Management over my time topped the list of factors that played into my decision to shift my career to coaching full time. For years I had been traveling multiple times a month and the light inside of me started to dim from the impacts of travel. I’d leave my empty suitcase in my living room because my next flight was never too far into the future. I had a constant buzz of a laundry schedule. Unpack, laundry, pack. The rewards of work were no longer feeling large enough for the sacrifice on my personal health and happiness.
I missed feeling like part of my Bay Area community. Prior to the last few years at my job, I was always expressing myself creatively through classes. I craved the stability to have a regular commitment to myself to satisfy that side of my being. As my last day at work approached, I revisited all the classes I had bookmarked over the last two years. Improv was the biggest stretch and the most interesting. I have several friends who have practiced and studied improv and it’s principles were core to some of the curriculum of the Co-Active Training Institute where I’d received my training as a coach. I wanted it to feel less “out there” and more accessible in my sessions with clients.
In my first 6 weeks of improv classes (yes, there will be more), I learned that a lot of play and performance in improv is applicable to the work I do with clients. Today, I am sharing two simple nuggets and how they apply to people navigating change moments.
Don’t stay frozen. Move. In my experience with clients, change brings a lot of unfamiliar options to the forefront. It is so easy to tell ourselves that we have to select the right option and in doing so get frozen in thinking about the options - analyzing them, getting other people’s opinions on them, building pro and con lists. Often the best thing we can do for ourselves is just try something. Move. Decide. Then reflect and iterate.
In improv, it is easy to get frozen by thinking about how to respond rather than just participating in a scene. Students put their heads down, lose eye contact with their partners, and get lost in their thoughts. In doing so, they have lost the moment and the audience. Their very essence becomes invisible.
One Simple Step. In improv storytelling exercises, performers are placed in a scene. The beauty of interaction comes from slowly building on the story. If two performers are acting out a scene in an amusement park, the exchange of dialog of about simple and relatable experiences will carry far more power than introducing a zombie from the 3rd dimension who is eating roller coasters. Successful improv is not about being outrageous, it’s about adding one simple step, not a huge leap.
In change moments, a client’s ability to see one possible step is crucial. A client need not understand everything about the newness that surrounds them to start making an impact on one piece of their life. A coach’s role is to hold the greater vision for the client, allowing the client to focus on small milestones.