How Coaching Helps Artists Strive for Process, Not Achievement

by Andrew Frank

In my work with artists, many of them actors and writers, I find that a common goal is to get an agent. Okay, I completely understand that desire. Most artists believe that an agent will help them get to the next level of their career, a level that doesn’t appear to be open to them without the guiding hand and business connections of an agent.

Let us ignore for a moment the reality of this statement and instead take a look at the goal itself. "My goal is to get an agent." Is this an effective goal? My answer is no. It is a great dream but as a goal it is problematic because whether or not an agent signs you is beyond your control. You can do everything in your power perfectly—send out mailings, network with casting agents, go to all open calls, have the perfect headshots, a great website and credits—and still not get an agent. So why create a goal that is beyond your control to achieve no matter what you do?

I may ask an artist client to consider the goal, "To take weekly diligent action in my pursuit of an agent." This is a goal that they have the ability to achieve and feel good about. The path to obtaining it is in their hands and not someone else’s. There is now nothing stopping them from achieving this goal and feeling great about achieving it. In addition, as a result of the action and attitude they apply to meet this goal, it is often the case that their dream becomes a reality.

I also help my clients to understand the difference between their achievement-based goal and my process-based goal. The first is something you get or are awarded. The second is something that you do or act upon. So what if they actually get the agent they’ve been dreaming about, what now? Has achieving this goal given them a true sense of accomplishment? Have they grown or learned anything by accomplishing this? I know many actors and writers that have agents and they still aren’t getting sent out for the projects they want.

Compare this to the process-based goal, "to take weekly diligent action." If they’ve accomplished this goal, what have they learned? Maybe some new life skills, such as:

  • Making the most of their time
  • Balancing their schedule
  • Self-promotion and marketing
  • Communication
  • Networking
  • Prioritizing
  • Working through "boring" tasks
  • Listening to their own inner voice

If they do get representation, these skills will come in extra handy as they continue to work on building their career with the help of an agent.

There is much to be gained by setting goals around process instead of achievement. Additionally, as I work to help artists tap into their internal energy, this process-oriented approach can dovetail nicely with the way they approach their art making.

I encourage artists to set goals that they can achieve by themselves alone; goals that will provoke action, that will build life skills and that will transfer to any area of life; goals that inspire them to act and to be the best they can.

It is the challenge and opportunity of every artist to present their best self to the world every day. Ultimately, each artist is going to be their own greatest agent, even after they've been signed by one!


Andrew Frank is certified in Personal Coaching by NYU. He has helped hundreds of artists build life skills for a successful creative life, including networking, diversifying income streams, health, relationships, and New York living. He is a director, writer and producer and the Founding Artistic Director of Manhattan Theatre Source.

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