. And when you relax, enjoy the moment more, and aren't ruled by fear and panic, you'll start having better results in your dating life.

Monkey see, monkey do.