So it is the same with my artistic pursuits. As a teen actor, I hadn't lived long enough to experience a lot of life's profundity. Sure, teen angst is pretty prevalent, but the challenges and triumphs I've experienced up to this present moment give me a much richer outlook and understanding. I try to incorporate this into my performing. There's more of a Zen calmness, even when delivering an emotionally charged scene.
It also carries over to the martial arts. I'd like to share an example of what I mean by evolution. Below is a YouTube video of me performing an Okinawan bo staff kata. The first clip is of me in 1990 as a brand new black belt performing in my backyard in Hawaii (yeah, shirtless and in shorts, but hey, it's 80+ degrees over there!). You'll notice how much effort is being put into showing the "power" behind the staff techniques. There's a lot of energy being wasted. At the time, I considered this to be a strong performance. Especially noteworthy is how I have my head down looking as I deliver the first two low strikes.
The second clip is me doing the same bo kata in the present day. There's a marked difference in 22 years of training. The first strikes are quick and smooth, and I'm looking at my imaginary opponent. I'm not trying to put power into the bo, rather, I'm letting the momentum take care of itself. One thing I've learned in practicing with the bo over years is that speed is much more important than power.
As a young black belt, my experience with the bo was limited to kata and tournament competition. So everything was about showing the movements. Several years ago, I had the opportunity to practice sparring with karate weapons for a possible reality show pilot. The details of the show are still confidential, but I only share this anecdote to tell you that I discovered quickly that much of what I was taught about the bo didn't really work in real life. The deep and deliberate sweeping motions were too slow against another weapon.
I quickly adapted my stance and technique while sparring (this was with real bo, not foam padded kid's stuff), and threw out about 90% of the techniques I knew. That left me with thrusting, and sideways strikes without winding up. Those techniques scored on my opponent 100% of the time, because they were too fast for them to react to.
Consequently, it's affected my kata practice. In all the bo forms I know, my motion has eliminated much of the wasted movement. While I still perform the same movements, my understanding of how a bo behaves in real life has modified my technique. I no longer cling to old preconceptions just to hang on to "tradition".
When I train in the martial arts, I don't practice the same way as I did in the 80s, 90s, or even ten years ago. I've learned new concepts that I've applied to my training, and expect to keep evolving over time. Though my core style is Okinawan Kenpo Karate, I also train with elements of Tae Kwon Do, kickboxing, boxing, Brazilian Ju-Jitsu, and Kung Fu.
It's the same with acting. A young actor first tackling Shakespeare will spend a lot of energy "showing" the Shakespearean style -- caught up in the trappings of "looking good" and being "true to the Bard". But as an actor matures, and experiences other roles and life in general, they learn to find the intent behind the dialogue. The technique becomes invisible, and all you're left with is the drama. When I watch video of renowned English actors in their youth performing Shakespeare, and then watch them now (doing a different Shakespearean role of course), I see an evolution and deeper understanding that can only come with experience.
Have you evolved? Are you still in the same acting class after several years? There are some great teachers out there, but if you stick with them too long, you won't evolve -- you'll hit a plateau. As great as a teacher may be, they can't teach you everything. Most of what will make up your acting ability will come from your own work, not a class. Classes are great to teach you new concepts or aspects of the performing arts where you may not have experience. Improv, voice, scene study, audition technique, etc. are all skills that a performing artist should be well versed in.
Running water never grows stagnant. Make sure you never let yourself grow stale.