I stood in the middle of a circle surrounded by colleagues. I had five seconds to think of a non-work-related fear. I shouted “I am scared of congested traffic.” I anxiously awaited movement from the group. No one moved, which meant that no one had that fear. I stood alone. Suddenly, applause erupted from the circle. Cheers filled the room for my fear. I felt like a hero in the improvisation spotlight.
Improvisation is the act of creating something without preparation. For musicians, it is a song. For actors, it is a play. For writers, it is a short story. For employees, it is creative play in the workplace.
Being in the improv spotlight opened my eyes to the power of improv in the workplace, but more so to the power of improv in life. Improv breaks the chains of perfectionism while using each other to make life the best it can be.
Here are the three improv rules to help you improve your life.
#1 – Be spontaneous. Life is busy. Calendars are full. I doubt that “be spontaneous” is on your daily to-do list. Being spontaneous takes practice especially for a recovering perfectionist like me. We live handcuffed to our calendars, our chores and our responsibilities. We develop blinders to life around us and scurry to the next thing. We miss the blooming tulips and smiling faces. We miss life. Define your handcuffs and blinders to allow spontaneity.
#2 – Build upon each other’s ideas. I have ideas. You have ideas. Together, we have the best ideas. Our life experiences, beliefs, values and perspectives allows us to open our mind to the possibilities. It take vulnerability to step out and share your ideas and remove your personal insecurities. This builds a “we”, not “me” mentality. Embrace your insecurities and build upon each other’s ideas and strengths.
#3 – Make each other look good. We do life with family, friends, coworkers, etc., which I call my life people. We also do life with our enemies, which can suck the life out of you if you let them. Sometimes we have a choice to interact with or avoid our enemies and sometimes we don’t. Either way, we need to make our life people and our enemies look good. We promote, never demote. We praise, never criticize. We love unconditionally, never hold grudges. We become “we”, not “me.” Love your life people and your enemies no matter what and make each other look good to outsiders.
Let’s live life through improv by encouraging spontaneous moments, building on each other’s ideas and making each other look good. You are only promised this very moment, so define, embrace and love life through the rules of improv!
Credit: Kudos to Hal Adler and Kenn Adams who created the ah-ha moment for the power of improv for me.