It's time to call out one of the biggest killers of committed and driven actors: the lack of a causation 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:
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. And à la incomprehensible Terms & Conditions documents, we often aren't fully cognisant of what we're signing up for until it's too late — until we've hung up our aspirations entirely.
But fear ye not! We needn't add to the body count. Instead, here's a three-step strategy we can plug and play today.
1) Sever the expectation
Let's save ourselves the agony and 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 mic-drop Buddhist quote inspired by the Indian philosopher Shantideva that says, "It is easier to put on a pair of shoes than to wrap the earth in leather". Detaching from our seemingly reasonable expectation is like putting on a pair of (metaphorical) shoes. And boy, do these metaphorical shoes make our journey sooo freaking much easier and more enjoyable.
2) Find yo' "fix" elsewhere
Now that we're no longer working with this faulty assumption, we need to find a replacement for our "results fix".
Jim Afremow, one of the world's leading sport psychology consultants, champions this solution. When Afremow's clients (some of whom are Olympians) experience a slump in their athletic performance, he encourages them to "excel in other areas of life" while working through the setback. As fellow peak performers, we'd be wise to follow suit.
Although physical, tangible endeavours seem to be most effective (it's oddly reassuring to point at direct evidence of the "Effort = Results" law on occasion), go with whatever sails your ship. Of course, no pursuit will provide an uninterrupted stream of wins, but periodic exceptions to the rule are far more digestible than a rule that doesn't apply at all.
For some inspiration, here are a few common examples:
- a musical instrument
- foreign languages
- an art or craft (e.g., painting, knitting, woodwork etc.)
3) Continue as usual
Finally, with our regular hits of results firmly in place, we can return to diligently walking the actor's path.
Soon, we'll find we're less frustrated and resentful. The delayed gratification becomes 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 success.
We may even find something funny starts to happen: the outcomes we once so desperately craved start to trickle in of their own accord. Like cautious wild creatures, they now feel able to approach because we're finally at ease.
Thoughts / feedback / challenges? We'd genuinely love to hear.
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