Actor's New Years Resolutions
Committing to Failing
I've only come around to new year’s resolutions recently. Having been inspired by my girlfriend’s wisdom and success in this area, I've come to realise why I've resisted them for so many years. I knew I would inevitably fail at them. The thing I wasn't registering fully was 'duh', of course I will!
But new year’s resolutions are a good thing. The secret is you have to treat them as a commitment, and work failure into the equation. Lapsing will happen, it's a guarantee. But don't choose to not set intentions because you know you'll fail. Of course you will. It's like being in a committed relationship. It's not going to be easy, you will get it wrong many times. The commitment part is committing to stay with it, inclusive of getting it wrong. You forgive, you reflect, you be generous and compassionate (and that includes self compassion), you recalibrate and you continue on.
Make it Fun!
Anyone who has a regular exercise or meditation routine knows that the hardest part is getting to the gym or cushion itself, not the actual activity. Anything that serves as a motivator to get you there is valuable. Anything that rekindles your awareness about how to live a more happy and skillful life is valuable. And so new year's resolutions are a positive cultural force for change. Let's not fall into cynicism about the statistics of gym-sign up dropouts we've all heard so much about. You are not a statistic.
That being said, your resolutions should be chosen skillfully. Don't commit to the gym if you hate the gym. There are plenty of exercise alternatives you will actually find enjoyable (the secret here is to always treat it as a game, not a competition - something we could all do with remembering when watching or playing our next football game). Don't let it lose the fun factor. It's not about the goal, but the journey. The goal simply provides a necessary parameter to create the journey. Like any game, too many rules and expectations = not fun = give up. But just enough to make it an enticing game = fun = persist for its own merits.
The Challenge of Acting Classes
The same goes for acting classes. Remember it’s called play. Don't choose the ones that are going to make you feel shit about yourself. Challenge and trauma are not the same thing and a good coach or teacher builds you up, they don't tear you down. Choose the classes that really challenge you yes, but challenge you for the right reasons. Because the right balance of challenge is what makes any activity enjoyable. Too easy and it won't maintain your interest; too hard and you'll lose motivation from seeing no meaningful progress and skill development.
Similarly don't keep doing the same camera class that gets you up on your feet for 2 minutes, tells you to move your eyebrows less and you're done (apart from the obligatory sit in judgement time where we attempt to boost our own egos on the failures of others 'using their eyebrows too much'). Don't choose a class to play it safe, but also don't choose a class that makes you feel unsafe. As the great John Patrick Shanley says "Theatre is the safe place to do the unsafe things that need to be done". This is what any class you go to should strive to do and this is the only environment you will ever be able to be truly creative in and perform your best work.
Commit to Failure, Commit to Success
I'll say it again, you need to be able to fail, continually and hard. And you need a space and a set of expectations to do this safely. Where the failure itself is what helps you realise your own inherent self-worth. Instead of basing your identity on your successes alone (self-esteem) which collapses the moment you inevitably fail again.
So whatever commitment you're looking to make this year. Be wise, be brave, trust your gut and commit to the change you wish to see in yourself. And above all, get ready to fail. Change your acting, change your life. I've made my resolutions. What will yours be?