“Improv.” You’ve probably heard the term before, but do you know what it really means? Let’s look at the definition: Improvisation (Improv) – creating something or performing something spontaneously or making something up as you go.
Actors use the tools and rules of Improv to help with auditions, to learn how to think fast, for comedic outcomes, to help with creativity, to work together, to honor first thoughts, and to be truthful and in the moment. These very things that help actors can also help you. Specifically, if you want to grow personally and/or professionally, Improv may be just the place to start.
So, why is this? Rules and principals in Improvisation create structure. These rules can also be seen as important life skills every human being should develop.
Here are some rules and principals that can (yes!) Improv(e) your life:
1. Embrace Mistakes:
The very rules of Improv create a safe space where making mistakes is not only okay, it’s celebrated – yep, celebrated. “Mistakes” often lead to great successes. Take Mrs. Tollhouse. Do you know her story? Briefly: after running out of chocolate for her chocolate cookies, she trusted herself enough to place broken up bits of chocolate bar inside her cookie batch. When the chocolate didn’t melt to create a chocolate cookie, she was left with what is now the famous chocolate chip cookie. Imagine if she didn’t embrace that “mistake”?
When you make a mistake, do you kick yourself, mope around, and feel like hiding under a rock in Yosemite? What if you were instead able to accept the mistake as a learning tool and build upon it to create a successful outcome? You’d feel pretty good, and you would take your mistake and turn it into a success.
2. “YES AND” with the World:
The cardinal rule of Improv is “YES AND.” We use it to work in agreement with others, to help the storyline stay alive, and to collaboratively create. YES AND doesn’t negate the idea that was suggested, but rather embraces it and adds on to it to create something even better – together!
What if all businesses took the idea of YES AND and used it in facilitating meetings with their employees? When employees feel heard and their voices are validated, productivity soars. Let’s face it – people want to work with positive, solution-oriented individuals; no one likes a Negative Nancy. Working in agreement doesn’t mean you have to like the ideas that were suggested, it just means you don’t throw them away and put people down for having them. All ideas can be used to create something bigger and better if they’re embraced and built upon.
3. Just Be You:
It sounds so simple, right? Just be yourself! What if I told you people prefer real, honest individuals over those who just say what others want to hear? Take actress Jennifer Lawrence, for example. Like her or not, people are drawn to her genuineness. She says what’s on her mind, she’s real, and she’s herself – and people love that. So many individuals are afraid to just be themselves. I see it time and time again at business events. People will say or do what others do in order to feel accepted.
I first learned how to “be myself” at an Improv class in 2006. While attending the conservatory program at The Second City in Hollywood, I was taught the only way to laughter and good honest work was being truthful to who I am. I believe this is a mantra we can all use. For years I tried to hide the fact that I’m a clumsy, wackadoodle (yep, I really said that), absent-minded little lady, for fear of being judged for not being like other women. The reality is the things that make me me, also make me real and make me stand out. If you want to stand out, just be you!
If you would like more tips, follow us on Facebook, IG, or Twitter @improvitup.
And remember, you can “Improv” your life with Improv It Up!
Tiffani Sierra is an actress, master facilitator, experiential speaker, and alumni of the famous Improv School. She is represented by Luminary Leaders (www.luminaryspeakers.com).