3 Tips for Cultivating + Maintaining Your Motivation

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What comes to mind when you hear the word motivation? Whether it be career-related tasks, ticking off the never-ending to-do list, and basic self-care, everyone can relate to the desire for motivation.

Motivation can be that much more dire for actors in that much of your craft requires a self-starter “muscle.” There generally is not a clock to punch in to. It is completely up to you to show up early for an EPA or to write that screenplay you’ve been thinking about for months.

If you struggle with motivation and it’s getting in the way of your career ambitions, below are three tips to help you cultivate and maintain motivation.

1. Understand that action precedes feelings of motivation.
Motivation is not simply a feeling that comes out of thin air. We often think of motivation as the feeling that we “need” in order to take action. Statements such as “I can only write if I’m feeling inspired” basically equate to waiting. Waiting for the desire or inspiration to hit you before doing is backward!

Motivation, more times than not, comes after we’ve taken action whether or not we had the desire to start. Have you ever forced yourself to write despite feeling like you could flatline at any minute? I bet within 10-15 minutes, your fingers were typing away emphatically suddenly filled with motivation and feeling damn good afterward. If you change the order that you expect motivation to form, cultivating motivation would be a piece of cake. Motivation is like the icing on the cake.

2. Get rid of the all-or-nothing thinking.
As an actor, your career goals have a lot of moving parts. You may feel overwhelmed with all that has to be done leading you to do...nothing.

Maybe there are a number of workshops that you want to take, you need new headshots, you need to follow up with that casting director, and you’re due for a dental cleaning. Looking at that list may have you thinking, “It’s too much to tackle.Commit to doing one action, even if it’s just one of three steps that you need to take to achieve the goal. Prioritize the order that you will do the actions and focus on one at a time before moving on to anything else.

For example, getting headshots could be broken down into different actions that don’t need to be done on the same day or even the same week. Three actions might be reaching out to actor friends for recommendations, researching and making a list of headshot photographers, and budgeting and deciding how and when you will have enough to pay for the session.

Breaking down any goal into sub-actions and completing one of them is better than doing nothing. It also lowers that overwhelming feeling, so you can focus on one piece at a time.

3. Your surroundings impact your vibe.
Negativity prevents motivation like nothing else! Maintaining motivation while surrounded by negative energy is like putting a sugar cube outside in the rain and wondering why it melted.

You have to be mindful about who you surround yourself with. While you can’t always control who you are around, you can control who you share aspirations or challenges with. Be intentional about who you share exciting news with as well as who you share your doubts with. Certain people will feed your doubts and frustration more than your strengths. If your mom is worried that you will never “make it” as an actor, don’t confide in her after bombing an audition. Talk to someone who can help you to better prepare for the next one and can help you to see it as a growth experience.

If you try these three tips, you will be on your way to having more ease with motivation and with doing all that is needed to feed your career ambitions. If you still find that you’re struggling to take action, seek out a therapist that can help you unpack what else may be getting in the way. You are worth it!

*This post was originally published on July 25, 2016. It has since been updated.

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Jelisha Gatling
Jelisha Gatling is a licensed marriage and family therapist in New York City. She works with couples helping them to unpack their baggage. When she is not with clients, she is writing and presenting workshops on self-care and relationships, as well as running therapy groups for artists. With a creative arts background having written and produced plays, Jelisha weaves creativity and humor into her therapeutic work.
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