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Leading with your Heart in the New Year

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The New Year starts unsympathetically for entertainment creatives. It’s like a race official says, “ready… GO!” and completely forgets to give you that much needed “set”. So as artists, we need a massive internal bang that will lead us off to the races: to positive, groundbreaking, gangbusters career growth. We have hopes and goals, intentions of focus: to grow as artists and business people. Yet we may also have to face heaps of self-sabotage, heaps of mental detritus and doubt that we really can make a difference THIS year. Our own minds (our allies in creativity) can be our greatest enemy when it comes to following through on our artistic and professional goals.

When there are many, many schools of thought on how to move forward with a creative profession, and no direct path to success, we can spend years in nebulous orbit of our dreams, never fully committing ourselves to the very provoking path of being an actor (or writer, or director). Because if we give 110% and still don’t make any progress, or don’t reach our goals, THEN WHAT? It is this fear: the fear of the THEN WHAT that holds us back from fully embracing our craft, standing in it, and giving all of our effort to what our hearts want to give to the world.

To be a successful artist you need a practice, you need to produce, you need to create, and you need to share that creation with others. This practice requires motivation and discipline, confidence and daring, it requires collaboration and moxie. The daily ritual in my ideal world is very full, very present and alive, and very busy. It takes guts to commit myself to all the things that keep my instrument in tune, it takes incredible self-motivation, and my heart desires are easily way-laid by a tricky and very active mind.

My mind tells me my look isn’t right, or that I need to take a nap right now instead of writing for an hour or booking a CD workshop. My mind prioritizes other’s needs above my own goals. My mind engages in negative self-speak. My mind LOVES internet rabbit holes during career-hours. My mind loves writer’s block. My mind wants to protect me from failure because my mind operates on the fear of the THEN WHAT. And the enraging part of this tricky-mind syndrome, is that you can never fail if you never really try. So when your heart is stubborn, and knows that this is your path, your mind may work in many diverse ways to make sure you never really try, so you can never really fail at what your heart wants.

But what does my heart want? My heart sings after a day of writing. My heart leaps for joy when I act. My heart loves watching great cinema and television. My heart loves stories, and storytelling. My heart loves being a student. My heart loves meditation and yoga. My heart loves healthy foods, my heart loves to break into a sweat. My heart loves journaling. My heart loves following through on commitments. My heart loves great conversations, my heart loves pondering the meaning of life and the vastness of the universe. My heart loves the many conditions of the human experience. And I won’t go into detail, but my mind has a come-back that has sabotaged at one time or another every single one of my heart’s wants. It’s not all the time, but my mind has taken the steering wheel and distracted me enough. I am fed up.

The big bang that is needed at this transition of the New Year is actually a practice. It is a practice of listening, of paying attention to when and how your mind pipes in with sabotaging thoughts. When the mind says things that de-rail you, ask yourself, “What does my heart want right now?” and do that. It is the time to strengthen the heart’s voice, and to re-train the mind as an ally to your dreams, not as a protector from failure. Our minds CAN be kind, supportive, and motivational. But the motivation to do all the things that need to be done to build our careers come from the heart. The mountain is high, the paths are many, and it is our heart that must take the lead in our climb.

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Madeline Merritt

About Madeline Merritt

Actress, Freelance Writer - Madeline grew up on stage and has loved telling stories her whole life. From the Bay Area, California, Madeline received her degree in Theatre and Political Science from Northwestern University and moved to Los Angeles in 2008. She recently spent a year in Paris, France but missed the city of Angels and the entertainment industry here. She cares deeply about social issues, including women’s rights, indigenous rights, poverty and the environment. She feels the role of storyteller through entertainment is very important in opening dialogue and creating change in the world. You can see her in The Guest House (available on Netflix, Itunes, Amazon and Time Warner on Demand) and the soon to be released American Idiots, coming to a Redbox near you in June 2013. She is thrilled to continue her journey of collaborating with women in film and television through Ms. In the Biz.