New Year’s Resolutions

Making New Year’s resolutions has always left me a little suspicious. Why? There’s always been a tiny tremor of doubt that I was simply setting myself up for disappointment. These “resolutions” felt as lame and as anemic as a Hallmark Christmas movie plot. I’d sometimes feel a knot in my stomach anticipating the moment (often within weeks) of the new year that I would break one. What seemed like a sure bet would just as soon evaporate into the land of “why bother” or “maybe next year.”
 
I concluded that making a New Year’s resolution was about as dependable as a politician’s promise.
 
Over time, I came to realize that I was setting myself up for failure because I was committing myself to a result rather than committing myself to a process.
 
I also realized that a resolution was just a fancy word for a decision to break or develop a habit. Also changing your “mindset” is not as simple as it sounds. You can’t change a mindset with the same ease as changing a shirt or what to eat for dinner. Changing a mindset involves breaking or developing a new habit.
 
I thought: “I will break a bad habit and develop a good habit slowly and steadily over time.” The key phrase here is “over time.”
 
If I could be disciplined and focused enough on this one simple thought (stated above), I would be committing myself to only one day, one urge, one impulse at a time. I would just breathe into it, adjust my thought patterns and pursue it in a micro rather than a macro way.
 
Attending this “present moment” when developing a good habit and not to a future or desired result has proven to be a successful strategy for me.
 
A RESOLUTION IS REALLY JUST A COMMITMENT TO BREAKING OR DEVELOPING NEW HABITS.
 
So, my suggestion is to develop an awareness that enables you to recognize the thoughts that trigger both positive and negative responses. Once you understand that, construct your own strategies (based on experience, therapy, books, or Ted Talks/podcasts that will aid you in your personal quest to eliminate bad habits and to propagate good ones.
 
It is always best and more likely to produce success if these strategies align with “present tenseness.” Work steadily, with purpose and courageously to remove triggers big and small from your daily life. I recognize that some may be too big to handle alone.
 
When we are stressed, our bad habits can become triggered like a match that ignites and then engulfs our consciousness in psychic flames. We panic and often engage in behavior that is damaging to ourselves and others. It’s hard to make a reasonable decision when you can’t think or see straight. Generate what I have been calling a Socratic Neural Loop in your brain. Ask yourself probing personal questions rather than stumbling in the dark grasping or clutching at cliches or platitudes.
 
Below are several examples of the kind of moment to moment work you can try going forward into the new year to supplant the big conceptual resolution (as it pertains to increasing success as an artist). 

THEN WHAT WILL
The answer to the below questions for the most part will be “NO..”..but this will lead to a new question: “Then what will?”
 
1.  Will yelling at your friend/mate/ etc. for not picking up the dry cleaning needed for your audition change the outcome?
2.
NO -> Then what will?
 
1. Will honking your car horn get you to the audition any quicker?
2. NO -> Then what will?
 
1. Will beating yourself up for perceived inadequacies or failures at the previous audition be the best strategy for success?
2. NO -> Then what will?
 
1. Will blaming others for your stream of bad luck really make you feel better and truly happier?
2. NO -> Then what will?
 
1.  Will being negative and overly critical of yourself and others help you in any real tangible way?
2. NO -> Then what will?
 
1.  Will being obsessed with being word perfect increase your understanding of the character or your ability to play it?
2. NO -> Then what will?
 
1. Will agonizing over what casting wants lead to a deeper understanding of the character or your ability to share yourself in the moment?
2. NO -> Then what will?
 
1.  Will questioning your ability help you get better?
2. NO -> Then what will?
 
There is obviously much more to it. There are several good books on breaking habits and changing thought patterns. These are a few of my favorites:
– The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
– Irresistible by Adam Alter
– and although not a book on habits specifically, I like…
– 12 Rules For Life by Jordan Peterson
 
When doing your New Year’s reflection, I offer this helpful tip:
Don’t announce to the world or anyone within hearing distance of your intentions. Just quietly with focus and gentle determination go about your business. You don’t need the additional pressure of doing it out of pride or validation from others. It should be attended to because it is important to your own happiness and well-being. Pressure adds to stress. Stress makes old habits return.
 
Another helpful tip: You don’t have problems! (Yes, you read that correctly.) You may have habits that are not conducive to your success. They led you to where you are today, and that’s a good thing. Now move on. 

MY WORK IN PROGRESS
1.  Complain less and appreciate more.
2. Replace mindless electronic crack with working on a blog or a chapter of my book.
3. Breathe more and panic less.
4. Just because I appreciate and can empathize with what people are going through, doesn’t mean I have to tolerate their behavior. 
THINGS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER WHEN CONSTRUCTING YOUR “RESOLUTIONS”

Disclaimer: You may already be doing a number of these. If so, good for you. If not, what are you waiting for?
 
1. Consider and choose wisely 4 good habits and 4 bad ones you want to develop or lose over the course of the year. Pick one for each of the 4 solstices’ (to make them more special or meaningful).
2. Reach out to fellow actors and offer to read for their self-tapes and audition prep. Then, ask them to read for your self-tapes and audition prep. 
3. Learn a new monologue once a month.
4. Communicate with someone outside your comfort zone.
5. Ask more questions and have fewer answers.
6. Write at least 3 short exchanges and shoot it on your iPhone with a friend and edit in iMovie.
7. Let people finish a sentence before saying what you want to say. It might alter what you say.
8. Don’t give advice unless you are willing to take it.
9. Take up meditation.
10. Take up a martial art for fitness and mental discipline.
 
If you have the time or the inclination I’ve written a 2-part blog “Have the Courage to Know Yourself Better Part 1 and Part 2.” I believe they will be helpful in accomplishing some of the to-do list laid out above.
 
This is the second New Year’s under the darkened and claustrophobic cloud of Covid. It’s been approximately 20 months. It’s like GroundHog Day meets Contagion. However, this time, it’s different.
 
Our world was turned upside down yet again. We have all spent several months reevaluating our lives, our jobs, and our relationships. We’ve had lots of time and opportunity on our hands to make some significant changes to our lives. Many people we know quit jobs, left relationships or moved to another town/city. Others started writing and directing, found new love and a safe haven amongst old and new friends. This time we have experience.
 
We have demonstrated that we can not only survive this set of events and circumstances but thrive. We have coping strategies and inner strength we didn’t have before or even know was possible and that should be celebrated.
 
Have a safe and happy new year. Carve out a bit of time to reach out to someone outside your immediate vision who might need a helping hand. Generosity and gratitude go a long way to help us, others and make the world a better place.