3 min read

Widening the Circle

Long-time friends of the Dojo will know half of our raison d'Γͺtre is pioneering actor well-being. The kind of holistic well-being championed in other peak performance professions, but, bafflingly, not ours.

In 2022, we wrote an article about how influential our inner social circle is on our well-being β€” specifically, those five to ten people we spend the most time with. While that thinking absolutely still holds, it's actually only one of two pieces of the social/relational puzzle. It isn't just our inner circle that determines our well-being; it's our wider circle too.

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Circles and ties

Just so we're on the same page β€” if you've previously studied sociology, you may have come across the terms "strong ties" and "weak ties" in the context of human relationships. What the literature calls "strong ties" (i.e., a partner, close friends, safe family members), we call our "inner circle". Similarly, what researchers refer to as "weak ties" (i.e., people we pass in the course of our day, individuals in mutual groups or communities), we call our "wider circle".

Semantics addressed, you don't need to have read our 2022 article to appreciate the power of having a strong inner circle (although, hopefully, that post provided a compelling case for why we should curate this circle as intentionally as we would a Spotify playlist). Most of us intuitively appreciate that having these amigos makes us feel better β€” even if we weren't aware they objectively improve the quality of our lives,[1] increase our longevity,[2] and enhance our sense of purpose and worth.[3] What we might be less cognisant of, however, is that our wider social circle can offer us a powerful second dose of these same benefits too.[4] In a sense, our wider circle is the booster shot we're all wise to get.

Easier said than done?

Now, we may be thinking, "Sure, I'd love to join a football team or meditation sangha, but I'm an actor. That's not a luxury I have".

We'll challenge the absolute validity of that statement in a hot second, but before we do, it's worth us flagging that, inherently, our wider circle isn't supposed to be a consistent group of people. Indeed, even our inner circle will evolve and change β€” albeit, far less frequently than our collection of "weak ties".

Here, exchanging "hellos" with the people you pass on your morning commute counts β€” even if you're on tour and your "commute" changes weekly. As do brief conversations with the barista who happens to brew your coffee on any given day, and the light-hearted banter with the hair and makeup team you're assigned on this gig but may never cross paths with again once you wrap.

Yes, our careers are project-based and we're often nomadic, but we nonetheless encounter other humans as we work on the projects we work on β€” wherever this work may be. The same is true in our off-season and/or when we're holding down a Muggle Job. Some human interaction will be present, so we may as well make it count.

Annie Potts "Time to expand" GIF

As for the first point, here's a tough love moment: we probably could find a casual football team or meditation sangha to join for the two weeks/two months we are based in a spot, at a time workable within our prescribed schedule. There's likely a friendly football match or netball game we could slide into on our day off. And there's almost certainly a meditation group or other spiritual community we could sit with for an hour or two.

Yes, we'll have to spend a few minutes on ye olde Google to locate such tribes, but if we deem our well-being worth investing in, these few minutes could provide an outsized return.

Thoughts / feedback / challenges? We'd genuinely love to hear.

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[1] https://www.estherperel.com/blog/july-2019-letters-from-esther-connection

[2] https://longevity.stanford.edu/lifestyle-medicine-2-relationships/#:~:text=One%20study%2C%20which%20analyzed%20data,day%20and%20consuming%20excessive%20alcohol.

[3] https://www.nm.org/healthbeat/healthy-tips/5-benefits-of-healthy-relationships

[4] https://www.hbs.edu/ris/Publication%20Files/Relational%20Diversity%20in%20Social%20Portfolios%20Predicts%20Well%20Being_d606bf1c-4c59-411c-84f0-f8dca0cebcad.pdf