Take your opportunities

Every day we get fresh opportunities to build relationships, connect with others, and step into change.

And yet, we often miss these opportunities because we are following an old script, get caught in our heads, or stick to a too-rigid plan and fail to respond to what’s happening now.

Learning to improvise can help.

The skills improvisers use on stage to listen, connect and respond are the same skills that foster success in everything we do. 

These skills can be honed and applied to help us ditch the script, be more present, and take our opportunities with better results.

Improvisation as a life skill?

Improvisation is a co-creative and responsive practice whose time has come in this  networked and emergent world. More than an artform, it’s a life skill. When we watch effective improvisers it’s their skills we admire.

In fact we are improvising all the time anyway. Have you ever had a script for your day? Ever had the same conversation twice? Ever been told where to live, how to dress or what to cook? We are improvising all the time. It’s the fundamental skill of being human and living in real-time, here & now.

The question we like to ask is:

How can we improvise well?

People take improv classes because you can get better at improvising.

This shifts the conversation away from “Oh, that’s fun. I used to love ‘Whose Line is it Anyway?” to seeing the possibilities for creative, experiential learning to bring more of ourselves to life.

From this, to that

By using creative training exercises from the rehearsal room of improvisation there is ample opportunity to explore skills, tools, habits, attitudes and behaviours that help us to be in relationship and to show up with:

– less panic > more presence

– less conformity > more courage

– less control-freakery > more creativity

– less friction > more flow. 

This stuff isn’t necessarily easy to learn. It takes practice. The good news is that the juice is worth the squeeze.

Exploring these areas takes us into deeper territory, into areas where we discover how our behaviour has become conditioned. So it helps for there to be laughter and positivity in the rehearsal room or training room. It feels light and goes deep.

So how can we improvise well, then?

The honest answer is, start before you are ready.

All you can really do is hold an intention to be available to what’s happening in the moment, that is to sense, adapt and respond. To learn as you go.

Improvising aligns with flow. So the triggers for flow states identified by Steven Kotler (from the work of Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi) offer the keys to improvising well

These ‘flow triggers’ are:

1. Complete concentration in the present moment (the intention to be here now and do what matters)

2. Immediate feedback (seeking to constantly sense, adapt and respond)

3. Clear goals (what do I want to achieve by engaging here & now)

4. The challenge-skills balance (the challenge of the task at hand stretches our skills).

Take a class

You can take some improv evening classes (and please do, they are fun!) or gather people for some applied improvisation training in the workplace (also fun!) to explore how you bring more of yourself into the moment and into relationship and what happens when you do.

There are some essential guidelines for improvising well, which weave their way through the practice:

 – listening and being present

– being willing to share control

– daring to be obvious

– making your partner look good

– trusting your impulses

These are the same principles that support successful interaction in every walk of life.

Learning to embody these principles and experimenting with the practices that bring them to life opens up a way of being in relationship with ourselves, each other and the world around us that feels more connected and alive. 

Over time it becomes a mindset for thriving in uncertainty. An identity that flows through all of our other identities. A way of being where the writ of doubt and despair does not run.

A way of taking your opportunities in life.

Photo by Karl Magnuson on Unsplash

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