Commitment is an integral part of our lives. We hear it in our relationships: “Ugh. I wish he’d just commit already.” When an athlete is recruited by schools his decision is called a commitment. When we need to remember something important – in the old days, it was the phone number of our high school crush – we commit it to memory. When someone pulls off an incredible feat, on a playing field, in business, in life, and in art, we invariably praise that person’s commitment.
We say the same thing about acting- the holy grail, for most actors, is found in how deeply you commit to a role.
When the actor is not committed, it can often mean they are self-conscious about appearing to be “too much,” or they fear what they are going to look like if they step out on a limb. They fear embarrassment or being uncomfortable. But the irony in acting is that the lack of commitment makes us more uncomfortable than if the actor just went for it. It’s a safe thing to not give a full effort – if we fail, we can always say we didn’t really care; if we cared, we would have tried harder and gotten there for sure. It’s safe, and it’s also boring. See what I’m saying?
Why do we let discomfort keep us from committing? What do we think will happen if we commit? Will you crash and burn? Will you get to the mountaintop? There is fear in both outcomes.
We might fear what will happen if we commit to the wrong thing. When it comes to acting, and life, for that matter, the answer to that is: relax. The irony of fearing commitment is that if we didn’t give a f**k about what things looked like, we would blow doors wide open. We would be flying.
What does commitment look like to you? Loyalty? Self Acceptance? Intimacy? The actor may not realize “Oh, those all have something to do with committing in a funny, comedic scene.” But it’s all connected – drama, comedy; it doesn’t matter. When we commit, it’s like meeting this part of ourselves that we don’t think we’ve really ever met before. Of who you can become if you just commit. It’s scary to trust that.
Be honest. Don’t hide. Stand for something. Have things that you aspire to commit to that are personal without shame and judgment. It doesn’t matter what it is. We have to meet our own best self that is evoked out of overcoming these psychological obstacles we create.
And that simply requires commitment.
Actors in video: William Tyler Johnson and Tiffany Daniels