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.
Disappointment is a natural part of life, especially when you’re an actor. You don’t have to go out there and seek disappointment, if you wait long enough, it will find you. Knowing this, it doesn’t make sense to add more anguish to your life with a negative attitude. In fact, what’s needed is quite the opposite. In order to have a sense of balance, you’ve got to counter the negatives with wisdom and a positive attitude. I’m not talking about some syrupy, phoniness where you are denying what you’re feeling and slapping a smile on your face. I’m talking about having the strength to acknowledge what you’re feeling inside and finding the courage to push through it. Here’s how to start developing the tools you need to meet life wholeheartedly and get good at supporting yourself on the inside:
SNAP OUT OF IT
Get rid of the mindset that life shouldn’t be hard. In case you haven’t noticed, life is hard. Loss and change are a part of living. Instead of running from that fact, learn to accept it. There is a wonderful tale illustrating this; a monk held up his cup of tea in front of his students and said, “This cup is broken.” The students were baffled because it obviously wasn’t. The monk continued to say, “When I drink from this cup I know that it has the capacity to break. Therefore, I hold my cup enjoying it and appreciating it more because I know it can shatter.” Stop thinking that things are not going as they should when you encounter obstacles and challenges. Instead, view the challenges as a natural part of life. Accept your experience, nod your head and think, yes, of course and move through it. Whining about it and thinking that life is unfair will only slow you down.
Don’t waste time in self-pity or you will be left behind. When you learn to be a good sport by accepting your experience, fair or unfair, you will be more open for the opportunities in the present moment. The past is “history,” the future is a “mystery” this moment is a “gift” that’s why they call it the “present.” Remember, when your life is free of challenges for a moment, and life happens to smile on you, it’s a gift not a given. Don’t try to make it last or whine when it is gone. Draw on your wisdom, knowing that this is the nature of life. When you nail your auditions, allow yourself to relish in feeling good about your wonderful accomplishment. If you don’t get the part after a brilliant audition, stop beating yourself up by staying stuck in the why, why, why of it. Get comfortable with uncertainty, you may never know why. Accept that you only have control over your performance and not whether they choose to hire you. Be wise don’t whine. Take responsibility for your outlook not the outcome. Acknowledge your disappointment then let it go so you can be present for the next opportunity. The reality is that you only have control over yourself. Exercise better control of your attitude. When something doesn’t go your way, it doesn’t mean that something is wrong. More importantly, it doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you. You simply hit a bump in the road. Don’t attach any meaning to it, or tell yourself stories that will drag you down or make you feel badly about yourself. Stop feeling rejected when someone says no. It’s just no, nothing more and nothing less. Stay away from judgment and your attitude will be more positive. You don’t have control over what other people think about you, but you have 100% control over what you think about yourself. Make sure your self-talk is positive. When you change your thoughts, you change your feelings.
Difficulties are not going to go away, they are here to stay. If you’re stuck in some fantasy that life should be easier, you’re only going to make it harder for yourself. When you can accept that the life of an actor, and life in general, is hard, then you will appreciate the goodness even more. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that if you are a successful actor it will shield you from difficulty and disappointment. Success cannot erase the natural process of life. A positive mindset isn’t born from a life of ease. It comes from the ability to engage with life knowing and accepting that adversity is part of the human experience. Learn to get up when you are knocked down and with time you will get up faster and stronger.
Wishing you a very adventurous New Year filled with potential, purpose, and love.
I’ve created The Conscious Actor Inspiration Journal; to help actors develop awareness of what inspires them. Beautiful pages filled with inspirational quotes to help keep you strong minded. For New York actors, the journal is available at Drama Book Shop Los Angeles actors may pick up the journal at Samuel French Bookshop
Conscious Actor articles are not a substitution for professional psychotherapy.