Updated: Dec 31, 2020
Goal setting is a scientifically proven way to restructure your brain cells so that you're massively more successful. The successful actors I know, have all had a plan! Setting goals gives birth to a plan of action. What is your plan?
There is nothing special about New Year's Day for making your dreams come true, or for manifesting your potential into a reality. You can do this any time of the year. I think we have spent most of 2020 reevaluating what we want in life and thinking about what is most important to us. What we need to do now is to find a system that better optimizes this process into reality.
Did you know that you can use NEUROPLASTICITY to restructure your brain so that it is more optimized to achieve your goals? Not including this process into your goal setting would be like setting out for a long road trip and not servicing your car. Sure, you might make it to your destination, but you are more likely to make the trip without delays or frustrations if the car is "optimized" to perform. Neuroplasticity optimizes your brain's performance.
How do you use neuroplasticity to optimize your acting goals?
First, realize that your goals are emotionally based. If they weren't, the subcortical circuit involving the amygdala would not prioritize the information in your brain. This is important because stimuli that are emotional are given prioritized access to certain areas of the brain needed for optimal performance. Namely, the frontal lobe regions that can subconsciously break down the goal and find ways to solve any associated obstacles are activated by the amygdala. I once lost my keys and cried myself to sleep because without them I couldn't go on my big trip in the morning. My brain had assigned importance to this matter because of the strong emotional connection. That night, while I slept, my frontal lobe went to work in solving the problem. When I woke up, I knew exactly where my keys were. (In the front door! We've all done it right?) The point is that it was my strong emotions that activated my amygdala to stimulate my frontal lobe so that the two parts of my brain could work together to stay focused on solving the problem while I slept. My brain prioritized information it sorted through until it arrived at an answer that would satisfy the strong emotional need.
This process can also work while you are awake. You can train your brain to work with you to keep you focused on, and moving toward, situations and behaviors that lead to the achievement of your goal, while simultaneously causing you to ignore and avoid situations and behaviors that don't. It is the brain's way of “cleaning house” for you! It is like the brain is saying, "We don't need this, we don't need that, oh this will work, use this instead." We often don't try things due to fear, but a strong emotional connection to the outcome will often push us past fear and move us toward situations and experiences that might help us attain our goals and thrive.
Neuroplasticity also allows you to minimize the significance of any obstacles that might be in your way. Why? The strong emotional importance that you have assigned to the goal make the obstacles less significant in relation to the perceived benefit.
Let's say your goal was to get an agent so you submit to all the agents in your local market and they all reject you. An actor might give up at this point and could even plummet into a negative spiral of depressive and self-sabotaging thoughts. But an actor with an emotionally charged goal would pivot and submit to agents outside of the market, or talk to others who have gotten representation in that market to see what they might do differently. Believing in yourself is no guarantee that you will not have obstacles but your attitude towards those obstacles will push you onward. If you strongly desire a goal, your brain will perceive obstacles as less significant than they might otherwise appear.
How do you create goals that will activate NEUROPLASTY?
1) Make them specific. The brain views it as a problem, a series of tasks, or a puzzle to be solved. The more specific the goal is, the easier it is for the brain to work to solve the problem, complete the tasks, and solve the puzzle.
2) Don't give your brain an easy out. As powerful as the human brain is, it can also be lazy. When it comes to your goals, don't give it an easy out. "Do your best" goals don't work. The brain will always take the path of least resistance. If you allow it to take the easy way out, it will. If your goal is to get at least one booking this year, you will likely get one booking, and likely only one booking. An illogical yet scientifically based phenomenon that silently plays in the background of your mind, and affecting your thoughts and behaviors.
3) Don't overstimulate your brain. Your brain goes into cognitive overload when it is presented with too much stimulation. If the brain is overstimulated, it will shut down. You don't want to make your goals and associated tasks too easy but you don't want to give the brain more than it can reasonably handle either. Extreme stress makes you less likely to achieve your goals, so don’t make goals you have almost no chance of achieving.
4) Make it visual. The brain associates visual stimulation with emotion because these two things are processed in the same portion of the brain. Prime your brain with external cues, such as images that trigger a subconscious memory in your mind that motivate you towards a goal without you even realizing what prompted you. It turns out those cheesy dream boards, cutting out images from magazines to reflect what you want in life, might have been onto something. If you want to be a bit more academic about it, try color-coding or creating charts or graphics that reflect your materialized goal. It is like the old saying, if you can't visualize it, you can't obtain it. You can even take time to visualize your future, and then ask yourself to walk into that picture. In an experiment, cashiers placed happy face stickers on all sales receipts for 3 months. Shoppers answered a satisfaction survey online. The reviews from the customers who had received a happy face sticker on their receipt were significantly more likely to report a more positive shopping experience. When asked, not a single customer could recall the happy face sticker on the receipt. The image worked silently in their subconscious and changed their behavior.
5) Make it memorable. The brain will stop working with unused data. The brain never forgets. Locked deep in your mind is every experience you have ever asked it to process. However, it will discard into the deep subconscious abyss, anything it doesn't think you value anymore. Make your goals memorable. Give your goal a TOTEM, anything which serves as a venerated or mystic symbol that serves as a physical, touchable, and ever-present reminder of the importance of this goal. I once carried a small pebble in my pocket as a reminder of a goal. Every time I put my hand in my coat pocket, it reminded my brain that I was still working on this task. Buy yourself a necklace, or a keychain, or tie a string to something like a subconscious reminder that you care about this goal. I once carried a small pebble in my pocket as a reminder of a goal. Every time I put my hand in my coat pocket, it reminded my brain that I was still working on this task. Buy yourself a necklace, or a keychain, or tie a string to something. This will become a subconscious reminder that you really care about this goal and your brain will continue to work on it.
6) Make it personal. The brain is a unique, master-designed machine. The brain-changing power of neuroplasticity only works with your individual brain. It is like a customized formula for you based on your life experience. This is why others can't effectively set goals for you. Only YOU know what you really want and what your potential is. On the same note, don't let others define that potential or try to tell you what you should or shouldn't want for your future. I coached Emma Stone when she was young. She wanted to act, her parents wanted her to go to college. After she made a PowerPoint presentation to argue her case, her parents were able to see her determination and the steadfastness of her goals. I remember when no agent in her local market would sign her because she had braces but she always came to her lessons with me. She always walked into my office with that beautiful smile and contagious positivity. Now, Emma Stone is the recipient of several accolades, including an Academy Award, a British Academy Film Award, a Golden Globe Award, and she was the world's highest-paid actress in 2017!
If you were going to make a presentation to argue your case for why the Universe should let you be an actor, what points would you include?
The year 2020 has given us all a lot of time to reflect. Let the year 2021 be the year you put those thoughts into action!
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