This has been an interesting week for me, because I was fortunate enough to have been given the opportunity to help four different actors with their respective career issues. In each of these cases, the questions they asked were astounding, unusual and extraordinarily valuable.
And it made me realize just how valuable the answers really were.
So…what were these questions? And what were the answers?
Now, I get asked an awful lot of questions about acting, both on-mic and on-camera, the art, the commerce, the science…the whole business. Truth is, I love answering all of them.
And far and away, the most common type of question I get asked deals with facts: “Which of these mics should I use?” or “What editing software is best?” or “What file format should my auditions be in?”
(The number one question I get? How to attach a certain awesome mic to a standard mic stand. I can’t even.)
I can usually answer these types of questions with a few words, or with a link to an article I’ve written. And in just a few seconds, the questioner can be off, going about his or her VO business.
But I think that the other type of question I get is far more important, and far more useful to our professional (and personal lives). And they are asked rarely, if at all, especially by performers who are struggling. That’s why this past week was so amazing.
Because the questions I got weren’t about facts, they were about beliefs.
In particular, limiting beliefs.
The beliefs that hold us back
What is a limiting belief? It’s basically any belief that stops you cold from being productive, taking actionable steps, achieving the kind of success you want, earning more money, feeling more accomplished, more satisfied or more happy in your life.
“I’m too old to be an actor.”
“I’m tech illiterate.”
“All the big stars have all the high-paying jobs sewn up.”
“I hate auditioning, because I never book anything.”
Any of these ring a bell?
And these limiting beliefs are sometimes really difficult to recognize, because they usually sound pretty logical, they’re often shared by others, and the payoff you get for believing them can be comforting and make you feel safe.
And sometimes, they’re hidden in other questions. When someone asks me, “What model microphone do you use?”, the hidden limiting belief often is “I can only be successful if I get the mic that David uses.”
(I hate to break it to you, but the mike I use, and am successful with, is roundly panned by a lot of “experts.”)
But when you are able see a limiting belief for what it is, it’s a golden opportunity to make a change for the better. And I have to tell you…those are the queries, the ones about what people believe, that really excite me.
Because the results of exchanging a limiting belief, one that stymies you, for an enabling belief, one that serves you, are usually pretty spectacular.
Destroying Limiting Beliefs: The Process
I love the process of listening to an artist talk about the struggles they have, hearing and identifying the limiting belief that contributes to that struggle, and helping them find a replacement.
Here’s an example of a limiting belief I’ve heard a thousand times, and that I’ve written about before:
“I need to remain pure with my artistic choices, and not worry about the money. If I consider the ‘filthy lucre’, it will sully me as an artist.”
Now, you may be thinking “Wha? I love paid work!” But there are plenty of people who are stuck on the idea that artists are expected to struggle financially. It’s part of being an artist.
(And for some, it’s actually something to be proud of. They love talking about the ramen they eat, the couches they surf and the survival jobs they hate.)
But there’s an issue. Unlike answering fact-based questions with a simple solution, bringing a limiting belief out into the light, destroying it and replacing it with an enabling belief is a longer, more involved process.
First, you need to admit that the belief you hold is, in fact, a limiting one. (Some people just don’t want to think they’ve been shooting themselves in the foot all these years.)
Second, you need to examine how you came to have this belief, and why it’s so real for you. (Who set that example? What authority instilled this belief? What actual proof do you have that it’s true?)
Third, you need to identify the payoffs you get from that belief. (Do you feel safe and secure when you believe it? Do you rest easy knowing your belief will stop you from being ridiculed or rejected?)
Fourth, you acknowledge it, and decide to change it. Once you do that, and you decide you want a better option, you create a replacement. An enabling belief. One that supports you.
Example: instead of “I’m too old to be an actor,” what about “Age is just a number. They need me too.” Sure, they need young characters, but they need wise, experienced older characters, too. Just watch television or go to the movies, and actually inventory the ages of the actors and the characters they play.
Fifth, you look at the payoffs you can expect from this new, enabling belief, and be ready to get excited: the payoffs of an enabling belief are far more satisfying, productive and profitable than the safety of pulling the covers over your head with that old limiting belief.
Sixth, and finally, you create and actually execute actionable steps to put this new, enabling belief into action, modifying your belief system for the better. This is the fun part. This is the celebration. This is shifting to another gear and another, higher, level.
It’s. not. easy.
It’s easy to say, “Replace your limiting beliefs with enabling beliefs.” But that’s not all I’m saying. I know how hard it is to let go of familiar, comfortable thoughts, and stretch into a new rule or two that requires admitting what’s working and what’s not working.
But if you can do that, you can work toward being fully realized, more passionate and at ease with your work and being an artist, and understanding the “why” in Mark Twain’s quote.
That’s why I love being a coach. I love helping students and clients explore that entire process. If not me, find someone you trust, someone that understands the artist in you, that wants your success, to help you explore this process and see if you can’t make things better.
What about you?
So…what limiting beliefs do you think you might be holding on to? I’d love to create a massive list in the comments below, so if you have more than one, post away. I’ve gotten together a list of over 150 that I’ve heard (and some of which I’ve, unfortunately, believed) over the years, and I’d love to figure out a way to help everyone with this process.
I think the end result is better than simply knowing which mic to use, don’t you think?
Hope this helps.
PS…as I was writing this, I started to think about something kind of cool that I can do that might be useful to you, and a lot of other people, to help them with this process. Let me continue to think about it, to consult with the coaches, and I’ll keep you posted.
UPDATE: I’ve come up with something big. You should check it out here.