The most useful lesson I have learned from the little bit of improv I have done this far is this: Just try something.
I know that there is huge value to analysis and planning. I also know that we can become paralysed by analysis and planning. Sometimes planning cycles are so long that the next one starts as soon as the first finishes.
We need to act, often sooner than we would like.
This is because we really do not know what kind of results our actions will take until we take them. This is why trial balloons, or simple experiments, or small interventions are so helpful. They can help us take small steps forward, while allowing us to evaluate what difference our actions are having.
In improv we act in order to discover what comes next. The next part of the story will not spontaneously appear if we do not enter into it. Or, perhaps better put, we will have no impact on the story if we do not enter into it.
You are not designed to be a spectator in your own life, but an actor. You can either step forward toward growth, or back toward safety.
Think about it. When were you most motivated to make something happen? When did you see something that you needed to change? When were you most willing to give everything you had, without knowing what would result?
Was it when you had spent some time looking within yourself trying to kindle passion for something, or was it when you stumbled across something in the world that ignited something within you?
For me it has always been the later and research shows I am not alone.
This does not mean there is no value to “interior” work. In fact, we need to spend a lot of time in introspection to see who we are, what gifts/talent/abilities we have, and where we get energy and fulfillment.
Like digging up coal for a power plant, interior work digs up the resources we need to fuel our passion. But the root of passion is somewhere outside ourselves.
That “good work” comes from outside ourselves, however. Our purpose in life is to live beyond ourselves, and our constant search for happiness or personal fulfillment will never lead us there. As humans we are designed to be engaged in work which will benefit the collective. Since the world has become such an integrated place, that collective includes all of us.
This doesn’t mean you can’t be motivated to do exemplary work without seeing how it connects to a bigger purpose.
It does mean however, that when you connect your ability to do exemplary work to a bigger purpose, your motivation will be of an entirely different sort. Having something you are working on that draws passion out of you, will always be more fulfilling that trying to tap into something that drives you from within.
Criticism is easy.
Being cynical is simple.
It is easy to look at what someone else is trying to do, and pick it apart piece by piece. There are always reasons why it won’t work, and sometimes we seem to get a perverse kind of pleasure pointing that out. Armchair quarterbacks will always be there shaking their heads at someone who is trying.
It is hard not to become one of them. It is hard to respond to every offer with, “Yes, and…!” It is hard to see problems as obstacles to be overcome, rather than dead ends.
As a public speaker I am constantly tempted to focus on the negative. It is really easy to come up with specific negative examples, but not so easy to come up with good positive examples.
The best motivation however, comes not from constantly pointing out what is wrong.
The best motivation comes from highlighting what is right.
It comes from noticing when and where someone is being successful with the resources at hand, even though others aren’t. It comes from expecting, and pointing out the good things that happen around us all the time.
Next time you are tempted to point out all the problems with someone else’s idea. Stop. Take a step back and help them try it.
After all, the person who says something is impossible, should not interrupt the person who is doing it.