Improv (Illustration by John Sammis, Columbia College Chicago)
Using improv skills in your everyday life is a great way to get out there and try new things. (Illustration by John Sammis, Columbia College Chicago)

Improv Is More Than Just for Laughs — It’s a Life Skill

Learning how to be confident and determined beyond the stage can improve the way you live.

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Improv (Illustration by John Sammis, Columbia College Chicago)

Learning how to be confident and determined beyond the stage can improve the way you live.

You may not realize it, but we use improvisation in our everyday lives, and we do it all the time. I mean, I’m doing it right now while I’m writing this article. When we think of improv, we think of Second City, hilarious acts and being funny, but there’s much more to it than that. We are living in such a crazy world right now where we don’t know what’s going to happen in the next day, week, month or even year. Now more than ever we should use the mindset of thinking today’s going to be our last, and improv can help you get the most out of it by teaching the importance of the phrase “Yes, and…” alongside learning how to live in the moment.

In the world of improv, there are 10 tenets, or rules, you must follow to make your spontaneity as effective as possible. And yes, while these rules apply to improv, they can also serve as guidelines for life because I believe they can make you the happiest and healthiest version of yourself. I’m going to touch base on two of these tenets, why they’re important and how to apply them to everyday situations so that you can live your life to its fullest potential.

The first tenet in the world of improv is to always agree; never deny. That is where the phrase “Yes, and…” comes into play.

You use the phrase “Yes, and…” in improv because it is vital for the players to be on the same page as one another in order for a scene to go anywhere. Now, does saying “Yes, and…” mean that players can’t have a difference of opinion during a scene? Absolutely not! But, in order for the scene to be entertaining for the audience, players have to create a fictional reality for everyone to believe. Since the world we develop is all made-up, everything we fabricate during a scene is real and true. So, if you deny something, the scene falls apart and everything becomes very confusing for the audience and awkward for your scene partners.

Do yourself a favor and say “yes,” always. Using this can be extremely helpful in the real world, too. The two simple words “Yes, and…” can open up a lot of doors — you just have to take a risk and try.

Using those two words can raise your confidence in so many ways. When you say “yes,” more often than not you will open up a huge gate of opportunities. Doing this will encourage you to believe in yourself as well as what you’re capable of. Your newfound sense of self-assurance will help you in the long run on your journey to success. You can also make lifelong friendships and meet tons of new people just by saying “yes.” Be open to others and communicate. See if you share any common interests. It is a very simple task to talk with the people around you and show an open mind toward their views and opinions.

Lastly, saying “yes” can help you discover fun interests, new skills and endless opportunities. You should always try to find a way to say “yes” to the world around you, no matter how strange or out of your comfort zone it may be. Saying the word “yes” requires work, accountability and commitment; it might even make people scared, because it makes them feel unprepared or unmotivated.

But here’s the reality: A positive response will always give you more than a negative one. A “no” oftentimes leads to failure. A “no” almost always means backward progress, especially because people can be hard on themselves when they get rejected. Sure, there’s no risk in a “no,” but there’s also no reward in it either, so take a chance and say “yes” — it can be very exciting and worthwhile.

The second tenet in improv is to live in the moment. Ask yourself this question: What’s special about today? This is a paramount principle of improv because the audience wants to know what’s happening right here and right now in a scene. They couldn’t care less about what happened 20 seconds ago with your dog or your wife having a baby in nine months. Today is the day to make it happen, so do it.

It’s also important to incorporate the rule of living in the moment in everyday situations because it’s smart to focus on what’s going on right now instead of fixating on something that happened earlier or wondering what’s going to happen in three months.

Everyone’s New Year’s resolution is that this is the year that they will make healthier choices and get in shape. Most of the time, people crash and go back to their old habits by February or March. They’re so worried about how long it will take and if it’s worth it and why they’re out of shape in the first place that they give up and say they’ll start tomorrow. Now, that famous line of, “I’ll start tomorrow; tomorrow is the day!” will go on forever until you have the right mindset. Trust me — I’ve been there and done that.

The best thing to do is to ask yourself what you want to get out of your journey and why you’ve made the decision to begin it today. Start making better habits, today. Start making smarter choices, today. Start making realistic and attainable goals for yourself, today. If you do these small and simple steps in the moment, you’ll see everything start to fall into place. Do it now, in the moment, rather than later.

There are so many people in the world who have the wrong vocabulary of “I can’t do this!” Yes, you can, you just need to get up and try. Life is not always what you expect it to be; you have to make the most of what you’ve got, be grateful and trust that things will work themselves out. Now more than ever, you should live in the moment and make something special about today.

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