Setting goals is an important part of your showbiz career. But success comes from both setting those goals and working toward them, spending time analyzing them to be certain you’re on track, and refining them as needed. So, this week’s column is going to be pretty dang simple. Let’s get down to the anatomy of a goal. How do you set one that is meaningful, reasonable, and attainable?

Set Specific Goals

Before you start making your list of goals, ask yourself an important question: Why do you want it? Be specific. Going into your goal-making with a fuller understanding of why you want something will make attaining the goal that much more likely. The more detailed your goals are, the better your chances of achieving them. (This is both because you visualize better when you can see all of the little parts of your goals and because you’ll give yourself credit for the little victories along the way when they’re all a part of the overall picture you’re striving toward.)

Set Meaningful Goals

Some would say that meaningful goals include those “biggies.” Y’know: To be a better person. To enjoy life more. To have fun while weathering the challenges of this career. To give something back. Sure! I’ll buy that. Those are great goals. But if it’s meaningful to you to also have a goal around the “to book a national” zone, that’s okay too! The cool thing about goal-setting is that it doesn’t have to be entirely public in order to “count.” Definitely, the more public your goals, the more likely you are to hold your feet to the fire and bring those goals to fruition through your actions, but sometimes sharing the fact that you have goals is enough to keep you on track.

Whatever level of “meaning” your goals have, in the world’s view, be sure those goals are, in fact, meaningful to you. That’s what’s important.

Set Reasonable Goals

Okay, so you’ve chosen specific goals that mean something to you. Good start. Now, let’s be sure they’re reasonable ones. Here are some good examples: To become SAG-eligible after having steadily worked nonunion for three years. To attract the attention of an agent or manager after having booked your own paid work for two years. To go in for guest-star roles after having consistently booked bigger and bigger co-star roles for a year. To test for a network pilot after having worked as a recurring character on a series for a season.

To choose a reasonable goal means you’ve looked at where you are now and where you hope to be, within a specific timeline. You’ve considered what others have been able to accomplish from comparable starting points over similar amounts of time. No, this doesn’t mean you can ever expect “what works for others” to automatically work to you (nor that what you’ve seen others accomplish is the limit to what you can do). It’s just a starting point for creating the goals. Absolutely, expect to exceed your expectations! That’s the whole point of living a dream.

Set Attainable Goals

Setting reasonable goals is the foundation for attaining those goals. That said, I always suggest reaching just a bit above where you’d expect to grow. (How else can you hope to “move on up”?) Once you’re looking over your specific list of meaningful, reasonable goals, remember that the only things you truly control are your work and the attitude with which you pursue it. You don’t control the agents, managers, casting directors, producers, and directors in this town and you never will. There are trends which may work in your favor. Sometimes. But that’s nothing to count on.

Be less focused on how the goals will be met and more so on what your life will look and feel like when those goals have been met. Most of the how isn’t in your control. Let that fact bathe you in relief that you don’t have to shoulder all of the responsibility for how your life will get from point A to B. As long as you’re taking steps toward meeting your goals every day, you’re on the right track. The rest is up to the industry’s whims (and this industry has more whimsical whims than any other, that’s for dang sure).

Tips for Goal-Setting

It’s really quite simple. Get specific and detailed. Choose goals that meet the above-listed criteria. Write those goals down. Revisit the written list regularly (I have an alarm in my BlackBerry that reminds me to read my personal mission statement every day). Measure your little successes as well as your big ones and revise your goals accordingly.

Now here’s where this week’s column is gonna get a little less-actory and more “woo-woo” in nature.

I have an image folder in my computer from which my “screen saver” (c’mon, these “visual entertainment” programs haven’t actually served the purpose of “saving” a screen from burned-in still-images for over a decade now) randomly pulls files to rotate through, when I’m not actively using my computer. The name of this folder is “intention” and everything in it is a lovely image of something important to me. So, even when I’m on the phone and my computer “sleeps” for a few moments, I’m watching these visual affirmations float by one after the other, each a reminder of my personal and professional goals. It’s a nice, passive way to get out my “list” and revisit my goals several times each day. (We’re a visual lot, humans. So, this is a tip I’d recommend to artists of all kinds!)

Lately, I’ve been approaching my goals with more emphasis on how my life feels than how it looks. I think this might be pretty dang important, as simple as it seems. It’s really easy to look at others’ lives and think we should set goals that look as though they might lead us down similar paths. But only the individual in question can know how walking that road feels. So, pay attention to the way your life feels and how you might like it to feel (not how it might look, from the outside).

When you set goals that have more to do with how you feel than anything else, you’ll likely find the “how it looks” stuff working out just fine. A goal of “feeling gratified by my on-camera work” may just happen to line up with earning a SAG card or bumping up to guest-star. On the other hand, a singular goal of “earning a SAG card” may leave you desperately pursuing voucher-filled background work and becoming bitter over injustices you see along the way.

Remember, there’s nothing written in The Official Showbiz Charter about fairness. Finding happiness (heck, creating a goal of being happy, even) might be the best goal out there. If it coincides with signing with that great agent, yay! If not? No worries! Choose happiness. The agents will follow.

Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

Originally published by Actors Access at Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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