When you hear the word “improvisation,” you probably think about comedy, Tina Fey and that class you took two summers ago. But did you know improv is so much more than that? Improv provides you with valuable skills that can be used in other areas of your life.
I remember studying at the Upright Citizens Brigade in NYC under Patrick Clair back in 2011. It was exhilarating and I felt like I could do conquer the world after the class was over. There are a few things I picked up that I want to share with you that I still manage to incorporate in other aspects in my life.
#1 – You learn to think on your feet
This is a major skill in improv. Everything feels like it’s happening so fast. You get a scene and you have to come up with a character and perform right then and there. There is no rehearsing, there is no prep time – you just do it.
This is so valuable because life doesn’t always go exactly as we plan, and developing this skill can be an asset in the real world no matter what career you’re in. Being able to think on your feet allows you to assess a situation quickly enough to make an informed decision.
It’s not something all people are born with. Improv teaches you that you can very much learn this technique, but the only way to do so is to completely immerse yourself in the moment – which brings us to reason number two.
#2 – You learn to be open to all sorts of possibilities – and run with it
If there’s one rule to remember in improv, it’s that you and your scene partner are in this together. You’re equal. You’re two peas in a pod.
So what does that mean? It means you don’t throw the other person under the bus. You don’t ignore their contributions to the scene, no matter how ridiculous or improbable it may seem and vice versa.
This pushes you to keep an open mind and to meet your scene partner halfway. You’re forced (the good kind, of course) to free yourself from your preconceived notions as to what is entertaining, funny and fun. Once you step into a scene, both of you make a silent promise to be open and have each other’s backs.
Like previously mentioned, life might throw some curveballs your way and you have to keep an open mind about it and just run with it. Instead of trying to fight it, go with the flow. See where it takes you and then make a decision from that place. There are some circumstances beyond your control, but you can always dictate your reaction to these circumstances.
#3 – You learn to take risks
Finally, above all, improv encourages you to take risks. Scenes may not always stick with every audience, but you’ll feel accomplished knowing that you put yourself out there and took a chance.
Thinking on your feet and being open to all possibilities is the magic formula to conditioning yourself to take risks. Improv gives you a chance, in a safe space, to take any and all kinds of risks for the sake of making a fool out of yourself and laugh!
This is valuable because the best things in life happen outside of our comfort zone. If we shield ourselves from experiencing certain things because we fear rejection or being judged, then we are not living on our own terms. Instead we create a world for ourselves where what people think about us, makes or breaks us.
Improv allows us to shake off everyone’s expectations. It immerses us into a world where anything and everything is possible. It encourages us to think on our feet, to be open to all sorts of scenarios and pushes us to take risks.
In the end, improv helps bring out our best selves so that we can entertain and brighten someone else’s day, while at the same time, equipping us with skills necessary to get through life’s tough times.
If that doesn’t convince you to take an improv class, I don’t know what will.