How to excel at moments that matter in life: think like an actor

Think like an actor when you have to perform at work.

Performance is not limited to school plays and talent shows. We perform all the time. From asking for a pay rise to interviewing for a job and negotiating with clients, we are constantly performing. Therefore, it makes sense that if we want to excel in moments that matter in life, then we should think like an actor.

Actors use techniques to create new realities on stage and set. But everyone can use the same techniques to create long-lasting realities for themselves in real life. Just to be clear though, using acting techniques isn’t manipulating people or being phony or fake. It’s communicating in a way that persuades others to see your point of view and maybe even act in your favour.

See the bigger picture.

The number one rule of acting is to operate with a clear purpose. When you’re thinking about a situation, you need to ask yourself the clichéd question associated with actors—‘What’s my motivation’. Characters are driven by their motivations. But you need to consider long-term objectives, not just immediate ones. For example, in the Lord of the Rings, Frodo’s long-term objective is to cast the ring into Mount Doom. This single motivation dictates all the action and dialog that comes before it to ensure he achieves his goal.

Use tactics.

Once an actor has identified a character’s goals and desires, they need to translate them into actions through tactics. Tactics translate the words from the page to the stage or set. They turn the words of the writer into the actions of the actor. Tactics are usually expressed as transitive verbs, which are verbs that can be ‘done’ to someone or something. Examples include coax, nudge, bait, or pester, as well as comfort, enlighten, soothe, or engage. In short, tactics are the things we use every day to get what we want.

Deal with stage fright.

It seems every time we want to achieve something great in our lives, fear creeps in and takes over. It prevents many of us from reaching for our goals and achieving greatness. Stage fright, or fear, is normal among most actors. Not just when they’re starting out, but every single time they perform. However, many will tell you that the fear also makes them feel alive and gives them the energy to perform. So, when you feel your palms sweat and your stomach turn just before a job interview or presentation, know that it’s normal. Not only that, but it might actually be necessary for you to perform at your best.


We’re all trying to get what we want. But most of the time we don’t consciously choose our objectives or tactics, and we let fear get in the way. Whether you’re convincing your landlord to replace your stove or urging your boss to give you the day off, you’re subconsciously using these tools anyway. So why not use them to help you excel at moments that matter in life?

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