A few weeks back at the end of our “Connecting Your Art to Your Future” post, I proposed that we potentially lose motivation in our work because it hasn’t panned out how we expected it to. It’s had me thinking ever since. My coming to terms with the reality of this business some time ago came out of my own financial worries as I was preparing to leave school. All that was being fed to us was a general sense of aspiration and dreamlike scenarios. It didn’t feel real. And it wasn’t. But who doesn’t want to hold on to an optimistic vantage point, right? Especially when you’re young.
And while we should absolutely carry around a sense of hope based on desire, there’s something helpful in taking a look at our expectations versus reality. We can learn from what we expected and what has truly happened and even more specifically, how to manage our expectations for the future.
Those who know me and this work know that I believe communication and managing expectations is a major piece of running a solid business. For most, we think of this in relation to how we engage with others but this idea can and should be applied to ourselves as well.
So my first question is…what did you expect? Truly. When you started out going after the creation of your art and hoping to monetize it, how did you think it was going to play out? I can only speak for myself and what I was told which was essentially that as actors, we’d finish school, book an agent, land a few plays, end up on Broadway, book a TV show and continue to rise. Even if it wasn’t *that* explicit, that was the general assumption. What was it for you?
Now that you’ve identified what you expected from the outset of your career, how has it played out so far? Not just in a general sense. Where have the highs come from? What about the lows? Did it shake out as expected? I’m assuming not. While this could be true for just about anything in life, I am trying to underline the point that we’ve been shortchanged but that that doesn’t have to define us.
But now let’s look at the more important and immediate issue at hand. What do you expect to happen next? Furthermore, based on what you expected to happen before and based on what has actually happened, what can you do to continue to shift the odds in your favor?
Posing these questions to yourself and working through the answers takes courage.
Even for me, after all these years of dealing with my own feelings around this stuff, I have a little knot in my stomach. I still have to do the work, literally and figuratively, to come to terms with the fact that I landed in an unstable profession and had to grow up with little guidance along the way.
If it weren’t for my businesses I ran early on in my career, I don’t know if I’d be anywhere near where I’m at now.
Taking a hard look at your expectations versus reality will empower you to make solid, thoughtful decisions moving forward. Your expectations of the past don’t have to define your expectations or your reality of the future.