I’ve heard that the best actors don’t so much recite their lines as live them. These actors are so familiar with their character and the context of the surroundings in the play that their lines well up out of them as a natural consequence of living their character’s life on stage. As a result they won’t always say the same lines the same way every performance. They live within their script and allow for inspiration, and occasionally for improvisation.
I remember going to see a friend in a local play. It was an enjoyable experience, and I detected nothing wrong in the performance. After it was over, my friend apologized. He said one of the other actors had been late for an entrance, and he and the others had to improvise until that actor finally showed up. I hadn’t been aware there was a problem, and I remember thinking how impressed I was with their flexibility.
Sometimes that’s what life is like. The script you write and the stage you set in the morning may change by midday, and you will need to be flexible. When the unexpected happens, it doesn’t have to trigger a storm of negativity. Instead, adjust your day and continue to move through it, keeping the same attitude.
I’d like to encourage you to participate in this anchoring activity. Write a script for your life tomorrow. Before you begin, there are several things you need to decide as you set the stage for your script:
- What sort of character do you want to be? How do you want to be perceived by the other “players” on stage? Do you want to be considered frantic, chaotic, anxious, or short-tempered? Or do you want to be seen as measured, relaxed, friendly, and happy? Setting up your character will determine how you act toward each thing that happens to you.
- What do you anticipate will happen to you? What are you expecting and how will you, as this character, react? Pay special attention to the activities you have during the day that you currently consider negative. Can you determine beforehand how you’re going to react?
- How do you anticipate other people acting toward you? In any given day, you need to deal with yourself, with actions that happen, and with other people. These three make up the majority of our days. As you write your script, don’t neglect to consider this third aspect. If you think someone is dismissive of you as a person, his failure to say hello is not because he doesn’t think you’re worth acknowledging; instead it may be because of his own stress. Just as you can assign yourself the role of villain or victim, you can do the same thing with other people. Try to avoid this and write a script that reflects reality and is not based on negative perceptions.
When the curtain finally rises you get to introduce the main character – you. What are you like? What are your dominant characteristics? Given these characteristics, describe what is going to happen and how your character is going to react to each situation?
As you move through the script, how are you going to relate to others? What can you say and do, within character, to interact as positively as possible with those around you?
Finally, what is the message of your script? What concepts, thoughts, and priorities are you trying to portray? Who do you want to be, and what do you want to emphasize?
There will come a time when being positive and taking control of your life will feel more natural and less like “acting.” Take baby steps. You need to start somewhere and practice. Talk to yourself, write down your thoughts and feelings, and become comfortable with the new, positive, more relaxed you. Learn to improvise. Change is possible.
Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE in Edmonds, Washington, voted a top ten facility for the treatment of depression in the United States. Dr. Jantz pioneered Whole Person Care in the 1980’s and is a world-renowned expert on eating disorders,depression, anxiety, technology addiction, and abuse. He is a leading voice and innovator in Mental Health utilizing a variety of therapies including nutrition, sleep therapy, spiritual counseling, and advanced DBT techniques. Dr. Jantz is a best-selling author of 37hbooks and has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN.