It was a question I never, ever, ever foresaw myself asking. The fact I was even considering the question was almost more confronting than the question itself. Yet, there it was: "Is it time to quit acting?".
Like many, the path of the actor was one I had secretly committed to at a very young age. Admittedly, I didn't start working professionally until my mid-teens, but the dedication I had for the craft saw me spend the next ten years utterly consumed — fuelled by a want to "make up for lost time".
Challenging the identity we've constructed of ourselves is an unsettling thing to do. We humans prefer things to remain consistent, unchanging. We favour the discomfort we know over the discomfort we don't.
Sometimes, however, we sense that not asking the hard question will actually lead to greater pain in the long run. That sense is very often right.
Here's the secret: the answer to the question "Is it time to quit acting?", is "It depends". It depends on whether we're experiencing a momentary or complete loss of love, and unfortunately (or, perhaps, fortunately) nobody can answer that for us.
This is where we have to do something society largely deems "woo-woo": listening to our inner wisdom.
Before we roll our eyes and vow to never read the Dojo blog again, it's worth just knowing that this is a real, scientifically researched entity. Call it what you like, we all possess it — though it will have been drowned out by our social conditioning for the majority.
The Conscious Leadership Group provides a checklist of experiences we'll encounter when this inner wisdom has been ignored. Examples include:
- Loss of vitality/aliveness
- Not being on purpose
- FOMO (which actually leads to missing out on the deepest, most meaningful things)
- Resentment toward self and others.
Any of these sound or feel familiar?
Fortunately, these same folk have developed a process by which we can return to this inner wisdom — especially when we're facing a difficult question or decision. This process is called the "Whole Body Yes" and is built upon work from The Hendricks Institute.
A Whole Body Yes, as they describe it, is the feeling of being "fully aligned with your head, heart and gut and there is a bodily sense of well being as you consider a choice".
This process, which only takes ten minutes, sees us scan our three centres of intelligence (head, heart, gut), paying attention to the sensations that arise (e.g. constriction, expansion, tension, relaxation, temperature, etc.). If we don't get a Whole Body Yes, it's a no.
For those who'd benefit from external guidance, the Conscious Leadership Group has made a free recording of this process available online. However, it's simple and intuitive enough to walk through alone if we'd prefer.
If continuing down the actor's path elicits a Whole Body Yes — a sense of complete internal alignment — then our answer is no, it's not time to quit acting. What we're experiencing is a particularly strong moment of frustration, grief, or doubt. Everyone encounters these from time to time — actor or otherwise. Life has its seasons.
In this instance, we need to honour what it is we're going through. Feeling guilt or shame about this momentary loss of love won't do us any good. So what? We're momentarily out of love with acting. That's all it is. We accept this and choose to either wait it out or actively reignite our Actor Flame. Whichever approach we take, we can relax. If we're truly still aligned with the pursuit, our love will blossom again.
If continuing down the actor's path doesn't elicit a Whole Body Yes — that sense of complete internal alignment — we need to pause. Our answer may be yes, it is time to quit acting.
In this scenario, the gentlest approach is to commit to a temporary step back — one to three months out of the actor bubble. Some people immediately recognise their complete loss of love and wish to start pivoting ASAP, but for most of us, slow and steady will be key. That, and a stash of thick metaphorical blankets of compassion. It's common to start identifying with "failure".
What's critical to understand is that stepping back from, or choosing an entirely new life path is as far from "failure" as one can get. Both take tremendous — and rare — courage. True failure would be to continue pursuing something our heart is no longer called to. To continue climbing the wrong ladder. To deny the world the gifts we would otherwise be able to offer.
During this hiatus, regularly returning to the Whole Body Yes process can help us ascertain our next move. Mentally try some different options on for size and see what arises. Journaling or talking to someone we trust (and won't pass judgement) can similarly be powerful tools for working through cycles of brainstorming and reflection.
As for me, this process provided the immense and immediate clarity it promised. The path of the actor was still absolutely a Whole Body Yes. However, there were some changes I needed — and wanted — to make in my approach, so I took a temporary step back to give myself the time and space necessary.
Having now "returned", I feel re-energised, reconnected to my purpose, and far more at peace. I know I have another ten years in the tank, easy. Unless, that is, acting ceases to get a Whole Body Yes.
Thoughts / feedback / challenges? We'd genuinely love to hear.