The 4 Rules of Improv That Will Enhance Your Life

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About seven years ago, a friend called me up and said, “Did you see that airfare to Paris is only $400? You should go.”

I booked a round-trip ticket to Charles de Gaulle the next day.

Of course, I had a lot of resistance around this crazy notion to travel alone to a foreign country.

The excuses were immense.

I shouldn’t leave my daughter.
I shouldn’t spend the money.
It’s dangerous.
It’s a crazy idea.

It would’ve been easier in the short term to say no, because my mind was so resistant to the idea. But, I knew that my 90-year old self would be disappointed.

On my final night, I took myself out on a hot solo date where a table full of strangers invited me to join them for dinner.

Again, my mind screamed, “no.”

I don’t know these people.
This will be awkward.
They could be serial killers.

(FYI: the mind can be SO dramatic!)

But, I said yes.

Four hours later, after an intoxicating conversation with a side of beautiful food and wine, I had made lifelong friends.

At 1 AM we exchanged numbers and said our goodbyes before heading to my little apartment in Montmartre. When I stepped out of the taxi, I heard the sound of the most glorious voice coming from down the street.

I heard a little voice in my soul that said, “Go. Follow the sound.”

Again, my mind said “no.”

It’s too late.
You have a flight tomorrow.
You’re all alone.
This could be dangerous.

But, I went anyway.

It led me straight to an impromptu gathering outside of a cafe where a guitarist and vocalist were singing “Creep” by Radiohead. It wasn’t exactly the song I was expecting, but it was magical, nonetheless.

I just stood there along with about ten others listening.

Then, I heard, “Hey you, where are you from?”

I looked around to see who the guitarist was talking to.

Turns out it was me. They were students from Australia and, I guess my big smile gave away that I was not French.

“I’m from the States.”

“Do you know any country songs” a Parisian guy asked as he took a puff of his cigarette.

Again, not what I had expected, but being I’m a Southern gal, I was not about to disappoint.

Of course, I turned to an old classic.

“Yes, I do. ‘Sweet Home Alabama'”

The crowd had grown to about twenty at this point, and they erupted in cheer.

Apparently, Lynyrd Skynyrd is quite popular in Paris.

The guitarist said, “It’s your song. Come sing it.”

By this time, my mind was screaming “no.”

And, the excuses for this one seemed legitimate.

You’re about to make a complete utter fool of yourself right here on the streets of Paris.
Don’t do it.

But, the entire night, I had said “yes” and it hadn’t let me astray.

Plus, I’d probably never see these people again, right?

What the heck?

So, with a oui, I stepped out from the crowd and started belting out, “Big Wheels Keep on Turning.”

The crowd had doubled at this point. They cheered and started joining in. I had NO idea how a song I grew up with would shake up a Parisian street corner.

They kept asking me for more. I over delivered.

We ended the night with Bohemian Rhapsody (which is always a real crowd pleaser).

The entire night felt like something straight out of “Midnight in Paris” (minus our music selection) where I was swept away into a magical dream.

It was a night of improv — no scripts, rehearsal or plans.

Just a magical unfolding of life.

Are you desiring to add more magic into your life?

Hint, magic comes from creating an elegant life…..on the inside!

Check out my video series (available for a limited time)

How often are you saying “no” to life?

For years, I felt stuck in life. And, it was all because I was a constant “no.”

“Tonya, you should submit your article to a magazine.”

Yeah, but … I don’t think I’m ready.”

“Tonya, you should consider teaching women about style.”

“Yeah, but … I’m not a professional stylist.”

“Let’s go away for a girl’s weekend.

“Sorry, I have too much to do this weekend.”

“Sign up for the event.”

“Oh, I can’t. It costs too much.

If your life feels like it’s Groundhog’s day or on autopilot, it’s because you’ve become addicted to your “no.”

Here are some examples of our “no.”

A friend suggests, “Hey, let’s go to dinner.”

“Sorry, I’m busy tonight.”

Your husband suggests you have more sex.

“No, honey, I’m tired.”

Your children ask you to build a tent in the living room and pretend it’s a castle.

“Sweetie, mommy doesn’t have time.”

Something deep inside of you tells you to book the trip.

“I could never do that.”

A coworker asks if you can give her a ride home.

“Sorry, but I can’t today.”

The word “no” steals more romance from our lives than any other word in the dictionary.

“No” keeps you in your safe little bubble that pretends to be necessary.

The problem is that the bubble is full of monotony and misery.

You want to escape, and the only way out is to stop saying no and start saying yes.

How Improv helped me break my addiction to “no,” doubt and perfectionism.

When I studied to become a Master Life Coach, we were required to do improv as part of our training. At first, I thought this was silly.

Shouldn’t we be learning about quantum physics or cognitive behavioral theory?

Plus, my only theater experience had been my role of the rabbit in Winnie The Pooh where every word was scripted and well-rehearsed.

Improv, on the other hand, is very different than learning a script. Used as a core technique by actors, improvisation requires that we are completely engaged in the present moment. It’s a moment by moment unfolding driven by some basic rules.

Some of the most memorable moments in cinema history were improvised.

Remember Jack Nicholson’s line, “Heeeeeeere’s Johnny,” in the Shining? Yep, improvised.

Equally, if you think about some of your best life moments, you’ll probably discover that they were not planned. They caught you by surprise.

Improv highlighted how I often resisted my life, allowed perfectionism to stop my progress and, even more, how I was afraid to lighten up and have fun.

Practicing improv has not only catapulted my success, but it’s given me a sense of adventure, romance and overall joie de vivre.

Cultivate a more Romantic life with these 4 rules of improv.

Improv sparks spontaneity and stretches the imagination. It pushes you outside of your comfort zone and into a whole new land of possibility. Improv is the land of the unknown, and everything you desire and don’t yet have requires that you’re brave enough to step into these unchartered waters.

Improv was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

There are four basic rules of improv that you can practice in your life.

Rule #1: Say “yes” to the present moment

Life is too short to argue over what movie to see or waste energy resisting what’s happening in this moment.

As Byron Katie says, “When you argue with reality, you only lose 100% of the time.

As much as you may want things to be different, you must realize that resisting the current moment is channeling your energy into all the wrong places. Plus, resisting what is keeps you stuck.

All of your power comes from acceptance so that you can free up your energy to add to the current moment.

Improv is great practice for this concept.

If someone says “Hey, there’s a pig under the table,” you go with it.

You don’t say, “No, there’s not,” or “Are you sure?”

You don’t live in denial.

No, there’s a pig under the table.

Capiche?

Rule #2: Add a “Yes, AND”

During an improv, you must take what’s passed to you (the “yes”), and add to it (the “and”).

There are no “yeah, buts.”

There are certainly no “no’s.”

“Hey, there’s a pig under the table,”

AND…

“She’s sipping Champagne straight out of the bottle.”

The story unfolds in real time with no scripts, rehearsing or practice.

Just an acceptance of the moment followed by an “and.”

In daily life, this asks that you become a part of the solution and stop feeding the problem.

The scale reads 180 pounds.

“And, I am going to nourish my body with good foods today.”

The divorce papers are delivered to your office.

“And, I have a lot more life to live.”

You keep adding to the scene of your life. You keep the momentum moving forward. You know that as long as there’s breath in your body, there’s an “and” in your soul.

With this attitude, you’ll never feel stuck.

Rule #3: Make statements (not questions)

In improv, you make statements, not pose questions.

If someone tells you that there’s a pig under the table, you don’t ask:

Where? I don’t see her.
Are you sure?
What do I do?
What is she doing?

Whatever is passed to you, you become a part of the solution, an author of the unfolding story.

This especially applies to women, because we often doubt our own wisdom and apologize for our brilliance, such as when we constantly ask:

What do you think?
What should I do?
Do you think I could do that?
Are you sure?

Questions are a way avoiding commitment and playing it safe. They are a way to stay where you are.

In improv, questions kill the scene. Likewise, too much questioning in life can kill your dreams.

Plus, it’s not fair to others involved, because you’re putting them in the position to decide your life for you.

Improv challenges you to trust your own creative instincts, to take risks and have fun.

Back to my night in Paris, when I was asked if I knew any country songs, I didn’t say, “Do you like this or that?”

I accepted the moment and made a bold statement.

“Yes, I do. ‘Sweet Home Alabama'”

(cue the mic)

Don’t wallow in doubt and confusion.

Trust your own brilliance.

Keep the flow of your life going.

Make bold statements.

Rule #4: There are no mistakes

Ooh…this one was hard for my perfectionistic ways.

Of course, no one enjoys making mistakes, but what if there weren’t any?

Imagine what you’d do if you weren’t afraid of getting it wrong?

Write the book.
Go on the date.
Buy the shoes.
Go back to college.
Skinny dip in the moonlight.
Book the trip to Paris.

The fear of getting it wrong keeps us from taking the bold, creative risks that have the potential of creating an epic story.

Improv challenges you to get over this fear by showing up and adding to your life, realizing that there are no mistakes, just opportunities.

Start with a “yes.”

At the core of improv is the word “yes.”

Yes to more opportunities, adventure and life!

Each year, I host a most magical rendezvous in Paris for a small group of women from the French Kiss Life community.

One participant admitted last year that she had been wanting to go on the retreat for a couple of years, but her excuses (her no’s) kept stopping her.

Her reasons seemed justified in her head — the time away from work, the investment, the indulgence of a trip alone.

Finally, she allowed the flow of romance flood into her life and said “yes.”

After the experience, she confessed, “I can’t imagine what my life would be like had I said no…again!”

She opened herself up to the magic of life, which has spilled over into her relationships, career, self-care and overall well-being.

Saying “yes” to an expensive event that I had every excuse to not join was how I met my best friend. To this day, I call her my 10K friend. It was worth every penny because of the new world she opened up for me.

Of course, your “yes” doesn’t necessarily need a price tag attached.

There are opportunities every day to say “yes” to life.

Wearing a different outfit.
Meeting up with friends on a Tuesday evening.
Shutting down the computer and indulging in something decadent.
Publishing the blog post.
Trying a new recipe.

Oh, the possibilities are endless.

Want more ideas on ways to say “yes” to life?

The only way to break free from the mundane of our every day that we can often find ourselves living is to start saying YES to life.

If your kids throw out a wild idea of going to the amusement park for the day, say yes!

If a stranger wants to sit beside you at the coffee shop, allow the interaction.

If someone invites you to take the trip of a lifetime, book your ticket.

If someone sees your potential and suggests you do something with it, listen to them and jump in.

When you say ‘yes,’ you step into a world of possibility, adventure & romance.
(tweet it)

“Yes” moves you out of the comfort of your safe little world and into the mystery of something much grander.

“Yes” gets you out of ruts.

“Yes” creates magical moments and nights.

“Yes” is how you begin to French Kiss Life.

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Time to practice: Let’s attempt a community improv scene. Here’s how it works. I’m going to start the scene, and you’ll add to it. Look at the last comment and you’ll expand on the narrative. Remember, you can’t do this wrong. Be bold. Get messy. Be creative. Ready?

“Ma’am, I need to inform you that you’ve just inherited 100 million dollars.”

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16 Responses to The 4 Rules of Improv That Will Enhance Your Life

  1. This is exactly what I needed today. I love your story about your “Midnight in Paris” experience – it had me smiling from ear to ear! My daughter just told me that I always say “no, I can’t” whenever we are planning a trip together. It’s an old habit that I am going to break, starting today! Thanks for this message of encouragement 🙂

    • Oh, shoot, I didn’t continue the improve. Here goes:
      “Well, that’s fantastic! I’ll immediately book my ticket to Havana, Cuba where I’ll drink daiquiris, dance until dawn, and French Kiss my life!”

  2. and I will be determining my campaign strategy to step into political life – and applying for my doctorate! (and pay for my kid’s doctorates as well:))

  3. And I will be based in the tranquil countryside to rest and revitalise each time I come home from yet another fabulous travel experience (and pay off all my grown up children’s homes and cars)

    Great post, thank you.

  4. Serendipity once again! I attended a stand-up comedy workshop this post weekend and performed in front of audience with little preparation. The performing was totally unexpected – I thought I was going to learn to write Jokes. I find I am looking for things to do to push me out of my comfort zones ( w all have more than one) so I can get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Gee, wonder where I learned that???;)

  5. My tranquil countryside home is in a small Italian village 2 hours from Rome. During the day I work for a couple of hours before exploring the area, first stopping at my uncle’s truffle farm to search for black truffles to grate on a delicious, simple and nourishing Italian meal eaten al fresco with my family. After 6 weeks I speak Italian without hesitation and ready to return to the US for the winter.

  6. And I’m going to be a summer house on the beautiful Amalfi Coast, where I can spend my summer holidays. I will listen to the waves down below my open window on those summer nights and go exploring and meet new friends during the days.

  7. After which I’ll sit down with my financial planner & invest the LIFE out of that windfall!
    More money, more fun…

  8. And I thank you very much. Let’s make this money work for us by putting it into Life insurance policies (with guaranteed principal protection)
    and keeping some out for Tonya’s workshops, and a trip to Paris with Tonya!

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