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by Bonnie Katz, MA

Two Simple Steps for a Better Year

Actors, is the New Year an unpleasant reminder that time has gone by and you still don’t have what you want? Or, is it a reminder to stop, take a breath, and be grateful that you’ve made it through another year?  Your view of the New Year speaks volumes about you.  It reveals your take on life.  That’s important information, because where you direct your focus has greater influence on your happiness and well-being than what actually happens to you in life. There are two types of temperaments; those who hit obstacles along their path, fall down, make mistakes, and are able to get up and go along their merry way, and those who stay stuck, blaming and cursing at everyone else while feeling sorry for themselves.  Which temperament do you identify with?

In my psychotherapy practice, those people who have the most successful outcomes in therapy are the ones who come in feeling stuck and unhappy but want some self-understanding in order to move through their unhappiness and change.  They know how to harness their personal power by taking responsibility for their present life no matter what their past looks like.  They want to understand where they’ve been so they know where they are going.  On the other hand, those trapped in negative cycles, are usually trying to change everyone else’s views in order to justify their own.  A better alternative would be to acknowledge that life has been unfair, let go, and move forward, rather than wallowing in self-pity.  Sad to say, that there is no magic wand that can be waived over your heads to make all the bad go away.  I wish there was.  But, the good news is, you don’t need magic to change.  If you’ve got a strong desire, a lot of guts and the willingness to work hard, the world of possibilities can open up to you.  I’ve witnessed it. It can be done, no matter what you’ve been through.

To get out of the blame game and reclaim your power, you will need to learn how to master your focus.  When you’re stuck in thoughts that begin with shoulda, coulda, woulda,… if only this… if only that… you’re only digging a deeper hole for yourself.  When you’re focused on the past, you only end up going BACKWARDS.  No matter what we do, we can’t have a better past.  Instead, learn precious lessons from your wonderful mistakes and let go already.  Free yourself by putting your focus on the “now,” that’s all you really have control over anyway.  You can’t change what happened in the past, no matter how many times you go over it in your head.  Stick with the present.  It’s more productive to think about what you can do in this moment, to get back on track.  Once you understand your past,let go and start looking in the direction you want to go.  Bring your focus back into the here and now so you can move forward and get closer to your goals.  (Mindful Meditation is a great tool to practice this).

If you’re ready to let go of old ways of doing things and are willing to try something new in the New Year, here are two steps to jumpstart your journey:

Step 1. Be aware of your focus.  How you feel depends on where you point the lens.  Too much focus on the past can cause depression and too much focus on the future causes anxiety.  Bring your mind back to the present when it wanders off where it doesn’t belong.  Successful people are good at not hanging around in yesterday land; they are focusing and enjoying being in the present where their power is.  Don’t beat yourself up if you’ve noticed that you’ve wandered off from the present.  Instead, give yourself a good pat on the back for being more aware.

Step 2. Stay focused on the positive, not the negative.  Obstacles will fall on your path, make peace with that fact.  It’s just part of living life.  Use difficult times to practice finding the good in bad situations, not to feel sorry for yourself.  Did you know that our brains are hardwired to remember the negative things that happen in life and let go of the positive?  Studies have found that painful experiences are more memorable than pleasurable ones.  Our brains are like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones. We have to work extra hard at remembering the good, otherwise, we are left feeling that most of what happens to us is negativewhich is most likely not true.  Most of what happens is positive or at least neutral.  So, you’ve got to learn how to take in the good things when they happen in order to make them stand out in your memory.  This will level the playing field.  At the end of the day don’t find the 10 things that went wrong, instead think about the 10 things that went right! Let yourself feel good about the little things that happen to you – someone helped pick up all the change you dropped in line at the grocery store, a stranger smiled at you and said good morning as they walked past you, your cat or dog greeted you warmly when you walked through the door.  Take the time to breathe in and let the good feelings enter your heart and mind.  When you practice this little exercise, that takes just a few minutes, it will make you feel fuller inside and less fragile or needy.  You will feel more in charge of your happiness and less dependent on others and external conditions to fulfill that need.  This will lead to more self-satisfaction.

55-year old, ELIZABETH ROXAS-DOBRISH, (take a peak at grace and beauty) is a former Alvin Ailey dancer.  She has the skill to focus on the here and now and finds wonderful treasures in the present moment. She didn’t let physical obstacles, like age and a hip replacement, stop her from accepting an invitation to come out of retirement and dance the renowned “Revelations,” at a special performance on New Year’s Eve. She could have focused on how much better and easier she danced when she was younger, but instead she savored the dance of today -“When you’re younger, you have everything – you have the flexibility, you have no fear. But you don’t savor every step, every movement of every fingertip, every beat of the music. I feel like

I’m tasting food for the first time.”  Ms. Wood, another guest dancer in her 60’s stated that, “It was hard not to be wistful about the past when you are reminded of the person you once were. But while you give up some things as you grow older, so you gain others.”  These inspiring dancers know how to acknowledge their past, without getting lost in it.  So can you!

2014 can be the year you try new things to get new results.  Take responsibility for yourself, be aware of where your mind is hanging out, and you will have less complaints, less regrets and more good stuff in the New Year.




Bonnie Katz is a licensed therapist in private practice. Her goal as a therapist is to help clients reach “optimal mental wellness”, so that they can feel happiness, fulfillment and joy in their everyday lives. For more information on Bonnie’s therapy practice, visit her website. Like The Conscious Actor on Facebook 


I’ve created The Conscious Actor Inspiration Journal; to help actors develop awareness of what inspires them. Beautiful pages filled with inspirational quotes to help keep you strong minded. For New York actors, the journal is available at Drama Book Shop. Los Angeles actors may pick up the journal at Paper Chase Press.

Conscious Actor articles are not a substitution for professional psychotherapy.