Know Your “Why”

17 Mar

As you may have read on my “About Me” page, I come from a theatre background.  And one of the most important skills to learn in theatre is script analysis.  You’ll need it for acting, directing, designing, stage managing, pretty much any job you’ll be called on to do will require at least some level of script analysis.

This means that you read the play.  And then you read it again, and you read it a lot more.  Depending on what job you’re doing, you’re either looking at where all the props are, how they’re used, where they go, etc.  Maybe you’re looking for clues as to what the lighting should look like.  But pretty much everyone needs to look into what the characters are thinking and feeling at any point in time.  Angry characters tend to like red light, they like to throw things, and they want to slam doors.  You’ll have to figure out what that means in terms of your particular job.

Now, for an actor in particular, the process goes a lot deeper.  You play a single character (most of the time), and you get to look at the world of the play through their eyes.  You get to intimately know exactly what your character wants at all times.  And what they want depends on how they perceive the world around them.  You can look into how your character feels, but the truth of the matter is that you can’t play a feeling.  No one wants to see a character onstage cry or laugh or smile.  Character actions come out of what they want.  Those desires, and how the world either meets, exceeds, or fails to meet those desires will then cause the character to react by crying or laughing or screaming.  The goal is not the emotion, though, the goal is an honest reaction, based on your objectives.

So people want stuff.  We all know this.  Why am I bringing up all this stuff about plays and characters?  I bring it up because play analysis looks into different ways in which people want things.  In each scene, every character has an objective: something they want to accomplish, something they want someone else to do, etc.  Maybe they need a few extra bucks for gas, maybe they want to kill someone.  Who knows?  This is their objective.

Now, for the entire play, every character has a superobjective.  This is what they want overall.  That is the reason for all their other objectives.  Maybe they want to be respected, so they develop a plan of action to get that respect.  Think of it in terms of “I want [objective] so that I can [superobjective].”

Lastly, for the play as a whole, there is a spine, and the spine can be thought of as the one thing that EVERYBODY wants.  It ties into the moral of the play, the message, the lesson to be learned, and all of that.  Maybe everyone wants escape, maybe everyone wants the world to accept them.

So apply these concepts to your everyday life.  When you’re interacting with people, try to figure out what it is they really want – their objective in the moment.  Are your objectives counter to each other, or do they line up?  Can you each help each other achieve each other’s goals without getting in the way of your own?

Also, talk to people and find out what their superobjective is.  I call it your “why”.  Think about the annoying kid who keeps asking “why” after each answer you try to make.  At what point is the answer just “because that’s what I want out of life”?  That’s your “why”.  For me, personally, I want to be able to do things on my terms and no one else’s (unless I choose to), to surround myself with positive people, and to help the people I care about achieve their wildest, craziest dreams that they’d otherwise give up on. 

As an extension of that, figure out what your “why” truly is.  Think about all the objectives you have in a day, and think about where they all stem from.  Do they come from a deep love for your family, or a belief that the world can be better than it is, or just a dream you’ve had since you were 6 that you WILL be an astronaut?  The more clear you are about your “why”, the easier you can find out the “why”s of people around you.

So why do you care about what other people want?  I say that we all have a couple of pieces from different puzzles that we’re holding on to.  I have no reason to know magic tricks, really, except I can mess around and astound a kid at Disneyland every now and again.  And maybe that’s what will light a spark that will lead him to become the next David Copperfield, who knows?  So you find out that your best friend has always wanted to open a restaurant, and your other friend has always wanted to be a famous chef.  Maybe you introduce them to each other and a whole world of possibilities open up.

After a while, you start to get a feeling for the “spine” of your circle of friends, or your family, or maybe even society as a whole.  Finding out what everyone wants, the assumptions and beliefs and value structures at the basis of their decision-making, and you see the opportunities to improve the world.  Even if just slightly.  But even a small change can magnify itself over time.  Who knows what can happen?

The answer is not always money. In fact, it’s rarely money. Click here to read a blog post from about exactly what motivates people to move beyond rudimentary living activities to much more innovative and amazing results.  (And I highly recommend the video at the end, if you have the time for it.)

In that spirit, I want you to tell me your “why”.  It’s an opportunity for you to really think about what motivates you in life.  It’s also an opportunity for me to see what really matters to my readers so I can create more meaningful posts.

More than that, take your “why” and write it somewhere that you’ll see every day.  Make it part of your Facebook profile.  Make it visible, and keep it in your head.  Use it as the mission statement for your life.  If you are ever unsure as to what course of action to take, you’ll have a good place to start by asking yourself which decision is more in keeping with your mission statement.

If you feel so inclined, please let your friends know about this post so we can start building a larger awareness of what it is that people want out of life.  The more we know, the more we can make things happen, and fill that last piece of the puzzle in all of our lives.

Finally, if you like, hop onto your Twitter account and shout out to the world what you want out of life with the hashtag #knowyourwhy.  There may be a new connection out there that is just the right person to help you achieve it.

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Posted by on March 17, 2011 in Thoughts


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