I've been improvising at this amazing improvisation (comedy) training center/school/theater for the past seven months called iO West (formerly Improv Olympic). It's been an absolute joy and privilege to dive into this art form of improv, one that depends on being present in the moment, reacting to onstage stimuli, creating character and situation and heightening both, in addition to many other areas connected to the craft. I've been learning, growing, and playing, and having the best time doing so.
Which made me think of... life. Living. Our day-to-day lives. Don't we improvise every day of our lives? We go through most of our lives making choices that we didn't quite know we would make the second, minute, hour, day before. And the best life we can lead happens when we are present in the moment, reacting to stimuli, creating and heightening, and more, right?
So all of this led me to Wikipedia to get a definition for everyone. Here it is:
- is the practice of acting, singing, playing musical instruments, talking, creating artworks, problem solving, or reacting in the moment and in response to the stimulus of one's immediate environment and inner feelings.
- can result in the invention of new thought patterns, new practices, new structures or symbols, and/or new ways to act.
- occurs most effectively when the practitioner has a thorough intuitive and technical understanding of the necessary skills and concerns within the improvised domain.
i.e. The simple act of speaking requires a good deal of improvisation because the mind is addressing its own thought and creating its unrehearsed delivery in words, sounds and gestures, forming unpredictable statements that feed back into the thought process, creating an enriched process that is not unlike instantaneous composition.
So, basically, aren't we all improvisers? Every day, in our very own lives, delivering an unconscious, or conscious (or both), performance of living. The plays, film, poems, music, comedy shows that involve improvising reach their outcome/goal by their end, concluding the journey on which they've taken us.
(Note: "outcome/goal" is not be confused with "outcome-based goal." While there are "outcome-, or result-, based goals" and "process-based goals," I use the term "outcome/goal" to bring more attachment, connection, solidarity to you and what you're going to complete/achieve. Goals can often seem distant, something for which you're reaching (too far); outcomes are something you have decided - "This is my outcome. It is done." The combination gives at least a choice, or, hopefully, a greater sense of destined accomplishment.)
If we were to look at our outcome/goals we set in the same way, though, we often go on the journey but don't always reach them. Why is it? Maybe it's because life is very complicated and we don't have "a thorough intuitive and technical understanding of the necessary skills and concerns within the improvised domain". So what if we applied some of the main principles of successful improvisation to our outcome/goal (o/g) setting, relationship, journey, and the completion of it? Let's see how much actually connects!
The power of agreement. Negative emotions/talk ("No," "not," "can't," "failed, failure") and denial/denying all stop o/gs right in their place. Also, agreeing and adding on to progress toward the o/g is much more effective and valuable than agreeing and staying complacent with where you are at.
2) Make a choice. Make a strong choice.
How can you get anywhere if you don't choose to go there? You must be active to forward action in your life, and that means making a choice. There are not necessarily right or wrong choices; more often, there are strong and weak choices. What is the most active, strongest choice you can make to get closer to your o/g?
3) Make eye contact and connect with your partner(s). Listen and remember.
You must connect with your o/g, or else it will wander off from you. You are building a relationship and that means direct, attuned contact and communication with your o/g. In addition to your own stating of what it is, what you want, you must listen to your o/g and remember the signals, clues it gives you along the way.
What elements of improvisation do you use, do you think are valuable in your outcome/goal setting, relationship, journey, and completion?
*Here's Part 2, where we explore 12 more principles that will allow you and your o/g to have fun (and success) improvising together!
All the best and yummiest to you.