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In the craft of screenplay writing, one of the most common points where a project founders is in the middle. The phenomenon, known to screenwriters as "second-act troubles", is almost invariable, and happens because of the nature of being in the middle of a complicated project. The screenwriter has already set out a number of the rules which will govern the rest of the script, and he or she has some idea of what needs to be done to reach the all-important conclusion, but problems with the beginning tend to propagate through the entire work and create obstacles to reaching the desired outcome. In order to finish the screenplay, then, the screenwriter needs to overcome the difficulties created by the beginning scenes, to keep the quality of the work high through the middle, and to prepare adequately for the end. It's not an appealing task, and this is the point where many screenwriters stop working and shelve the screenplays indefinitely: overcome by inertia.
All of us are involved in a complicated project as well: the project of life. All of us have made a start on our lives, a start which is almost certainly plagued by certain problems that need to be solved. All of us are constantly trying to move past those obstacles in order to reach our goals and our dreams, but the work of this often seems to be unrewarding and time-consuming, and many of us would rather turn aside: we'd rather compromise on our goals, re-invent ourselves, or otherwise give up on the difficult forward slog. We, too, would rather be overcome by inertia.
But instead of being overcome, we can overcome instead. All it takes is three steps.
To start with, we need to think about the third act of the screenplay that is our lives. All of us have a desired outcome for our lives. Maybe we want a satisfying job. Maybe we want a good relationship, or maybe we want to raise good children and have a good family life. Maybe we have creative ambitions; maybe we want to attain an advanced academic degree. At times, we're tempted to turn aside from these goals on the grounds that they're too difficult, or that they represent nothing but the folly of youth. To do so is to give up, to shelve the screenplay.
Instead, we can resolve the third act of our lives by thinking more clearly about it. Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) has a concept known as a well-formed outcome. In order to be well-formed, a goal needs to be phrased in concrete terms, be stated positively, and have a definite time frame in which the goal is to be achieved. The purpose of these conditions is to allow us to think clearly, rather than vaguely, about our ultimate goals. If we have poorly-formed goals, we don't have a clear sense of where we're going, and the forces of inertia that face us are all the more difficult to resolve. If we instead have well-formed goals, we can see exactly where we need to get to and how quickly we need to get there.
Once we know where we're going, we need to look at where we've been: the first act of our lives. One of the chief causes of second-act troubles is an improperly-formed first act. In scriptwriting terms, maybe we've set up one of our characters as a coward or an opportunist, whereas the ideal third act calls for him or her to be a hero. In terms of our lives, maybe the character we've set up improperly is us. So, just as we'd revise the first draft of a screenplay if we can't get from the beginning to the end, we need to work on revising destructive aspects of our character. If we're the type of person who gives up when the work gets difficult, we need to examine what made us this way, what patterns of thought keep us this way, and what we need to do in order not to be this type of character anymore. And if we're dedicated, we can resolve some of the issues that keep us from moving forward, and we can come one step closer to overcoming inertia.
The most important step, however, is to focus on exactly what's giving us trouble: our drama's second act, the present situation. If we know exactly where we're going and we've removed the forces within us that want us to give up, we'll have the clarity and confidence to look at our present situation and to see what we need to do - what goals we need to achieve - in order to move ahead.
Throughout this process, one rule holds true: we'll never get where we're going if we don't keep moving. If the screenwriter never finishes a line, that ninety-page screenplay is never going to get written. Similarly, if we never take a step in the direction of our goal, we'll never get there. Our goal, taken as a whole, can seem overwhelming. But an old saying runs: the journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single step. And if we know where we're going and we've come to terms with where we've been, we can start working backward from our goal to see what those single steps, those smaller goals need to be.
If we keep moving forward, however small the steps we take may be, we'll look up one day and find that the last page is in sight. We'll have overcome inertia, one line - one goal - at a time. And then we can sit back, enjoy ourselves, and start planning again for the next screenplay - the next goal, the next dream.
Generative NLP are a refreshingly plain spoken resource and training centre for the MythoSelf® Process that is based in South West London and was founded in 2001 by Charles Moore who is one of only a handful of people who has the privilege of being in a close mentoring relationship with the models creator, Joseph Riggio Ph.D. from the beginning.
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