Last updated on February 12, 2014
Say the word, “Manifesto” and the first thing you think of is probably more along the lines of an unshaven, undiagnosed, hoodie-wearing hermit in a cabin somewhere with a laptop, an internet screed, and illegal, highly-combustible substances. You probably don’t think of an unshaven-legged, undiagnosed (with Strep throat, but pretty close to certain she’s nurturing it right this minute), hoodie-wearing suburban mother of two with a laptop, an internet screed, and perfectly legal and potentially-combustible substances resulting in her inability to find the old food squirreled away in her teenager’s room fast enough.
Manifestos. They’re not just for crazy people with an axe to grind. Or are they? In Act Two of a play, the characters begin to demonstrate what’s really driving them, beyond the surface-personalities they displayed to first engage you in Act One. The audience begins to see what really matters to the characters, and learns more about the why.
If you’re perpetually stuck in Act One, you’re still playing the surface-level character–the parts of you that everybody immediately gets (or thinks they do). But in Act Two, that’s where you get to throw them the curve ball. You get to reveal the first parts of your Cunning Plan or the Real Drive that powers you as you move forward. This is where you get to show off your superpower. Life in Act Two is where you, as Your Own Person(TM) get to declare what matters to you, and how you want to change the world through it.
Do you have a Manifesto? It doesn’t have to be long, though it can be. Hell, write a book on how you think the world would be better if people only listened to you. Or see if it can fit on a fortune cookie paper.
Five Elements of a Great Personal Manifesto
1. It must be active. Use verbs. Declare your intent.
2. It must be you. There are things you can change, and things you cannot change. Your manifesto is your personal statement of being and doing. Your manifesto is not yours if it relies on the whims of chance, other people, or happenstance. Many people make the mistake of declaring an intent that relies on external validation. Your manifesto isn’t to become a famous actor, it’s to become an extraordinary actor, independent of the external yardstick of fame.
3. It must reflect your real, true, and personal values. These are the “whys” of why you do what you do and are who you are. You need these whys to understand the parts of yourself you are choosing to honor with a manifesto.
4. It must be alive. Your manifesto is allowed to change. Just as you came out of Act One and moved into Act Two, your manifesto will change when you learn new things, try new things, be new things. Adjust as necessary.
5. It must be true. Probably the most important one here is that your personal manifesto must be true to you. You must be true to yourself in composing your personal manifesto. If you read it silently, do you hear it in your mother’s voice? Then go back and do it over until you can not only hear it in your own voice, but speak it out loud and feel the truth in it.