This week I attended a number of “taster” sessions at the Gaeity School of Acting. I think it’s a good idea to always be seeking out ways for self improvement plus I’d previously really enjoyed the Standup Comedy course that I took there last year.
I thought it really interesting to see a common thread of self-awareness and mindfulness running through the three different classes I tried this week. In an acting / performing context self-awareness is mission critical to helping the actor / performer to improve their delivery by helping them to really focus in on their physical, as well as vocal actions, and on how their actions can impact on their delivery and performance.
Tuning into such a heightened sense of awareness also made me think about the parallels with dealing with everyday chaos and stress. In this evening’s taster class, ‘Acting to Camera’, The instructor placed us (his class) in quite a challenging position. We started by standing around in a circle with three balls. On his command the three people with the balls had to bounce the balls to another member of the circle, shout out their own name and then run to the position where the ball ended up. The receiver then had to repeat the process.
Writing this down it doesn’t sound so difficult but when you add the fact that there were 20 or so people, many of whom didn’t appear to be at all sporty, chaos quickly ensued. Chaos indeed was exactly the point of the exercise as it had been designed to get people used to being able to operate effectively in a stressful, kinetic environment.
This exercise was designed to help a group to be more aware of themselves and others in a particular space and time. If you weren’t switched on you decreased your chances of catching the ball or even being aware that there was a ball coming towards you in the first place.
The chaos created by this exercise was a fascinating way of physically demonstrating how different people’s minds actually do react to the external distractions of daily life. Trying to strategise or overthink did nothing to improve the success of those involved — if anything it made things even more chaotic.
The people who had most success in this evening’s exercise seemed to be those who just focused on the immediate task in hand. This took me back to my days of training with Rugby and GAA teams. No matter what craziness was happening on the pitch, when something went wrong, the better players would always usually follow the same mantra: “recover, relax and focus on the next point or try”.
The next time you’re facing a challenging situation I’d encourage you to just focus on the next most immediate task and on getting that done. Don’t over think things. Everything else will most likely fall into place if you can just keep cool, focused and grounded in the present and in the immediacy of the what it is that you are doing.
Got a success strategy for dealing with pressurised situations? Please do share it in the comments!