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Okay, let me be clear. What I’m about to tell you didn’t come from a survey of casting directors or agents. It didn’t come from someone else’s book about acting. And I’m pretty sure I can’t attribute it to divine intervention. It comes from personally witnessing actors make this mistake ALL THE TIME.

What’s the mistake? It’s the kind of act that if made consistently can lead to frustration, bitterness, and resentment. It can sabotage your whole career, in fact.

When I meet new actors, often in a class I teach or on set or at an audition, many of them are making this mistake. And they’re making it every day. That’s right! Every day they are making the same mistake and they don’t even realize it.

The mistake is simply not naming your intentions. I don’t mean, “I want to get paid to act” or “I want to be in movies.” I’m talking about identifying, with clarity and vision, what you seek to create and contribute to the field.

Every time I meet a newer actor who hasn’t done the work of identifying intentions, I imagine he or she is a Walker, moving aimlessly among the living. They occupy space but serve no greater purpose for themselves or the world around them. They’re not truly committed to acting because they haven’t chosen a goal. With no goal, there’s no way to figure out what direction to move in and what steps to take.

Let’s take a few minutes to reflect on what brought you to the point of wanting to act before you did something about it. What moved you? What inspired you? What fueled your drive? Think about it. Come up with a single sentence to explain what got you started.

“I wanted to be an actor because …”
“What inspired to become an actor is…”
“The moment I first realized I had a passion for acting was…”

In looking at your inspiration, you may begin seeing with more clarity what you want out of an acting career. Perhaps there is a role in a particular series that inspired you and you want one that is similar. Perhaps you found the message of a particular film to be life-changing and you want to work on projects with that can have the same kind of impact on others. Perhaps you enjoyed escaping to a world created in a sci-fi or fantasy project and you want an opportunity to be a part of the some fascinating new world developed for film or TV.

It’s important to note that intentions are not simply a focus on the endgame. It’s not enough to make a list of intentions that involve only booking a role, getting an agent, or making a certain amount of money. Think about intentions as a process. As an actor, creating a process is critical. You won’t accidentally stumble into success. You will create success by developing and refining your process.

In naming your intentions, consider what smaller steps are necessary to reach each goal. For example, if getting an agent is the goal, having the materials to submit and be accepted is essential. Take a look at my example below.

1. Using my short film clips to create a demo reel, shooting new headshots with a professional photographer, revising my resume in an acceptable actor template, and polishing the performance of my top two monologues in order to get a SAG-franchised agent who can represent me in the local market.

Look at the details there. The endgame is still getting an agent but you’re communicating with clarity and vision how you will work to achieve that goal. You will come prepared and equipped with what you need.

Now, I want you to make a list of your intentions as an actor. Open a notebook or a journal and list 10 intentions with clarity and vision. One may be discovering what projects are casting in your area. Another may be securing a first meeting with a respected casting director. Make your list now. As in right now. Don’t even wait to read the next paragraph … unless you absolutely can’t help yourself.

There is only one more thing to do once your list of intentions written with clarity and vision is done. Share it. That’s it, just share it with people you know. Heck, share it with strangers for that matter. Let the world know what you are seeking and see how it responds to give you what you need to get there.