~ Are you taking the offers that life is giving you? Insights from improvised theatre ~
In improvised theatre there is a beautiful and well-known principle which keeps a scene moving forwards and stops it from getting stuck.
It’s very simple and as useful to maintain flow in life as it is in keeping a scene going.
The principle is called ‘yes and…’ and at it’s simplest is a way of making sure that we continue the thread that another person has started.
So simple, but what it does is it stops a person from the habit that most people have of blocking an offer.
I’ll talk more about offers in a moment. But first how does this principle work?
~ For most people the safest action is to block ~
It’s surprisingly simple and at the same time quite tricky- at least initially because the safest action for most people is to block.
Imagine you’re playing a scene where someone is giving another person compliments perhaps for the brooch they’re wearing.
The tendency will often be for a person to block with something like ‘oh no, you can’t mean that, it’s so dated and really it’s a fake.’
Unfortunately this kills the scene dead because it gives the other person nothing to play with. They have to start again from scratch.
Keeping the scene going using ‘yes and…’ would mean saying something like ‘why thank you! It was actually given to me by my great-aunt who, as the story goes, got it from her first husband. He was quite a crook actually.’
This second totally opens up the possibilities and creates the offers I mentioned earlier. These are like doorways through which the improviser can step into new dimensions or elaborate on pre-existing ones.
The conversation can be continued by exploring either of the new characters, maybe finding out that the great-aunt was crazy about puppies or that her husband would use the puppies to lure clients into a false sense of security before fleecing them.
~ Taking the offer keeps the momentum of the relationship ~
So what exactly is an offer?
An offer is an invitation inspired by some aspect of the situation we’re in to open into greater possibility.
This is an amazing skill to have when doing improvisational theatre. It is just as, or possibly even more powerful when applied in life.
Because there are offers that could potentially open us up to more possibilities in almost every single moment of life.
They don’t just happen in conversations with other people. Reading a book, watching a film, daydreaming, working on a project- everything we do is full of these offers that have the potential to enrich the present moment.
Often however, we’re too caught up in our habitual patterns to see them. We just react automatically. This is the major reason why we ‘get what we’ve always got.’
We don’t take the offers that are opening for us all the time.
So how can we start playing with, seeing and then accepting the offers that speak to us?
~ Start noticing the offers as they’re happening ~
The first step is to start noticing them.
If we can’t see them we can’t accept them. But how do you know whether it really is an offer?
The answer is simple. A good offer will always make you feel more alive.
It will also often make you feel a little nervous because an offer almost always has an edge that challenges the status quo.
This ‘edge’ and the way we respond to this edge is the number one reason that we stay stuck. The discomfort of the unfamiliar feelings and the uncertainty often prompt us to stay in our comfort zone. This means nothing can change.
It’s not that we shouldn’t stay in our comfort zone, it’s just that if it is a completely unconscious choice then over time we will start to lose touch with our inspiration and creativity.
This is how we become jaded and world-weary. We have closed down to possibility.
But as we become more conscious of offers and the edge they create, we get to explore what it’s like to feel more alive. Then we are in a position of choice and better able to introduce lasting change if we want to.
~ An experimental attitude is key ~
As we start to notice more offers we then have to start taking them. This is made much easier with an experimental attitude.
We can be pretty sure of the outcome if we stay in our comfort zone. But we don’t know what is going to happen when we take an offer. This is why it is so enlivening.
But because we don’t know how it will turn out we have to be prepared to fail.
Unfortunately many of us have tendencies towards perfectionism. This is a great way to trick ourselves into staying in our comfort zone and avoiding risk.
The only way out is to become conscious of when we’re falling into this trap and the easiest way to do this is to start to fail regularly.
Agonising though it can be to fail, the sense of freedom it brings is nothing short of miraculous.
~ Being prepared to fail is the door way to aliveness ~
This because without the risk of failure there can be no play, no discovery and minimal aliveness.
When we take the offer and are prepared to fail suddenly whole new worlds open up.
This is probably the cheapest, most available way that we can enrich our lives and re-discover our aliveness.
Think about your current situation or the look around the room you are in. Is there an offer that you’re missing right now? What would it be like to take it and just say ‘yes and…’?