The director of a play or a movie is responsible for ensuring that the arc of the story makes sense, that every choice coheres into a whole. She makes sure that the way a scene unfolds early in the story will lead inevitably to what happens at the end. Every decision has to serve that ultimate goal, and any decision that doesn’t has to be revised.
One example would be an actor who keeps getting a laugh in rehearsal because he makes a face when another character does something. The short-term effect is great—there’s a laugh! That’s fun!
But let’s suppose that moment needs to be about what’s happening in the scene, and not the face that the actor is making. What is this scene for? What purpose does it serve in the big picture? What do we lose if we let it just be about the laugh? Does the rest of the play work as well if the audience experiences comedy at this moment? Will we get the big pay-off later if we get this small laugh now?
We have the opportunity to be our own directors, to intentionally work to a long-term goal rather than short-term results. We can do this with small choices every day, in how we relate to other people and to ourselves. If I snap at my colleague today, will I have as much goodwill in the bank later? When I look at the arc of this relationship, what do I hope to see?
How can we create intentional moments now that serve our long-term vision?