The Secret to Doing Anything You Want
Recently I celebrated a big birthday by spending a week at the Esalen Institute on the beautiful coast of Big Sur.
I was there to take a workshop called “The Max: Expanding the Limits of Your Self-Expression” taught by an amazing woman named Paula Shaw.
Paula has been acting for over 50 years, and while she calls The Max an acting workshop, that doesn’t begin to describe what we 25 participants and 8 assistants did together for five intensive days.
The Max has such a reputation that many of us had known about it for years (like me) but never had the guts to do it until now.
It’s so scary that Paula requires each participant to tell her face-to-face on the first night “I’m in” so they won’t bail as the going gets tough.
As I write this, I smack against the difficulty of describing exactly what we did in the workshop because it was so experiential. But please bear with me as I try because I’m getting to something important—no less than the secret to doing anything you want.
What we did in The Max can be described as a series of exercises and assignments that forced us to discover where we hold back and repress what we really feel and wish we could say.
We were encouraged (tough love style) to push beyond our self-imposed limits and practice expressing our feelings to the max.
This was all done either on stage in front of everyone, or in smaller groups. It wasn’t about thinking or writing—it was about experiencing and expressing. There was nowhere to hide.
For example, one exercise was about expressing anger. Instead of just saying “I’m angry”, we were asked to take it as far as we possibly could (without any physical contact or violence), using whole-body physical gestures, 4-letter words, and of course, shouting at the top of our lungs and getting in people’s faces!
(During one gentleman’s turn, I discovered the origin of the expression “spitting mad!”)
Intense and exhausting, yes. And extremely liberating.
And it wasn’t just anger. We also explored the expression of love and other emotions, and performed memorized pieces as well as group skits.
The whole point wasn’t to try to “act” per se, but to connect authentically with our audience while staying connected to our bodies and our emotions. And to fully express those emotions both verbally and physically.
Now here’s the point I’ve been getting to.
At the end of our week together, Paula asked the group to guess in one word what allowed us to do everything we did—what allowed us to take the risks we did and go beyond what we thought we were capable of.
Do you know what it is?
That’s right. It wasn’t courage, or fearlessness, or even presence. It wasn’t any special talent or knowledge. It was simply commitment.
The reason we were able to stand up on stage in front of a room of 33 strangers and sob or shout or go crazy was that we were committed to our self-growth more than we were committed to playing it safe.
Remember how Paula asked us each to tell her “I’m in” on the first night? She was asking for our commitment—to her and to ourselves.
It’s important to note that she didn’t ask for our agreement, which is different than commitment. There’s a strength and forward stance to commitment that overshadows a simple agreement, which is more passive. People break agreements all the time, but when they’re truly committed to something, backing out is not an option.
As the workshop progressed and the work got harder, it was our commitment that made us stick with it. We had decided that we were going to do it—come hell or high water—and we did.
So let me ask you: How committed are you in your life right now?
In your business?
Are you absolutely committed to creating a life and a business you LOVE?
Are you committed to accomplishing your dreams?
Because that’s all it takes. Commitment. There’s nothing to hold you back except your decision to commit. The skills and knowledge can be found and the obstacles overcome. But commitment comes from inside you.