Here is a guest post I wrote for the aptly-named site, Work Awesome. I hope you enjoy it!
Last fall, after putting off going to my first Toastmaster’s meeting for the umpteenth time, I decided to enroll in an improv comedy class. I had been watching Whose Line is it Anyway? and thought to myself, “Why can’t I think off the cuff and engage in witty banter like those guys on the show?” So, on the first day of class, I girded up my loins and forced myself to actually attend.
I knew I wouldn’t become the next Will Ferrell or Tina Fey, but I figured it would help me to round out my public speaking skills. What I didn’t anticipate, however, was that it would provide so many valuable lessons that could be applied to a professional environment.
In fact, I would go so far as to say that anyone who wants to become more effective in the workplace could benefit from taking a whirl at improv.
Here are the top six lessons from improv that can help advance your career.
1. Observe and Listen
This is one of the foundational rules of improv. In essence, to be able to react effectively to your scene partners, you have to be completely attentive to their words and actions.
So, as opposed to thinking about what you are going to say next or wondering what interesting tidbit your vibrating smartphone is tempting you to read, your task is to give the other person your full attention.
The benefits of this approach in interactions with colleagues are pretty obvious. By taking this lesson into the workplace and being intentional about staying present with your co-workers, they will feel more understood and valued.
In turn, this will encourage them to return the favor by being more attentive to you. Further, by staying present you will be able to gather more information, including concrete data like specific facts and more subtle information like nonverbal reactions and group dynamics.
Read the rest of the post here:
“If you do nothing unexpected, nothing unexpected happens.” ~Fay Weldon
After years of hemming, hawing, and stiff-arming my intuition, I decided to take the leap. I searched through my documents folder, edited the date on the resignation letter I had written a year prior, and finally mustered up the nerve to actually hand it in.
Immediately after I did so, I was shocked to find that I didn’t have the overwhelming feeling of terror I expected as a result of leaving my stable, not entirely fulfilling job of the past ten years. Instead, I felt an all-encompassing sense of peace and certitude. I knew that pursuing my passion of being an author, speaker, and entrepreneur was absolutely right for me.
While it was empowering to finally take a stand for my authentic self, at the same time, I also knew that making such a big transition would require a lot of personal growth. I would need to truly embody all it is that I say I believe. It is one thing to declare you are a spiritual person who trusts in your intuition, and quite another to actually act on it.
So, while I always saw myself as having ownership for my life, I knew that diving headlong into uncertainty and ambiguity would definitely push the issue. However, I saw this as both an exciting challenge with the opportunity for exhilarating rewards.
I am still on the journey, but I have definitely received a lot of signs that following my heart was the right choice for me. How do I know? I feel greater aliveness and enjoyment in my daily adventures. I am stretching myself in ways I have never experienced before and finding out just how courageous I am. I have being exposed to exciting opportunities I have always dreamed of, that serve as a reward for listening to my gut. And, I have a sense of peace and deep knowing that I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing.
As I mentioned, I knew this transition would require a lot of growth on my part. So, as I’m going through this experience, I have been picking up a lot of tips and lessons. Here are some of the biggest ones I have learned so far:
1. Make Sure the Timing is Right
As I noted, I really took my time to reflect before deciding to move ahead. This allowed me to be sure I was making a well-informed choice for the right reasons. I suggest you take a similar approach before making a drastic change.
Before you make the jump, check in with yourself to make sure that now is the right time. Are you running away from something? If so, maybe there is a lesson to be learned in staying put. Are you racked with fear about the prospect of doing something different? Perhaps you need to process those feelings further. Do you have any resources that could carry you through challenging times? If you are taking a risk, having some backup can help to allay anxieties.
Do you have a deep sense of peace about the transition, knowing that it may not be a smooth road, but the journey in terms of life lessons, fulfillment, authenticity, and purpose will be worth it? Then, the time may just be right for you!
2. Recognize Sometimes You Just Need to Hop, Not Leap
Before drumming up the courage to go out on my own, I made little shifts in my life that in retrospect, really prepared me for where I am now. And for some people I know, those little hops have been all they have needed to achieve greater meaning and fulfillment in their lives.
While the dramatic metamorphoses are the ones we often hear about, sometimes you just need a little fine-tuning to be more aligned with your purpose. Reflect on whether you actually need to make a drastic change. Perhaps taking up a hobby, asking for different assignments, or challenging yourself in some other way is all you need.
3. Give Yourself Time to Grieve
Before I made my transition, I consulted with someone who told me to give myself time to grieve my old job. While I initially questioned her opinion since I felt very ready for the move I was making, once I left, I recognized the wisdom of her counsel.
Things were different – I was no longer seeing my coworkers on a daily basis. While I welcomed my newfound flexibility, my routine was different. Plus, my identity was shifting from employee to entrepreneur and author. Giving myself permission to reflect on the past, get my bearings in the present, and mindfully look to the future allowed me to honor the positive aspects of my old job, heal parts of me that needed it, and move forward with energy and purpose.
4. Create a Safe Environment
I found that for myself, being in the midst of a lot of change made me crave having pockets of stability and calm where I could find them. To create that for myself, I went through a major decluttering process.
As I cleaned out closets, files, and junk, I asked myself a simple question – “Does this still serve me?” With each item I immediately knew the answer. And, unsentimentally, I either threw away, or found a spot for it. Once I went through this purging process, I purchased a few items to beautify my space.
This process was important for me on an number of levels. Symbolically, I was able to get rid of some of the ties to the past that I didn’t need to have anymore. I was putting a stake in my future, and didn’t need some of my “security blanket” items anymore. On a practical level, having an energizing environment makes a tangible difference in how I feel on a daily basis.
5. Stay True to Yourself
I have found that people vary widely in terms of their risk tolerance. So, while a lot of people fantasize about working for themselves and becoming entrepreneurs, there are a whole lot less of them who actually decide to go that route. Knowing that, I was aware that there would be some friends and associates who would offer unsolicited advice, worries, or second-guesses of my decisions.
Through all of this, I continued to listen to my intuition and recognize that other people are welcome to their opinions. I and I alone, however, am the one responsible for making a life with which I will be satisfied.
6. Be on the Lookout for Lessons
I knew that making a major shift would set the stage for a lot of personal growth opportunities, and I welcomed the opportunity to continue to peel back my layers and become more enlightened. When challenges arise, I pay attention to my reactions to determine what I can learn from them. By striving to become a better person as a result of the risk I took, I am indeed accomplishing that goal.
7. Move Ahead with Gusto
After taking the leap I knew I couldn’t just sit back and wait for things to fall into my lap. So I have been pursuing my goals with energy, intuition, inspiration, passion, and gusto. It’s been an amazing journey, with lots of rewards, and now, I can’t imagine not having made this choice!
Have you made any big life changes? What tips would you share?