Life and drama ultimately have completely opposing goals.
The goal of drama is to create conflicting situations in order for its characters to overcome and grow, whereas our real-life goal is to (ideally) never suffer the drama in the first place.
Though both our characters and we learn and evolve by overcoming obstacles, our characters must necessarily suffer for them to learn how to live their lives better. In life, we have the ability to learn from books, mentors, and the drama on our screens without necessarily needing to ever endure the trials, the torture, and the tribulations personally.
Aristotle’s theory of catharsis addresses this purpose of drama in our lives, defined as an emotional “purging” of sorts, and Aristotle argued that this cleansing is the core function of the literary and dramatic arts.
Below you will see three common words understandably used by actors in their work, each of which I suggest we may do without in real life. Further, I believe the removal of these words from our everyday vocabulary can actually dramatically improve our lives.
“Need.” When we need something it becomes harder to achieve. Though necessity may be the mother of invention for Matt Damon’s character in “The Martian,” needing to land that TV commercial, co-star or lead role puts undue pressure on the audition process, almost ensuring failure and disappointment.
When you receive your sides for an audition, focus not on how essential it is to your ego, career, or bank account that you land the gig. Put your energy rather into approaching the script or scene with curiosity, and then making (or simply discovering) choices and taking risks that excite and enliven you. Leave the neediness to everyone else and enjoy just experiencing whatever happens as it occurs.
“Want.” This seemingly innocuous word obstructs true growth in our lives, as it presupposes that we even know what we want in the first place. Wanting also focuses our attention on a fantasy rather than allowing our lives to follow the path that results from working hard on things we love to do. Further, it fosters the belief that what we currently possess—and who we currently are—is not enough.
Covetousness is the greedy desire to be, or possess, something attractive to us, presumably with the hope that this new state of being or possession, and endorsement or role, might fill some kind of void within us. We hope that by possessing attractive things we will be happier, more loved by others, and ultimately more successful and fulfilled. Sadly, this is rarely the result in reality. Lust for the superficial tends to breed in us even more unsatisfying lust.
“Deserve.” Allow me to me remind you (or illuminate you if you didn’t already know) that nobody owes anyone anything, especially in this industry. We do not deserve anything; we either make things happen ourselves or we don’t. Believing that we deserve makes us lazy and puts the focus on other people to improve our lives, rather than take personal responsibility for where we are, and then make the necessary changes to move forward.
Much talk in the media laments the “age of entitlement” and attributes it to Millennials in particular, arguing that Generation X was the last group of youth to understand that there are no prizes simply for participating. Once one understands and accepts that nothing is actually owed anyone in life, the only remaining way forward is to work hard and live with the consequences, be they great or not so great. Thankfully, the harder one works and the more personal responsibility one takes in life, the more likely those results are to head towards great.
I want, I need, and I deserve may be common (even handy) words for actors to use in seeking and defining objectives, and motivation for characters, but do not make the mistake of thinking we also want this drama in real life. Real human beings do better by focusing on more empowering words, such as I have, I am, and I will, because that’s what committed professionals do to move forward that much more each and every day.
Someone once told me that the difference between what we want and what we get is what we do. To act is to do. We continue to live when we continue to do. Needing, wanting, and deserving all hold us back in ways we may not have even considered up to this point.
It seems that Nike’s slogan nailed it years ago. Doing is everything. So just do it.
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