The cardinal rule of Improvisation is to say, “Yes, and” – to accept and add-on to whatever is happening in front of you on stage.
Saying “Yes, and” instead of other things, such as “heck no”, or “you’ve got to be kidding me”, or perhaps just stunned silence is a way to keep us moving forward when we have no idea where the scene will go.
Saying “Yes, and” on stage becomes habitual, if you practice it enough.
But, saying, “Yes, and” off the stage, sometimes in life’s most trying moments can take a stronger set of muscles and mindset.
Comedian and Actress Jane Lynch delivered a powerful speech on this very topic to the Smith College class of 2012 – and the idea, the habit of greeting life with a big “Yes, And” is truly a reminder that never gets old.
Lately I’ve noticed my “Yes, and” muscle weakening a bit.
If they say Improv is the creative equivalent of jumping off a cliff, then leaving your job to pursue your passion is the professional equivalent. Both jumps have so many similarities, and this Improvisers skill-set is what I rely on to navigate the unknown and to teach others to do the same.
When you notice your “Yes, and” muscle weakening it may be because what’s happening in front of you doesn’t look or feel exactly the way you imagined it.
It’s easy to say “Yes, and” when you’re totally on-board with the scene. But when you’re in a scene that’s not unfolding the way you want it to — remember you always have a choice. I advocate the choice to step up to the experience, face the fear, and accept what’s in front of you, even what you can’t control, with a big “yes, and”. It doesn’t mean we have to like our circumstances – but it does mean we have to keep moving forward and do something productive with it.
Putting the principles of Improvisation into action in real life, especially when the stage we’re on feels most vulnerable (entrepreneurship, new experiences, cliff-jumping) is where the opportunity for growth really lies.
True happiness comes from being less attached to the outcome, and more in tune with the present, the journey unfolding right in front of us….and it starts by greeting life with a big “Yes, and”.