They say to follow your bliss; do what makes you truly happy. I think one of the greatest challenges in this here human experience is clearing away all of the distractions to know what that is. Sure, I like sports…and I like crafting and music and wholesome, organic food. But are these things my passion?
Being the admittedly and unusually deep person I am, almost to a fault, I sat and pondered this notion. What do I really, really love without any hesitation? Food? No. Fashion? Not quite, but I could use some guidance. Rather, a moment of utter clarity opened my eyes and the word flashed in front of me: laughter. Man, above all else, I love to laugh. That cannot-breathe, cannot-think, blissfully present feeling of laughing until it aches—that’s what gets me.
Which led me to Improv Comedy.
Like I said in my previous post, I credit much of my injury recovery to spending time in the basement theater of the Improv Asylum in Boston, laughing until my adrenals relaxed (removed the stress response) and allowed my healing hormones to take over—oh yes, a scientific reference…I will follow up on this profound and cutting-edge research later.
Last Sunday marked Day 1 of Improv 101. Fourteen people gathered snugly in a small performance room. If you were an outsider sailing above the circle, you might scratch your head with curious bewilderment as to what would bring such a group together. Ahh, the beauty of comedy. We were of all different shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and vocations; but we were all drawn to comedy and laughter. Among us were aspiring comedians, executives, teachers, and fun-seekers. From what I have heard, this kind of variety is often the case—and it’s something I very much looked forward to.
When asked what brought him or her to the studio, each person’s reasons differed. Some wanted to be better comedians. Others wanted to decrease social anxiety or meet new people. One man stated that he simply wanted to learn how to make his boring corporate job less boring.
For me, I am fighting my pesky perfectionism every day. I started to put myself in positions to do things I am not particularly good at. Enter improvisational comedy.
For those who do not know, improv comedy involves going up on stage and performing a scene often based on a suggestion from the audience without any sort of script. There is usually some sort of shell for the scene that the actors work within, but it mostly involves sheer wit and collaboration in order to create a performance that lifts the casts members and audience to a mutually hilarious place. Frightening? You bet. But, exhilarating? No question.
Growing up, I would never do an activity unless I could excel. I always told others that you would never see me with a golf club or on a volleyball court because if I could not run to beat someone, then I could not be good at it. Once I went through my injury, that all changed. For quite some time, I was not good at just about anything—besides lying on a couch or watching the snow fall.
Now that I have learned from that experience, I am putting myself in new, challenging situations. Instead of striving for perfection, I choose to take the approach of learning. I recently went to play pool. Pool has never been a strength of mine, but I cleared my mind and went in with an intention to learn as much as I could from my fellow players and see if I could improve. At the beginning, I was definitely not good. I missed frequently and embarrassingly. However, I maintained my “student” mentality, and by the end of the game, I was knocking them in off odd angles and having the time of my life. I released the need to be perfect, and I found that I not only learned, but I enjoyed the game much more.
When it comes to comedy, yes, I can make a funny comment here and there, but I do not consider myself incredibly quick on my feet. My words are often very much thought-out. Now, I am putting myself in an uncomfortable position so that I can learn to be more witty. And there’s no doubt about that, I am certainly learning.
So now I always suggest to my players and clients—change the way you approach the game, no matter what it is. Be a student. Take an attitude of curiosity. And if you release the pressure of perfection, you’ll be shocked at just how good you can be.