Updated: Jul 6, 2022
Directing is about supporting and guiding people. As a voiceover artist, director, and acting coach, I write about work and life optimization from all sides of the coin. To give good direction requires a unique skill set, and these skills shouldn’t be underestimated or left behind the moment you leave the studio, set, or boardroom. So how can you apply your directing instincts and abilities to improve other areas of work and even life? Let’s explore what could happen if we consciously applied our director’s hat elsewhere and what positive impacts it would bring.
Trust Your Instincts
Over time, even before becoming a director, as you work in any given field you learn to spot what works and what doesn’t work. Time leads you to develop an understanding of how to navigate a bad performance and transform it into a great one. With enough experience, you begin to feel this distinction as an instinct. In large, directing relies on instincts. Whether in the creative field, directing voiceover, musicians, actors, or models, or in the business world directing employees, staff, freelancers, and teams, you need both the ability to convey knowledge and the ability to feel what direction things need to move in. Even though every project and each talent is different, as a director you know in your gut when it clicks. If you want to learn more about how to enhance your own directing techniques, I’ve written about the fundamental components of giving good direction as well as how to conduct a seamless recording session in previous blog posts in this series.
Now how can we use this outside of directing?
The stronger your directorial instinct is, the easier it is to listen to it in your own work. Remember to ask yourself:
Does the work I am doing align with the information I have about this project?
Does this FEEL like it just clicks?
When we direct others it is easy for us to be objective. However, in our own work and in our own lives, we often lose neutrality as we are too close to the action to be able to see it from a director's viewpoint. So, the challenge is to put your director's cap on in situations you wouldn’t normally think to, so you can gain perfective from stepping back. The room that is gained from stepping back makes way for instincts to come in clearly through, and be heard and felt through the noise.
Learning the Right Language
The words we chose are the building blocks of our reality. Language is a lot more impactful than we realize, and this becomes very apparent in directing. As a director, you know the power and impact using the right word can make. A simple lexical change can take a good performance and turn it into an outstanding performance.
The same can apply to your own work. The words you use to describe your work, define your work. The language you use directly affects how that work will look, what results it will yield, the how it will evolve and look over time. Furthermore, the language you use in your personal life is also key to what your life looks like.
So use the same level of thoughtfulness and selectiveness in the language you use outside of directing as you do during a session and watch how it impacts your thoughts and behaviour and those of the people around you. Words are magical.
Get more comfortable with critique
Everybody struggles with criticism to varying degrees. Most of us feel an instant jolt of defensiveness when in the face of criticism. As humans, we like to try our absolute best to avoid discomfort at all costs. The problem with that is, that the best things in life happen when we push ourselves out of our comfort zones. The biggest growth, most distinguished accomplishments, and most fulfilling experiences are a direct result of discomfort.
As a director, our jobs involve a truckload of critiquing, fine-tuning, and feedback that might not always be positive in order to get the results we need from our talent. While at first glance that might seem like a negative aspect of directing — who likes to be the bearer of bad news? The constant criticism that is paramount to directing is actually a blessing in disguise.
Two things happen with the repetition of criticism:
As with anything, the more you do something the easier, more natural, and less painful it becomes.
Your view of criticism changes as a director. You shift from looking at criticism as an attack to a tool, a prompt to do and become better.
Recognizing, normalizing, and celebrating the strengths and weaknesses of others can help you do the same for your own. As you become more comfortable with giving criticism, and your fundamental outlook of it changes, you can grow to be more accepting of criticism yourself and see it as a tool for success and prosperity.
If you are like most of us and have a tendency to avoid critique or self-critique, you can instead view it as direction or self-direction — guidance towards creating and becoming who and what we want in life.
Embrace the vital role of kindness
Along with embracing criticism, however, you need to also consciously embrace kindness. The opposite side of the spectrum of criticism, the side where it is normalized and embraced needs to be balanced with kindness, otherwise on a deeper subconscious level you will lead yourself down a miserable and dangerous road of self-doubt and shame that will hinder any chance of a positive result.
You are your own worst critique. There’s a reason we all know this phrase. The risk of self-criticism without kindness is that we often take it too far and actually prevent ourselves from succeeding out of a need to make sure everything is perfect. We know perfection doesn’t exist and yet we let it hinder our chances of success time and time again. So instead, show yourself some love and appreciation. Recognize the work you do and the amazing things you bring to the table. Create your own little sandwich of love, criticism, and appreciation, and your work, your relationships, your life will blossom.