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Colleenby Colleen Wainwright | The Communicatrix

Five things to put in place NOW for a good 2011.

Cushy legacies and dumb luck aside, the future belongs to the prepared. Here’s how to be one of them.

The year is almost over. You can look at this one of two ways: “Oh, no! The year is almost over and I have not gotten close to everything done!” Or, “Huzzah! The next year is a whole month away, and I can really get a jump on things.

Thing #1: One Big, Realistic, Work-Related Goal

Let me guess what you’re thinking: “ONE? One goal is all I get? Ha! I’m going to get an agent, get my #3-on-the-call-sheet episodic payday, win my Emmy/Golden Globe/Indie Spirit, lose 50 lbs., quit smoking, start drinking and get hitched. SO THERE, OLD LADY WRITER.”

I applaud your enthusiasm, and wish you the best. I have also been there, and as an old lady writer who has arguably accomplished much in spite of her focus issues, I would humbly suggest that scaling back might be to your advantage. My favorite goal-setting process manual, Your Best Year Yet, suggests 10 goals total, with a maximum of 2-3 work-related. I think you can fudge this a little in favor of forward motion by choosing interlocking, mutually-supportive goals (more on that next month), but really, for now pick ONE. Make sure it is SMART, especially the “A” part. Make the bar high, but not so high you set yourself up for failure. (Remember this is a goal you can achieve realistically in 12 months.)

Thing #2: One Fun Goal

For the love of all that’s holy, please. PLEASE. You will be a happier, more successful actor if you also become a happier, more successful human being. And human beings need happiness. They do. So pick one thing that is just so FUN you cannot stand it, and make that a goal. Please. Learn guitar or how to tap dance. Get yourself to Paris or Kyoto. Save up for that iPad or Ducati or trip to Disneyland. But do it. One fun thing. For me, if not for you, okay?

Thing #3: A Master Plan

Ready for your 2011 motto? “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” That’s from John Wooden, who knew a thing or two about getting big stuff done. That means get stuff out of your head, down on paper, mapped out so you know how you’re going to make it happen, and by when. Again, my favorite-of-favorites for this is Jinny Ditzler’s book, but use what works for you. You may also want to check out previous columns I’ve written on the topic.

Thing #4: A Support Team

Agents and managers and publicists and personal stylists are all great in their way, but the people who will move you forward fastest are available to you right now, for no more than your own time, effort and insight. I’ve spoken before of the master mind group and the difference it can make in keeping you on track with your goals, not to mention keeping your spirits up and your quiver full of new and interesting ideas. You can read about them in Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich (free online version or dead-tree book). But I can now also personally vouch for the efficacy of Barbara Scher’s artistic twist on the MMG, “Success Team.” She writes about it at much greater length than does Hill, and in more modern and friendly terms. Plus her book, Wishcraft, also contains a really great road map for discovering your truest-of-true goals. (Free PDF at Scher’s site; or buy the book.)

Thing #5: A Healthy Attitude

None of the above four practices are going to last very long or work very well for you without the right mindset. If your default setting is “angry” or even “blue,” consider doing some serious work on that before attempting other goals. One great way in is to start a “happiness project,” as my friend (and NYT bestselling author!) Gretchen Rubin suggests. Her blog has a ton of great, free info and resources; her book, broken up into 12 chapters that describe her own happiness project, would make an excellent companion if you decide to make fixing yourself first your 2011 goal. Here’s my review of it. (I loved it so much I even wrote a pre-review.)

And here’s a little tip from an old self-development junkie: any practice (well, almost any) can get you where you want to go. You can do it with feng shui! You can do it by fixing up your apartment or walking every day or even with plain old gratitude.

But if you keep running into the same problems over and over again, consider that the problem may be you, not the things you’re running into. In that case, therapy or other professional help might be your best move. Good foundation, good house.

Thank you for a wonderful 2010, and I’ll see you next year!

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BOOK(s) OF THE MONTH: With multiple demands on your attention (not to mention the stress of family gatherings, crowded stores, and Mass Holiday Fever), this time of the year can be tricky for reading. My suggestion is not to stop, but to adapt: enjoy a collection of engrossing (no pun intended!) interviews with actors and other artists; pick up a  book of short stories; or re-read an old inspiring or engrossing favorite you haven’t picked up in a while. Just don’t give up—reading makes you smarter and keeps you saner!

Want more ideas? Sign up for my (free) newsletter! Almost every month I send out useful (and specific, and nice) information about how to promote yourself without being a tool, and connect with people in a way that makes them love you. It’s not about acting explicitly, but since you’re a smart actor, that shouldn’t scare you.

Colleen Wainwright is a writerspeaker-layabout who started calling herself “the communicatrix” when she hit three hyphens. She spent a decade writing commercials and another decade acting in them for cash money. Now she uses her powers for good instead of evil by helping creatives learn how to strut their stuff in a way that makes the world fall madly in love with them.