Pathology: a: The branch of medicine concerned with the study of the nature of disease and its causes, processes, development, and consequences; Any deviation from a healthy or normal condition; abnormality. b: the structural and functional deviations from the normal that constitute disease or characterize a particular disease. c: An American Death Metal band hailing from San Diego, California.
I was speaking with a friend of mine the other day, who happens to be battling cancer right now. We were joking about the different kinds of pathology out there in the world. As a society, we talk about pathology in terms of catastrophic disease, but my friend and I were laughing about how we each have a “pathology” of the mind. A general make up of deviations, based on our upbringing, seminal events in our lives or fears that can hold us back in our careers and our relationships.
So then, what is your pathology?
For example: I once went to a seminar led by T. Harv Ecker about people’s views on money. He challenged us to examine which is our tendency about money in general. Are we a saver, a spender or an avoider?
Personally, my pathology is: I’m an avoider about my own money. That sucks for my wife because she ends up taking care of the bills and accounts all the time. The irony is: At work, I’m all over it. I handle other people’s money all the time effectively and efficiently. I take financial decisions head on and manage things very well.
Here’s the rub for the Artist though: Their personal and professional lives tend to intertwine much more that mine does. Whereas, I have a company and there are various sources of revenue, the Artist tends to be a singular entity. Their time is finite and it only goes so far. Plus, when you are a craftsperson, YOU are the revenue source.
Back in the day when I was acting, if I wasn’t working I felt like a professional failure and a personal failure because the two were inseparable for me because I was the product. Does this sound familiar?
It wasn’t until I was in business for some time that I began to understand that the two CAN and MUST be separated. At the same time, the personal and the professional must compliment and respect each other. This is where the power of the pen comes in and goal setting starts.
So then, what is your pathology?
What are you most afraid of when it comes to your career? Is it fear of failure, rejection? Do you feel like you don’t know as much about your craft as people think you do? (Side note here, I call this “imposter syndrome” and a lot of successful artists I’ve come in contact with seem to have it.) Do you feel you say too much while your working? Too little? Does the possibility of being judged paralyze you? Do you just hide sometimes and avoid work altogether so you don’t have to face ANY issues?
I’m not purposefully trying to put you in pain here. Oh, wait a minute, yes I am. To move forward, I vehemently believe you have to face the facts of where you are right now both positive and negative. Acknowledge it and realize that it’s all learned behavior that can be unlearned if you have enough at stake and are willing to change it. At that point, constructive progress can be made.
My challenge to you this week is to write down what you think is holding you back as far as how you feel about your talent, how you feel about money, your current financial responsibilities, the type of work you get etc… etc.. etc.. Then, write a short statement on what the consequences would be on your career of not changing these negative perceptions. There are no rules on this part, just get it all out on paper. Realize something though: No one is to blame for anything you feel. This is an exercise about YOUR current negative perceptions of your career. If you were to ask me, I’d have an entirely different take based on what I know.
Once you have this all written out, I want you to write a paragraph about what it means to you in your heart to be an artist and your ideal vision of what your career can be. Then, make a list of all the positive things you think are propelling you forward towards the career you want. Again, your talent, money responsibilities, the kind of work and life you aspire to, the people around you etc.. etc.. etc..
I think what you will find is that the lists conflict A LOT. The things that you feel most negative about may be undermining the things you feel most positive about. Some if it may be very confusing, for example: a big positive for me has always been taking care of my family, it would be easy to see that responsibility as a burden that narrows my options, but I’ve adjusted my perceptions and I use it to drive me forward. See both lists for what they are and decide to adjust your feelings and perceptions to support the positive list of things that propel you forward. Then get rid of the negatives list. There’s no reason to hold onto it, it doesn’t serve you. Ritually burn it if you want, bury it in the backyard, I don’t care. Just get rid of it.
Pathology be gone, we’re moving forward in the positive now. It’s a decision and a conscious choice you have to make for yourself. I once heard some TV talking head psychologist say “people don’t change until they are forced to.” I’m not sure I buy into it. I’ve seen plenty of situations that support that view, but I do think by choosing a path of improvement and pursuing it with organization and absolute determination you can choose for yourself to move forward at any time. Carpe Diem.