Basic Rules of Improv For Everyday Life
or Everything I really needed to know, I learned in Improv class...
Say yes and…
Every day we shut off opportunities to meet new people, have awesome new experiences and get more out of life, but we constantly say “Aw, no” or even “Aw, HELL NO!” to things that break up our routine or take us out of our comfort zone. We keep our heads down and stay in our own lanes whenever possible. The first and really only unbreakable rule of improve is to accept and build…to pay attention and say “yes, and…” to whatever life sends your way. When you start out learning to improvise in a theatrical setting, often a teacher will ask students to practice the concept of accepting and building by saying “YES! And..” at the start of every single sentence. A traffic jam? YES! And I can listen to my favorite tunes and just breathe for a few minutes. An extra assignment at work? YES! And I can learn a new skill. You don’t need to like the curve balls life sends you, but things go better when you accept what is and try to build on what is real rather than what you wish it was.
Consciously contribute something in every interaction.
For most of my adult life I was one of those people that avoided really connecting during the mundane transactions of life. I stayed silent or mumbled one-word answers, avoided eye contact and used the automatic checkout lane whenever possible. Then one day, I made a decision to change. I started putting myself out there, initiating conversations with the people in my life---my barista, the person standing next to me in the DMV line, the other parents in after school programs, my Facebook friends—you get the idea. I find it improves my overall mood to connect regularly with the people around me, and sometimes I even learn about something that changes my life.
You don't have to be entertaining.
The secret of happy, successful people that make their lives look easy is that they really don’t try too hard. Be yourself, really connect when you interact with others, listen and respond honestly and with your true self and your open heart and your life will steadily improve.
You can look good if you make others look good.
Be a positive person! You’re probably unaware of how negative you can be, how often you complain and dwell on what’s wrong in your life and the world around you. Offer compliments, thanks and genuine positive feedback freely and things will start to look up.
Tell a story.
This is probably the most difficult of the basic rules of Improv, but if you follow the other four rules (especially saying yes and!) in your daily interactions, you will find yourself connecting with others in spooky and inspiring ways. Whether you call this synchronicity or just coincidence, when it happens, it’s awesome. Keep applying the rules of improve for everyday life and the story that is your life will become both more interesting to others and more enjoyable for you.