At the bottom of all Improv training lies this astoundingly great skill, “Be Comfortable being Uncomfortable.”
Whenever I am running workshops, that’s the main thing that I want people to walk away with. I don’t usually tell them that. We just play games, jump around, and think in creative ways they never thought of before. All good. But, what am I really doing?
I’m getting them uncomfortable and teaching them how to still navigate and think creatively from that space.
Stop for a minute and think about how would your life be if you could, at the worst possible moments, when you’re afraid, or lost, or just plain befuddled… what if you could still come up with solutions and great ideas??
That’s the big prize in learning Improv. Becoming Comfortable being Uncomfortable.
I think that’s one of the prizes in military training, skydiving, and any other sort of high-intensity, often high-danger, training opportunities. Why is Improv better? Less chance of literally dying. Sure, some people are afraid of “dying onstage” and of public speaking, but that’s nothing compared to being at a high altitude with a very real chance of going Splat!
Once again, I must point out the urban myth that people are more afraid of public speaking than death. It’s a mis-reading of what was published in The Book Of Lists (1977) that listed “Public speaking” as the “#1 most-reported fear” and death came in as the sixth.
The question was “What things are you afraid of?” It was not “Which of these things do you fear the most?” See the difference?
It proves that public speaking is a common fear, not the most intense fear. It’s a small but very important difference. Sure it may be scary, but if someone with a gun said “Get up there and speak or I’ll kill you,” you might sputter and stammer, but you’d speak!
Here’s how it works in my training: I’ll teach a game, usually some weird combination of physicality and language skills that will really befuddle some of the folks. And as soon as they get it; as soon as they become comfortable with it, I add a twist to make it harder again. Once they get it, it gets ramped up again. The goal is Not to get good at this game. The goal is to get good at continually creating, even when you’re brain is scrambled. FUN!
And I say “some folks” because some games are easier for some people than others. The next thing to do is a pick a different type of game to make sure the “comfortable with that game” people get a bit thrown this time.
Luckily, there are hundreds of Improv games and nobody can rock all of them. Even experienced improvisers have trouble with some parts. And that’s where they should be working. Again, NOT to get good at every aspect of the game, but in order to get into the mindset of not exactly knowing how it’s going to go… and still going boldly!
For those of you that are not taking an Improv class, I suggest that you find ways to make yourself uncomfortable. Get up in front of people and talk, meet people you don’t know, wear some crazy pants. Whatever makes you shudder a bit and smile like, “I would Never do that, “ is what you might want to try.
Do it with commitment. Don’t give up too quickly. Push it farther than you think you can and see how fun and creative you become in those moments.
Consider all of the places this skill will benefit your life. Whether you’re a blogger, a speaker, a stand-up comedian or a cop, this is something that can save your butt! Some call it “Grace Under Pressure” or maybe “Keeping a Coool Head,” I call it “Being Comfortable being Uncomfortable.”
Whatever you call it, it’s a lifesaver.
Now, go get into an Improv class!