Keeping Motivated

April 11, 2013

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing. That’s why we recommend it daily.” –Zig Ziglar

Have you ever given a prime role your best effort, and felt decidedly proud of your performance and work…and then nobody ever saw the piece? Whether it be a student film, a commercial, a pilot, TV show or film, when your work is never seen, your morale can be put in serious jeopardy.

When one promising actor was cast in a speaking role in War of the Worlds, he was beyond ecstatic. He’d always dreamed of working with Steven Speilberg, and he hoped this role would get his foot in the door to the career of his dreams. But on opening night, he was distraught to discover his impassioned performance was left on the cutting-room floor. His morale may as well have been discarded there on the floor despite receiving a decent paycheck for his efforts.

Dan Ariely’s Ted Talk “What makes us feel good about our work?” addresses such motivational setbacks. When our work goes ignored, this can zap the meaning we derive from the project similar to the maddening frustration the mythological Sisyphus experienced: when he rolled a huge boulder up a steep hill, the massive stone would always roll downhill just as it neared the top, forcing him to begin the uphill battle again and again.

Staying motivated is not merely about receiving a paycheck. Granted, even if you were cast in what you consider an inconsequential, pointless role, if you were paid for your work, the money could afford you some degree of freedom and ability to pursue relationships and dreams that do add meaning to your life. But besides that, common sense informs us and studies reveal that, besides receiving payment for work, we are motivated to work hard because we desire a challenge and the opportunity to be creative; we cultivate a sense of identity when we devote ourselves, take pride in our efforts, relish a chance to move up in our careers, and yearn to be of service of and connected with others. When these motivators don’t pay off, low morale can trigger a downward spiral of counter-productive behaviors that demonstrate only a minimimal investment in the job at hand.

Actors can be aware of this tendency if their work ever goes unnoticed. In such instances, don’t allow the blow to stop you from giving your acting career your best efforts. Keep showing up to auditions, classes, and meetings on time; continue to be professional and upbeat in your interactions; persist in making healthy choices and keeping your look polished; and make it a priority to uplift your spirit in whatever way you prefer. You can gather with close friends, venture out in nature, pour out your convictions in a journal, start a new invigorating project, play basketball with your buddies, compose a song…whatever speaks to you, express yourself and keep the faith!

What do you do to motivate yourself?