It's time to call out one of the biggest killers of committed and driven actors: the lack of a logical mathematical equation.
For the somewhat type A, over-achievers amongst us, we expect acting — like most other things in life — to follow this formula:
Effort = Results
Or, for the true nerds out there (hi friends!), to plot along this trajectory on a line graph:
And yet it doesn't.
Choosing to be an actor is like agreeing to step into a parallel universe where this Earthly rule of physics doesn't apply. Yet, similar to any page of size 2 font Terms & Conditions, we often aren't fully cognisant of what we're signing up for until it's too late — until we've already hung up our aspirations entirely.
But fear not, we needn't add to the body count. Here's a three-step strategy ready to be put in play today.
1) Sever the expectation
Let's save ourselves the agony and simply stop asking for our acting endeavours to provide a logical correlation between effort and results. Let's just save ourselves the heartache. Because no matter how desperately we plead, It. Won't. Change.
There's a Buddhist quote that says, "It is easier to put on a pair of shoes than to wrap the earth in leather." Detaching from this seemingly reasonable expectation then becomes our metaphorical shoes. And boy, do these shoes make the journey both so much easier and more agreeable.
2) Find our "fix" elsewhere
Now that we're no longer working with this faulty assumption, we need to find a replacement for our "results fix". This solution is championed by Jim Afremow, one of the world's leading sport psychology consultants. When Afremow's clients (some of whom are Olympians) are experiencing a slump in their athletic performance, he encourages them to "excel in other areas of life" while working through the setback. As actors, we can do the same.
We're free to be as creative as we'd like here. The only rule is that it must work for us specifically, though physical, tangible endeavours seem to be most effective. It's oddly reassuring to be able to point at direct evidence of the "Effort = Results" law on occasion. Of course, no pursuit will provide an uninterrupted stream of win after win, but periodic exceptions to the rule are far easier to digest than a rule that doesn't apply at all.
For some inspiration, this "fix" could take the form of:
- a sport
- a musical instrument
- a foreign language
- an art or craft (e.g. painting, knitting, woodwork etc.)
Whatever feels right and true.
3) Continue as usual
Finally, with our regular hits of results firmly in place, we can continue diligently working on our career as we were previously. But trust us, this will feel very different after steps 1 and 2. The work will no longer frustrate us or feel redundant. It will just be part of the game we've chosen to play — hopefully for a lot longer now, freed from a futile expectation and armed with a satiating supply of successes.
We may even find something funny starts to happen: the outcomes we once so desperately craved start to trickle in. Like timid wild animals, they now feel able to approach us because we're finally at ease in the world.
Thoughts / feedback / challenges? We'd genuinely love to hear.