What is it that most defines who you are?
It’s not your thoughts. You have no control over them. Try sitting still for five minutes and watching your mind, you’ll observe hundreds—if not thousands—of them, and you invited very few of them.
Is it your emotions? No, those are as ephemeral as your thoughts and exist in a constant state of coming and going.
Additionally, we all have similar thoughts and emotions. In huge ways, we are all pretty much the same.
So who are you and what makes you the singular being you are?
It’s your choices and your actions.
The choices you make about which thoughts you act on and which emotions you express is the first defining characteristic of individuality.
Out of the thousands of thoughts and emotions that run through your brain in five minutes, why did you put certain thoughts into action and let others go? Which emotions were so seductive that you singled them out for external expression and which went unexplored?
For an actor, there is no more important information to have about yourself than why you do the things you do. It’s the core of who you are, and if you don’t know what moves you to action, how are you going to be able to make those decisions honestly for a character?
As essential as it is for you, as an actor, to know why you take action, it’s also not enough. In order to give the amazing audition that gets the job or the fascinating performance that sends your career into the stratosphere, you need to look at how you take action.
So let’s go back and watch that parade of 5,000 thoughts again and say that out of all of them you chose to act on the thought, “I want to try to be more positive today.” First, investigate why you picked that thought to act on and not the others. Second, see how you carry the thought out into world. What actions do you take to be more positive? Do you make a list of things you’re grateful for? Play with your dog? Give someone a compliment? Go outside? What do you do?
Acting is about your actions; it’s about doing. We may all have the same thoughts and feelings, but we don’t act on them the same way. How does each action you take feel to you in your mind, heart, and body? Does the action make you feel light or heavy? Free or trapped? Expansive or contractive?
The experience and associated feelings of your actions are directly transferable to the characters you’re playing. If the role is someone who is trying to pull themselves out of depression, your exploration of what you do to be more positive will come into play; the feelings of your actions will already exist in your mind, body, and heart. Because you are now alive with the felt truth of your actions, you can bring that truth to the character and create something deeply human and uniquely yours.
At the end of the day, it won’t be the thoughts jumping around in your head like a bunch of wild monkeys that will be your legacy. It will be your actions that will leave a lasting impression on the world. They are the truth about you and the only things that are ever truly yours. So, while you’re here, dig in, explore, get really interested in the choices you make and the actions you take. If you do, you’ll show up bigger in your life and brighter in your work.
Craig Wallace is the creator and award-winning teacher of The Wallace Audition Technique, an audition preparation system that he developed based on his years of experience as a studio executive, talent agent and casting consultant. In his 14 years of teaching, he has seen the careers of hundreds of his students take off. He is also the author of the best-selling book, “The Best of You – Winning Auditions Your Way.”
Craig is currently teaching his audition technique classes and his Meditation for Actors classes in Santa Monica, CA. For more information visit www.wallaceauditiontechnique.com.