Examples of Mental Performance in Actors
Here are three examples of actors who have made it to the top because of their work on their mindset.
Entourage star, Adrian Grenier.
“Before I go to an event or a meeting, I’ll prepare for that experience as if it were a show,” says Adrian. “What kind of performance do I want to give here? Who do I want to be? What is the outcome? And then I go through the mental process of creating that outcome in my mind. A lot of times people want the outcome without participating in the necessary steps to get there. It’s as if the actor goes up on the stage to perform–without a script, without a costume, without having done the work to embody the character. They just stand there silent, inept. Unless you practice the traits of the character and become them, you won’t be that person, at least not when the curtain opens and it’s showtime.”
Adrian Grenier demonstrates that imagery is part of how you transfer a goal from an internal place–your head– to an external place like the stage… or your life. By practicing imagery, or mental practice, you can create as close to an actual performance as possible, and when you do this you are training your brain. The same receptors are going off in your brain when you are mentally practicing imagery as when you are actually physically acting it out, it is hard for your brain to recognize the difference between the two. This is an excellent way to get more repetitions outside of practice or before a big show.
Bryan Cranston, star of the hit television show Breaking Bad.
At SportStrata we have a saying that we encourage athletes and high performers we work with to “Stay on the DOT,” where DOT stands for DOING, OUTCOME, THINKING. The D, for Doing, are the acting strategies you can put into practice: imagery, breathing techniques, and routines. In most performance settings we realize that having a plan, practicing it, and putting it into place is the quickest path toward getting the results you want. The O, stands for Outcome. Most of the time we actually have no direct control over the outcome that occurs or results in life, be it happiness, satisfaction, health, wealth, or the crowd enjoying our performance. What we do control is our mental preparation in our actions and our reactions – and that will dictate the quality of and degree to which we reach our desired outcome. Which brings us to T, Thinking, is critical! How we think about or react to both positive and negative results and upcoming challenges can contribute to our ability to perform at our best. These actions help regulate us and help our mind let go of thoughts, fears and worries. By establishing your DOT, you are able to focus on the things you can control and the more we can make that part of your routine, the more you will succeed.
Bryan Cranston really knows how to stay on the DOT. He explained how having a process focus is important in finding success as a performer. “The best advice for fellow actors is this: know what your job is. I was going into auditioning; trying to get a job, and that wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing. An actor is supposed to create a compelling interest in the character that serves the text, presented in the environment where your audition happens, and then you walk away. And that’s it. Everything else is out of your control; so don’t even think of it. Don’t focus on that. You’re not going there to get a job. You’re there to present what you do. You act. And there it is. Walk away. There is power in that. There is confidence in that… then the decision of who might get a job is so out of your control that when you analyze it, it makes no sense to hold onto that. That to me was a breakthrough. And once I adapted that philosophy, I never looked back. And I’ve never been busier in my life than once I grabbed onto that.”
Bobby Cannavale, has had his share of critical acclaim, including two Primetime Emmy Awards for his work on Boardwalk Empire and Will and Grace. As well as staring in the HBO series Vinyl.
Bobby says that acting and auditioning are like a sport. “I can only work on the things I control in the process, being enthusiastic and visualizing how I want to perform and what I want to get out of the moment,” he said. “The more enthusiasm I show and the more present I am in the moment, the more people will be attracted to what I am doing as an actor.”
In any performance, whether on stage or in life, it is very easy to focus solely on the outcome. Did I perform well? Did the crowd like it? Was the director or producer happy? It is so easy to get wrapped up in the end result. But the reality of it is we have no direct control over those results! For example, you could have the best performance of your life, some critic who had a bad day might give you bad review. The very next night you may think you had a terrible performance, and the crowd may give you a standing ovation. So it’s time to focus on the things we can control, such as developing a focus on your process. CONTROL THE CONTROLLABLES! Take your mind off of the results and move it toward your actions –having realistic and measurable goals, using positive imagery, and employing positive self-talk. By building a strong mindset you will find the best performance you are capable of.