Are your emotions being held hostage by outside circumstances? Do you find that your good mood is reliant upon things going your way? Are you happy when you get what you want and pouty when you don’t? Although these reactions seem logical, they can eventually take a toll on your ability to feel balanced and happy. When outside circumstances control your mood, you’re hitching your happiness to events that are most likely out of your control. As actors, it is especially important for you to learn how to handle the ups and downs of your profession. There is so little in your control. Whether you work or not is dependent on another person saying yes. You may want that particular agent or manager to represent you, but it is up to them to say yes. Even when you work your hardest, you may not get what you want and deserve. Things don’t always go your way. Life feels unfair. You’re not wrong for feeling all those things, but after you kick and scream, then what? Are you going to dwell in the muck for the rest of the day, week, year? What a waste.
Has the “not enough” bug bitten you in the behind? Are you suffering with symptoms of running around, and feeling like you don’t have enough time, money, energy, or talent? Stop for a moment and ponder the wise words of Annie Dillard: “How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.” If you’re going through life meeting obligations in a trance and operating on automatic, you may be turning into a human doing instead of a human being. Making productivity priority over presence can be a source of great unhappiness. Busyness can keep you in a constant state of overwhelm and distract you from living life to the fullest. It can also deplete the creative fuel necessary for your acting career. To have more control over the quality of your life, you’ve got to know how to find balance.
Ponder these two simple ideas to help you master the art of living.
Time is a valuable resource – don’t squander it.
The juicy things in life come with a price. To feel the elation of being on a mountaintop, you’ve got to endure the vigorous climb up. Falling in love comes with the risk of getting a broken heart. Playing it safe and putting all your energy in feeling comfortable is a sure way to miss out on life’s adventures. As Diane Ackerman, poet, essayist, and naturalist says, “I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I have just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.”
As actors, if you’re more invested in not making a fool of yourself than you are in reaching your full potential, your performances will feel safe and not very exhilarating. If Jane Fonda worried about the snot dripping from her nose in Klute, she never would’ve given us that incredible Academy Award winning performance.
Fear can be tricky. Sometimes when it’s knee deep and you’ve built a life of avoidance, you’re not even aware of what you’re missing. Don’t let your fear bully you around. It’s never too late to get back on track.
Count on booking a job when you’ve got tickets to go on that long awaited vacation to Hawaii. Be assured that your car breaks down as you’re about to take off for an audition. Expect bad weather on opening night. The universe is not out to get you. Everyday stress is part of life. It’s nothing more and nothing less. However, when you start slapping on negative statements to ordinary occurrences, you are automatically making your life harder than it needs to be.
I don’t think most people wake up every morning and say to themselves, “Mmmm let me see what I could do today to screw things up for myself.” Self-sabotaging is usually very unconscious, but that doesn’t make it less dangerous. It doesn’t make sense to live your life expecting wonderful things to happen to you when A) You don’t feel that you’re entitled to be happy, B) Feel on some deep level that you are terribly broken, or C) Are stuck in the past. If you truly want to be happy and successful, start doing things that will take you towards your goal, not away from it. Here are two tips to get started in the right direction.
Most actors pour their focus into getting work. They struggle to get a great headshot, be seen by the right casting agents, find a prestigious acting class, and, eventually, get the best representation possible. They roll up their sleeves and do the work necessary to make their dream come true. That’s a great start, but that is just the beginning. If they’re lucky and happen to be in the right place at the right time and book a job, they will face the greatest struggle of all: proving they can do a great job.
Challenges are a normal part of life and especially work. It’s competitive out there and most people put their focus on getting the job, not developing tools to handle the job. For example, when you eventually cross paths with a difficult director, an unprofessional fellow actor, or script rewrites, how will you get through it all and come out smelling like a rose? When it comes down to it, that’s what everyone is going to remember. The people that hire you are not interested in the difficulties you had to face; they’re filled to the brim with their own difficulties. There is a way to not only get through challenges, but actually experience them as valuable events that have great benefit. It takes work, but oh how much better you’re going to feel when you come through your challenges stronger and wiser, not deflated and defeated.
Follow these steps to start creating the valuable tools needed to weather the storms of acting:
1. Self-awareness is necessary to create change.
Being a productive human being is an important element of feeling successful and worthy; accomplishments are necessary for self-esteem to grow. However, social media can make it hard to keep everything in perspective when you begin comparing your accomplishments to everyone else. It is especially hazardous to an actor’s mental health. How can you go out there, be creative, take risks, be the best you can be when competitive pressure is looming over you? Here’s what you can do when the pressure gets turned up: nothing. You heard me. Do nothing.
Here’s why: Molly just posted on Facebook that she booked a national commercial, her third this month! You read this post and immediately begin to feel envy. As if that’s not torture enough, you start putting yourself down. Negative self-talk begins to creep in: “I guess I’m not young enough, pretty enough, talented enough. Oh, I’ll never be successful. I will never be able to get the right agent or manager. Aunt Harriet was right, I don’t have what it takes to be a successful actor. Who do I think I am anyway?” Exactly, who do you think you are? Because if you’re self-talk is anything like this, you’re not thinking very highly of yourself. With thoughts like these, what direction do you think you’re career is going to take?
Are you using your full palette of emotions on auditions or are you playing it safe by using only the familiar ones? It’s your job to give the best performance possible at every given opportunity. It’s not easy to breathe life into words on a page and make the characters come to life. Acting is a challenging profession. Don’t limit your ability to give a great performance because you are unable to access your full range of emotions. Emotional range is like a crayon box. When you’ve got the jumbo 120 crayon box available, you have so many choices at your fingertips to color your pictures brilliantly. Don’t restrict your possibilities by only using 3 crayons. In the words of Ru Paul, “Don’t be afraid to use all the colors in the crayon box.” Remember, the more emotions available to you the more powerful of an actor you will be.
As a kid growing up in Brooklyn, there was a code that defined true friendship, it was that you could always count on your friends to stick up for you no matter what. They always had your back and discouraged anyone from talking behind it. Loyalty was of the utmost importance. Knowing that you had friends you could count on helped you to feel more secure and less alone. No matter what life threw your way it was always more manageable with your friends around. You could count on them and they could count on you. That’s how it was back then.
I bet you have someone in your life who always looks for the negatives in most situations? Me too. In fact, the last time we got together for dinner and a movie, he complained that we wouldn’t find a good parking spot, would probably encounter slow service at the restaurant and be late for the movie. When I asked him why he was being so negative, he said. “I’m not negative, I’m just a realist.” Really? Is it being a realist to only see the negative and leave out the possibility that there’s a 50% chance of things going in a positive direction? The reality is that you don’t know what could happen. It is more accurate to say that life entails a great amount of uncertainty.
Are you leaving out the most important thing on your list?
As the year draws to an end, you might find yourself busy making lists: lists of gifts to buy, goals to meet, and extra pounds to lose. But the most important thing you’ll need to turn those lists into reality might just be missing—the right mindset. Having the right mindset will help you not only meet daily challenges, but also any obstacles that emerge along the way. If you haven’t given this much thought, you are cheating yourself out of a powerful head start.
First, take an honest look at your mindset during 2015. Did you meet each day with a wow or a whine? You have the power to make a radical change in 2016, one that will not only help you to achieve your goals, but also allow you to enjoy the journey along the way. There is an old proverb that illustrates this point beautifully: instead of focusing on lining one’s path with leather, line the bottom of your feet with leather, so that no matter where life takes you, you will be resilient.read more