While I'm clearly no expert on acting or life, I can't deny the prodigious effect certain acting principles have had on my view of life. Here are a few of my favorites:
1. Control your breath.
If you've taken any singing or acting class, you've been told time and time again to sustain your breath. In both music and spoken text, this sometimes entails marking and remarking breaths with a pencil until the lyrical lines become second nature. While tedious, it allows you to take out unnecessary breaths and build enough endurance to sing/say clearer phrases.
Just as it's essential to not run out of breath, it's essential that breath not be expelled for no reason. In one of my acting classes this year, a helpful recurring note I received was to stop releasing tension from the scene using my breath. In other words, "stop huffing!" It's a distracting (and annoying) waste of breath.
Essentially, controlling my breath has proven to be a lesson in pacing and prioritization. Pacing yourself as you work toward your goals in life helps you to abandon the breaks you don't need and to build endurance. As someone with a tendency to assume lots of responsibilities at once, I will attest that strategic pacing is the best way to avoid burnout. In addition, I've slowly but surely learned to stop wasting energy, or breath-- I can't allocate my time and energy to things that I don't really prioritize.
2. Don't play the problem.
Play the solution.
In one of my classes, we did an exercise centered around doing the same scene in different environments. My partner and I had a conversation set outside in the chilly, February night air. During the exercise, I "felt" the environment through an occasional shiver in the cold. My professor said that in doing this, I was playing the problem (focusing on the cold) rather than the solution (doing things to warm myself up to feel less cold.) I initially justified it by the fact that in real life, I really do shiver in the cold. That's when it clicked-- in life, I sometimes play the problem.
Playing the problem in life means focusing too much on the negative (stress, pain, unfairness, etc.) and not enough on the positive (hope, drive, possibility, etc.). Although it's difficult, I'm trying my best to stop playing the problem when life inevitably swerves off course.
3. You can't play two things at the same time.
... because then you play neither.
You have to make a choice that supports a distilled, specific objective.
In life, like on stage, you must be decisive and take action. More importantly, you must accept the challenge of trying out different actions (or, in stage lingo, tactics) until one yields the desired result. Trying to do two at once leaves you paralyzed in the land of ambiguity.
4. Complete the motion.
During a recent rehearsal, I tried an unexpected physical choice that my director liked. They said that they wanted me to keep it, but that I needed to complete the motion rather than start it and then back off. By making a motion that lacked confidence and completion, it appeared altogether haphazard and unclear in meaning.
Every motion in life mimics the same trajectory as this kind of physical motion. If it isn't completed, there's no way it can really affect anyone. If I set a goal in life and don't work toward it to the best of my ability, I haven't completed the motion.
With every positive move we make in life, we need to commit and follow through-- for ourselves and, more importantly, for the people our actions affect.