New Year’s resolutions have never been my thing. Which may come as a surprise since I’m not only an actor, but a longtime personal trainer and a recently-certified life coach. I’ve spent years helping others clarify their desires, take steps in service of their goals and dreams, and shift limiting beliefs that are tripping them up.
I’ve also spent years building my own career, exercising my body, and improving my mindset. What I’ve found is that taking the unsexy approach of setting up systems in our lives and developing consistent tiny habits in service of the identity we want to embody is one of the most effective ways to create a fulfilling life and long-term results. As James Clear, author of Atomic Habits says, “We don’t rise to the level of our goals. We fall to the level of our systems.”
If I want to live into the identity of “Professional Actor,” what habits or behaviors might I practice? If I want to live into the identity of “Healthy Movement Lover” what habits might I install? The consistency of these habits (which should start out super small, as in, “I send one email to a director I worked with a few years ago to reconnect with her,” or “I do 5 pushups every morning after I brush my teeth.”) is what contributes to our sense of well-being, increases our self-esteem, and makes us more likely to continue to show up and take action.
Resolutions feel like a sprint to me. Building the life we want is more of a marathon, consisting of many tiny daily actions that lead to peace and freedom, moment to moment.
In January, I take stock of the systems I had in place the previous year, and I see how well they worked. For example, I have a system or habit for exercise, for writing, for self-tapes, for coaching, for sleeping, for eating. It doesn’t mean I do all these things perfectly. It just means I know what my ideal is (the when, the how, the how much, and the why) and I keep that as my north star. When I fall off, I know where and how to get back on track.
In January I also make note of anything that needs to be tweaked, and I reflect on whether there’s a system lacking that I’d like to install. (Examples could be a regular self-tape practice or an accountability group for acting career action.) I also look at the times when I stepped out of my comfort zone (showing up for EPAs in the early morning at the Equity Building, taking a casting director workshop at One on One, taking Jean Taylor’s clown class, and playing a boxer in a staged reading which entailed doing a bunch of choreographed boxing onstage.)
I know that stepping outside my comfort zone is a necessary component to living into my fullest potential, so I want to make sure I’m keeping that up year to year. Then I celebrate the wins. This past year was a doozy for a lot of creative folks with the writers’ strike and SAG/AFTRA strike. For many of us, it felt like whatever momentum we had built up in our careers screeched to a halt. There was the uncertainty of how long the strikes would last, the financial impact on our day-to-day lives, and the disillusionment that comes when we have no bookings or auditions to announce in a culture that looks for external trophies as a sign that we’re succeeding in life.
When outside circumstances throw a wrench in our plans, which happens no matter our industry or status in life, it’s even more important to have a protocol or habits that keep us steady. These habits are different for different folks. Some examples are meditation, journaling, yoga, exercise, walks in nature, and reading. For me, my protocol helps me go inward instead of looking outward for approval or a sense that I’m doing okay.
Meditating and journaling each morning keep me grounded in what’s important to me (being joyful, being present, being of service, learning, expressing my soul’s gifts.) Exercise gets me into my body and out of my head and releases feel-good hormones that help with my focus, energy, and sense of well-being.
In the end, I believe what motivated most of us to pursue a life in the arts was the sense of play, the joy we feel when we’re fully expressed, the freedom we tap into, and the expansiveness that occurs when we’re fully present in a scene and a set of circumstances. We love the sense of community and communion that we feel with others, the connection and compassion that storytelling fosters. We feel alive when we’re acting and creating.
And that’s what the world needs – us at our most alive, most fully expressed, most vibrant. Nothing else will do for our soul’s contentment or the expansion of human consciousness. Systems and habits are the bedrock, the launchpad for us to be able to show up with consistency, courage, and vigor.
So whether or not you set any resolutions this new year, perhaps give some thought to who you want to be in the world and how you want to show up, moment to moment. Then see if there’s a system or habit that can help you do that with consistency.
We all rise together, one tiny step at a time.
Tricia Alexandro is an actor, voiceover artist, writer, and certified career coach for actors. Tricia began her association with The Barrow Group in 1999 as a student. Since then, she has appeared in numerous TBG productions including EXPECTING ISABEL, SHORT STUFF, THE UNREPEATABLE MOMENT (the NY Times called her performance: “bravely acted…a high point of the show), Lyle Kessler’s world premiere of PERP, directed by Lee Brock, and her one-woman show SNAPSHOTS, directed by Seth Barrish. She was recently in the Off-Broadway premiere of Seven Deadly Sins, in a piece written and directed by Moisés Kaufman. Tricia has guest-starred on Law and Order: SVU and on Bull, and she has a recurring role on season 2 of Ed Burns’s TV show, Bridge and Tunnel. She loves helping others live the life of their dreams from a place of joy, ease, and possibility.