One simple trick to make life easier

challenge coaching products Dec 03, 2019

If you’ve ever watched a comedy improv show, you might have wondered, “How on earth do they do that?” Improv actors—the funny ones, anyway—have a gift for creating and weaving together storylines on the spot, in front of a live audience. It’s amazing to see, and the results can be hilarious.

But it doesn’t happen by chance. Any actor will tell you that there’s one cardinal rule of improv, and it’s this: Accept whatever happens. Always.

In improv lingo, the rule is this: Say “yes, and.”

What does that mean, exactly? If you’re doing improv, and another actor says, “Let’s go skydiving,” you can’t say, “No way, I’m scared of heights.” If you say, “We’re being invaded by giant mutant aliens!” they can’t say “No, it’s just the mailman.” Everyone onstage must roll with any new idea. Every time a new development enters the story, the entire cast has to accept it, and build the story from there.

This can be a fantastic tool in life.

One great example of this is back when Moticise was first getting started, I had just hired my first employee, Kim. She was awesome. We had excellent rapport; she could field my ideas and help me create action items; and she helped me clarify and start to realize my vision. Things were going great.

Until one day in March. Her longterm relationship had ended suddenly, and she needed to get out of the city for a few months. She came to me and told me what was going on, and asked for the summer off.

“The thing is,” she went on, sounding timid, “I have a friend who's looking for work. so maybe she could…you know…take over my job for the summer.” She described her friend Lauren, who had a background in IT and business. At the time, we were bogged down in spreadsheets and numbers, which neither Kim nor I could navigate. Lauren, she said, would be a big help.

I took all this in, unsure how to react. I was disappointed Kim was leaving, but I understood her situation. And since I had Lauren to think about, I decided to make it work. I said, "Yes, and."

I admit I was apprehensive. The deal was, Kim would get her job back in September, but as Lauren and I worked together, I realized how valuable they both were. As the summer went by, I dreaded having to make a choice.

September came. When Kim got back, all three of us met in the office. Neither of them wanted to leave, and I wasn’t about to choose between them.

So we did it again: we decided to say "Yes, and." “Let’s figure this out.” “Let’s look at what we all need, and what we can all do. Let’s see if we can arrange something that will work for all three of us.” And we did just that.

The business was growing, and by hiring on two people – which I hadn’t planned to do – we were able to branch out in new, big ways. That was the year we made the DVD, got published in Women Fitness, started the website…so many things that require a team, not just one person. The three of us worked (and still work) wonderfully together, complementing each other’s skillsets and viewpoints.

If Kim hadn’t left for the summer, I don’t know how long I would’ve waited to hire someone else. It might have been a year or more, and then the business wouldn’t have grown in the ways it did.

Saying “yes, and” forces you to build, not subtract. It allows for the creativity and openness that shy away from the harsh sound of "no, no no." It gives an idea wings.

It makes for good comedy. It also helps you live a really cool life.

And, it helps build new neural pathways in your brain, thanks to neuroplasticity—which means that with practice, it'll get easier. Even if your first response to change is "no," with a little time, "yes and" can become second nature. Your brain will start to go with the flow, expect big things, and allow for uncertainty (which is one of the hardest things for many people!).

Now, I’m not proposing that you go around saying “yes” to every favor someone asks for, or to say yes when you really want to say no. I’m saying that when it comes to exploring possibilities, saying “no” doesn’t lead anywhere. It keeps you exactly where you are. If that’s what you want, go ahead and shoot down new ideas. But if you want to try new things, have adventures, and amaze people with your wild and vibrant life –trying saying “yes and.”

When new ideas pop up in your brain—I want open up a restaurant! Maybe I'll take up yoga. What if I sold my house and moved to a farm so I can train seeing-eye dogs?—don't reject them. I don't mean you have to act on them immediately. I do mean, allow for them. Consider them. See where they might lead.

As the mystic poet Rumi said, "Respond to every call that excites your spirit."

How will you say "yes, and" in your life, today?

What's something you've been resisting?

When you look ahead to 2020, what would you say "yes" to if you knew it would work?

If you want some extra guidance and support around that, check out my online 21-Day Challenge to Achieve What You Desire starting this January! You'll learn how to break out of "stuck" and take big steps toward that one thing you've always wanted – all online, all in 20 minutes or less a day. You can read more about it and register here. It's a super fun way to make big change in your life!

Go out, say "yes, and" to all that life has to offer you, and shine.


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