What is Your Why?

If you constantly have the same goals and resolutions pop up again and again year after year, maybe it’s not that you can’t achieve them. Maybe it’s just that you don’t want to.

Recently, I worked with a struggling actress named Jennifer who was consistently frustrated that she wasn’t booking any gigs. When I asked her how many auditions she’d been to in the past week, she squirmed around a bit and made excuses about working two jobs and living in the wrong town. This is true. Jennifer was a barista and part-time student who lived in Pittsburgh, not exactly the entertainment capital of the East Coast.

Still, the problem was that she spent more time thinking of reasons why she couldn’t act than actually acting which became a cycle of negativity that took pinata-like swings at her confidence. Before long, she was going to crack open and she knew it. So, in an effort to bury her feelings of failure, she would conveniently distract herself with work, class, and friends, then throw up her arms in disgust when the dust settled and no acting progress had been made.

All it took to break Jennifer’s cycle of self-loathing was one simple question, “Why?” When I asked Jennifer why she was treating herself so poorly, she said she was irritated that acting wasn’t working out. But when I asked her why she wanted to be an actress, she didn’t have a good answer. Turns out, when she stopped rushing around long enough to sit down and examine what it was about acting that made her happy – she discovered the only reason she wanted to be an actress in the first place was because her friends thought it was cool and she enjoyed the attention she received after a performance. It wasn’t the acting itself that inspired her, it was the accolades. The process of acting – e.g. the auditions, character research, rehearsals, etc. – all of that was a drag so she subconsciously found ways to avoid it. However, once Jennifer came to the realization that she really didn’t want to be an actress… she became a new (i.e. happier, more focused) person.

Sometimes we know what isn’t right for us, but rather than shine a light on it, we secretly sabotage ourselves. Think about that next time you get frustrated about something that “isn’t working out.” If you’re really honest with yourself, perhaps you don’t want it in the first place.

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