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Bonnieby Bonnie Katz, MA

The No Baggage Vacation

Summer is a great time to take a break and give yourself a rest so you can come back to your life recharged, renewed and raring to go. Gaining some distance from your daily grind can be exactly what you need in order to gain new perspectives on old ways of thinking; especially if your acting career feels like you’re just surviving when you’d rather be thriving. With just a few new simple concepts, you can begin to create the change needed to let a brilliant, satisfying career unfold.

Concept #1 – Learn to let go. It’s important to develop the skill to let go of old ingrained patterns of thinking that hinder rather than help your ability to move forward. When you keep getting the same old unsatisfying results from a situation, stop waiting for the outside circumstances to change instead, take control over what’s happening on the inside. In order to strengthen your “letting go muscle,” you need to look at your relationship to attachment. Are you attached to feeling safe and secure by sticking to what is familiar even though it’s not getting you good results? Do you live in a vanilla ice-cream world because that was your favorite flavor since you were twelve? Well, there are 30 other flavors out there begging to be tasted and that’s not including frozen yogurt. “Life is about using the wholebox of crayons,” Ru Paul. Attachment to certain ways of thinking can make you rigid, shut you down, stunt your growth and block creativity. If you’ve been feeling unhappy lately about the direction your career has taken, maybe it’s time to venture out on a new road by changing your perspective. Remember the wise words of Jackson Browne, “Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is.” Being an actor can feel powerless at times because so much is out of your control. Stop wasting your energy trying to control the uncontrollable. Instead, focus your attention on what you do have control over — how you choose to view what is happening to you. 

For example, are you stuck in a negative view of the audition process? Auditioning can leave you feeling powerless and deplete your self-confidence. To walk away from an audition feeling empowered instead of powerless, change your view. Be more focused on your experience and less attached to the outcome of your audition, and you will be less disappointed if things don’t turn out your way. Set your intent to be the best you can be and then let it go when you leave. Obsessing about what you coulda , shoulda, woulda done will only leave you feeling frustrated. On your next audition, if you don’t book the part, don’t fixate on the let-down, instead focus on three positive things you can be grateful for; it could be learning about a great new acting class from a fellow actor, finding a quaint coffee place on the corner or inhaling the sweet smell of jasmine blooming in front of the casting director’s office. The positivity is there if you look for it. Make this a daily habit. In fact, keep a gratefulness journal and take it with you on auditions. Gratefulness journals are powerful and actually help you to redirect your focus from disappointment to appreciation. This slight shift in your view will help you to become more resilient and ready for the next challenge. It requires effort to switch your focus from the negative to the positive, but this practice not only strengthens your resilience it makes you a happier person. Happy people are attractive and feel good to be around.

Concept #2 – Everything comes down to the process of beginning again, especially for actors. Stop beating yourself up when you make a mistake, it’s a natural part of life. Pick yourself up and begin again. Remember, you are not alone, we all share a universal vulnerability. Even talented, iconic actors like Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty have been in flops (rememberIshtar?). But, they don’t let their mistakes define them, they are more than their mistakes. So are you. Don’t ever be ashamed of a decision to be in something that didn’t go quite as well as you expected. Instead, congratulate yourself for taking a risk. That takes guts! When you begin again each morning, remember the great words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. ”Don’t give your power away by putting too much weight on what everyone else thinks. If you come across producers or casting directors who are not in love with you, it’s okay. It’s more important that you love yourself. When you love and accept yourself, you won’t spiral down when you hit a bump in the road, you’ll just begin again. Rather than being intimidated by the audition process, remind yourself that it’s a terrific opportunity to begin again and again and again. Be grateful for each creative opportunity.

Concept #3 – See the world containing abundance rather than scarcity.Don’t hold on to things as if they were your last chocolate-chip. Happiness is not a limited commodity. Your fellow actors are not standing in the way of your success. If you find yourself thinking, “That would’ve come to me if only that person was not in my way,” then you are stuck in a limited view that keeps you continuously feeling unsatisfied. The best cure for envy and poverty mentality is to practice mindful meditation and become more compassionate. Yes, wishing other people well is actually good for you, and here’s the scientific proof: Barbara Fredrickson, the director of the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Laboratory at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill found that, “ Meditation can encourage an upward spiral of positivity and compassionate connection to others. Meditation can change the brain in measurable ways-and in ways that seem linked to care and compassion for others. Like muscles in the body the brain is pliable. There is evidence that if we train in a particular way of relating to other people, we may be able to shift our neural response in a direction that is healthier, less stressful and more pro-social, meaning that it’s more strongly oriented to caring for the well-being of others. “ If you want to start feeling happier and get more enjoyment out of your life and your career, get your brain onboard. Let go of old views that don’t serve you and replace them with a practice that is scientifically proven to make a positive difference. Practice the art of self-acceptance. Give yourself permission to be imperfect. In Sharon Salzberg’s New York Times Bestseller, “Real Happiness,” she talks about several performers who do a lovingkindness meditation if they have stage fright, “Standing in front of an audience, before they start acting, they send out wishes for the well-being of everyone in the room. When they do that, they no longer have a sense of the audience as a group of hostile people out there waiting to judge them. They feel, okay, here we all are together. “ To try a guided meditation click here.

The last concept and most important is to remember to play and have fun with this, after all . . . you’re on vacation, aren’t you? Have a terrific summer!

Bonnie Katz is a licensed psychotherapist in private practice. One of her specialties is working with artists in the Entertainment Industry. Her skills and training as a psychotherapist and mindful meditator enable her to work with clients in an atmosphere of warmth and understanding. For more information on Bonnie’s psychotherapy practice,visit her website.Follow her on Twitter and Facebook

Conscious Actor articles are not a substitution for professional psychotherapy.