Know What to Give a Damn About

To say that you don’t have enough time in the day to concentrate on what is most important to you is really to say that somewhere in that day you’re wasting time on what’s unimportant.

When many people say they’re busy, they really just feel busy because they’re unfocused and unorganized. If you sleep eight hours a night, that means you have 16 hours a day to live. If you’re living with sharp focus and presence, you’ll find that that is more than enough time to accomplish your tasks and make progress on your goals.

But how many people actually manage to live with the focus and the presence needed to get the most out of their days, weeks, months, years, and lives?

Those that do spend the majority of their time and energy each and every day on what truly matters to them. This requires vigilance, concentration, and above all, a clear knowledge of what is essential in your life.

I always know when a student is leading an unfocused life when I hear them say, “I didn’t get to spend the time that I wanted on my piece this week.” There are 168 hours between classes. The fact that the student couldn’t find one of those hours to work on something that would get them closer to their life’s goal shows a distinct lack of maturity, commitment, and the ability to recognize what is essential and what is not.

Of course there are things that we have to take care of, and we can’t blow off the necessary tasks of life. But neither do we have to let them kidnap more time than they deserve or sap our energy.

Here’s an exercise that I did with a group of actors that was a big help. Each day we gave ourselves five “damns.” We would then give those damns to anything we thought deserved them—but only five. (Actually we gave seven to the parents in the class, because they actually are busy!)

It really made us think about what was really worth our time and energy, and it was wonderful to see all of the time and energy wasters that got eliminated from our days, from not getting embroiled in endless Facebook threads started by people who are desperate to be heard and who could care less about your opinion, to not giving a damn and a lot of negative energy to the people who would cut us off in traffic. (That one may not seem like a big deal, but as we learned, if you give a damn about too many of those minor irritations, they add up and can highjack your energy and ruin your day.)

Keep in mind that this is not an exercise in denial or slapping a smiley face over things that bother us. We recognized all of the occurrences of our days and saw how they moved and affected us. The difference was that we didn’t mindlessly throw our time and energy away on reacting to every single one of them.

Asking if the occurrence was worth one of our precious damns allowed us to either invest totally in the experience or move on. It put us in control and made life seem less like was always having its way with us and more like we had some control over our days.

The ability to discern and focus on what is important is one of the hallmarks of maturity and this exercise really helped us grow up fast!

After two weeks, the 17 actors and I pooled our data. The most amazing and wonderful statistic was that on average we found a little over two hours/day of free time that we didn’t have before the exercise. By cutting out the fat of wasted time and effort directed toward non-essential activities and people, we were rewarded with 120 minutes! Two hours each day is a goldmine! I mean, if you’re aspiring to being a working actor, just think of all of the things that you could with two extra hours in your day that would move you more quickly and energetically toward that goal.

Most of what happens to you in this life time is out of your control. You get some pleasure, some pain, some gain, some loss, some hope, some fear. In this way we are all pretty much the same. What makes us unique is how we respond to what happens to us in our lives.

By being aware and discerning about where the moments of your life get spent, and on what you choose to react to and how, you’ll be clear, honest, and strong about what you give a damn about.

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Craig Wallace
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.
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