an improv troupe performing mindfulness in a colorful way

Improv is the New Mindfulness

I’ll bet you or someone you know has taken an Improv class. I wouldn’t be surprised if they loved the experience to the point of becoming alt-evangelical.

“How was it?” you ask them. “Great,” “fun,” “amazing, “I learned a lot about myself.”

“Really?” you reply. “It sounds like Tony Robbins hosting a version of the TV show, Whose Line is It Anyway? Weren’t you afraid?”

Yes, they were afraid, or at least uncomfortable, but they did it anyway. And therein lies the secret to the enthusiastic and widespread appearance of Improv outside of its performance function.

Improv is fun, it’s simple (if not easy) and it’s useful for everyone in some part of their life. Plus everyone (so far) survives the experience…and often returns for more.

Why Improv? Why now?

There is a lot going on in our lives, much of it unnerving. Trying to define the emotional state we, collectively, are in I came across Wayne Goulet’s concept of “liminal space.”

Defined as “a term that applies to those uncertain times in our lives when we stand in the threshold between the ‘old’ which may no longer work and the ‘new’ which is not yet clear,” — it’s a perfect description of where we are on the evolutionary timeline.

Liminal space is also an accurate depiction of how Improv operates. Improvisers are constantly finding themselves on a threshold. In each game, what’s gone before in no way confirms what lies ahead, and with the outcome highly unpredictable, all individual control comes and goes. And there ain’t nothin’ you can about that.

All Improvisers can do is learn from their experiences. If Improv were a movie, it would be “Groundhog Day.”

The practices and mindset that arise from Improv training are applicable to all of us. The change in purpose has shifted from Improv as a product, as in the theater, to Improv as a process.

The product is not attainable by most of us; ALL of us can, however, apply the process. If Improv were a blood type, it would be Type O, unique in its composition and useful for everyone. Just like Improv.

What’s Next in Improv?

Until recently, the word “Improv” was usually connected to “Theater,” so it had no relevance to most of us except as entertainment. We looked, we laughed, we left.

The kind of Improv that is applicable to our daily lives and personal growth is known as Applied Improv. The premise is the skills that make Improv theater people successful are the same ones that make us all successful.

Desired and achievable Improv skills include thinking on our feet, dealing with reality, focusing on what’s important, the ability to disagree without dissolving into conflict, having fun, and being creative. It’s a growing field of practice around the world and popping up in all kinds of places and for all kinds of uses.

Like mindfulness, Applied Improv uses a skillset that is deceptively simple. Since it’s a skillset, it requires practice. Since it’s fun, it gets done.

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