#1: Why does it help actors to learn about how their thinking works?
There’s a big difference between good acting, very memorable acting and general run-of-the-mill acting:
Good actors can mimic a character.
Great actors understand the essence of the role they are playing, meaning they understand what their character wants, thinks and feels. They enter the context of their character, and think the thoughts of their character, without being distracted and feeling watched by the camera team or theatre audience.
For example, a character may want to take revenge, so in order to play that role convincingly, we need to think the thoughts of the character.
Now, often in real life, we may have thoughts that contradict the thoughts of our character, this is why we need to understand our own consciousness, how thinking works and how we can change our thoughts.
This is what makes us convincing actors.
But it also helps performers like athletes.
For example, when Usain Bolt enters a stadium, he seems to be in the right performance state of mind, and it probably is the result of a great deal of rehearsal.
#2: How do you get into a performance state?
As actors, athletes or even business owners we need to be able to perform on command. This requires us to master our thinking.
To do this, we have to become mindful of what we think, on a day to day basis. This allows us to also sort out our thoughts.
Obviously, this doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a discipline we have to learn by staying mindful of our state of mind and becoming aware of what it is we are thinking. Only then can we start to sort out our thoughts, put thoughts away that don’t serve us in performance situations (and deal with these thoughts later) and replace them with thoughts that support whatever it is we are trying to achieve…
Action Steps: Make it a daily practice to just observe your own thinking, for 10-20 minutes a day. This can be in form of taking a walk or doing a short meditation.
#3: Why do people struggle to do simple practices like meditation, that we all know that could help us so much?
The reason for this is because we want instant results.
Unfortunately, technology is speeding things up so much that we get an instant result very quickly.
For example, we can watch a short clip straight away and get instant gratification or satisfaction. Or we can check emails or facebook pages and again we achieve certain purposes or certain things from doing that. So we always rushing from one thing to the next.
Learning to think is a bit like learning an instrument– it can take a great deal of time and especially, in the beginning, it’s quite tricky, especially since we are working hard and don’t see instant results.
Action Step: Start an activity that requires concentration and pushes you out of your comfort zone. This could be learning a new instrument or skill, or committing to a daily practice, like meditation.
#4: Favorite meditation app:
Inside timer – where you meditate and can see how many other people are meditating at the same time.
#5: Distractions – when people go to sleep early but keep browsing, what is happening in terms of their thinking?
It’s a similar kind of thing as when you’re reading a book and you find yourself stuck on one paragraph, or you feel like you’ve read a page and you don’t remember what you’ve read. It means you want one thing but you’rethinking about something else. In case of going to sleep, your mind is still racing, and one trigger on your phone leads to the next, until hours have passed…
Action Step: Switch off your phone an hour before you plan to go for sleep, for a week, and compare the quantity and quality of sleep compared to your past week. See if you notice a difference.
#6: Why is it so hard sometimes to find your happiness – for example, Robin Williams was such an amazing actor he seemed to have it all going for himself?
Sometimes, being unhappy can be the cause of an illness. Robin Williams suffered from depression. Depression can become so dark and so painful and the suffering so much that you lose any sense of hope that you can’t escape from it.
How we’re thinking about topics like life, sex, women, men, money and every facet of life determines how we feel. This is because these thoughts automatically activate other thoughts on an invisible basis, which determine our mood. These thoughts and the respective moods become stronger and stronger unless we become aware of them and stop our thinking patterns.
Happiness has to do with creating positive feedback and positive automatic thoughts from the experiences of our life. It really means building momentum when we feel good and looking for an empowering way when interpreting negative events.
Neil gives two more practical pieces of advice on happiness:
- Become extremely good at what you do, a true expert.
- Help others.
Action Step: Start slowing down your thinking whenever your mood swings, and try to become aware of triggers that affect how you feel. Using a journal or speaking to a trusted friend or mentor can help with this process.
#7: How can we change our thinking?
We have events that take up our thinking. This can be a traumatic experience from the past, a meeting we are about to enter, or anything else that speeds up our thinking. The issue is that usually we don’t recognize our thoughts, and so we need to slow down time, for example by going on walks, sitting down and reflecting, or speaking to a trusted person. Our goal is to see what Events are taking up our thinking, ideally seeing them as pictures and impressions. Once we become aware of these Events, we can then process them so they don’t take up our thinking any more.
For example, a kid who was bitten by a dog will have fears everytime he sees a dog, until he processes the thoughts in a manner so that they no longer take up his thinking. Once this happens, he can change his behavior towards dogs.
#8: One of Neil’s favorite techniques to improve our thinking
Foreburning – Before entering an important event, we want to prepare ourselves entally to get into the state we want to be, in that specific moment. For example, 15 minutes before a casting, Neil will prepare himself to get into the most appropriate state of mind, by picturing himself in that audition and seeing himself think the thoughts and impressions he wants to be thinking in that situation. In this way, he knows he will give himself the chance to perform at his best, without any regrets, regardless if he actually gets the job or not.
You can do this before meetings, or sports events, or negotiations or any situation where you want to perform at your best.
Action Steps: Think of the most common high pressure situation you currently face, and use Foreburning on a regular basis.
WHERE TO FIND NEIL:
Personal Facebook: https://web.facebook.com/neil.sheffield