So, I started thinking about choices. Improv is all about choices. Life is all about choices. I’ve continued to have a struggle over the last few years as a teacher of improv where I realize how incredibly difficult it is to really do what we teach. In our safe bubble, where every choice is the right choice, because no matter what our partners will support us, it’s easy. In real life, we are not always in a safe place and there are no partners in sight. Even for me, 17 years into my improv journey, class after class, workshop after workshop, every time I teach, I have this same thought in my head. “This stuff is hard! The struggle is real. This Yes, Anding business, getting each other’s back, making your partner look good, is all so very difficult when the critical moments arise and you are caught in the trenches of life.”
Because life is hard as hell most of the time. Stuff happens when you least expect it and on a regular basis. Life is nuts and it’s not that safe bubble we create in an improv class where you are protected. Outside that bubble things happen, people can be mean, family and kids tugging from all sides, work is stressful, and it can all drive you mad. And, here I am teaching the principles of improv and how to apply the same philosophies in life while even struggling myself to put it into practice in the real world. Truth is, our world is not safe most of the time and conditions are totally different than the safe bubble we use to practice improv in.
So, I started to think, “How can I continue to teach this stuff as a way of life, a way of handling all of the obstacles and challenges that life serves up to us on a regular basis, knowing that I even don't succeed most of the time?” I totally get the value of the principles we teach, and I know 100% it has helped me communicate better and make better choices (most of the time), but there is still this part that just has to make sense to me in order to continue to spread the gospel to the masses and feel legit.
Then on a drive to work one morning, this same reoccurring dilemma rolling in my head, I had a break through. Clarity.
Here's what I realized. We have choices. I am teaching choices. Even in my life, when I find myself going negative, not yes anding, not getting someone’s back, I am comforted in the fact that I have choices. They are there for the taking. I can choose to listen. I can choose to say yes instead of no, I can choose to lift others up, and I know the consequences of those actions are usually 100% positive. While I may not always make the best choice in the moment, because there’s still that thing called life, Improv has taught me that they exist.
Improv teaches us a different way of responding and reacting and gives us a whole set of new choices at our disposal. It is ultimately up to us whether we use it or not. Life is what it is, and sometimes we don't make the right choices. And that’s OK. Just the mere fact that there are different ways to look at how we handle life’s situations is worth the investment.
We are all human after all, and Improv is a practice. A lot like yoga, you know all the poses, but you don't go into every session and nail them every single time. As we walk through life we are not necessarily nailing all the right choices either. But we can, if we choose to.
Kristy West is the Founder of The Brink Improv, lives in Atlanta, GA where she teaches people and companies how to apply improv to work and life. (She teaches choices).