Monday, April 4, 2011

Whose Life is it Anyway?

Here's a fun assignment: In five minutes or less, act out a skit about a foreign country and a mythical creature from that culture. During the story, you must incorporate three random objects in such a way so as to symbolize "souvenirs" from that destination. Just for fun, you will also be presented with an unexpected problem which you must also integrate and overcome.

Oh, and you only get your culture, creature, props and problem five minutes before you have to tell the story.

So let's say its Greece, the Oracle at Delphi, a mop, an embroidery hoop and dental floss. And the problem is that someone in the story suddenly grows a tail.   Ready, set, go!

Sound like fun?

This "improvisational challenge" is an example of what my daughter, Miss M (grade 5) and four of her friends got to do this weekend with a very cool program called "Destination ImagiNation."

As you back slowly out of the room, consider this: Life is one big improv challenge. 

We really have no way of knowing exactly what may happen next in our lives, what "tools" we may need to use or what unexpected problems may be thrown at us.

Okay, so most likely we won't grow a tail.  (Though there was that one time in '92 with the tequila shots.)    Anyhoo...

Last week, I had the pleasure of listening to and meeting Pamela Meyer, author of  Workplace to Playspace: Innovating, Learning and Changing Through Dynamic Engagement.  Her talk was about using a specific set of strategies to develop organizational capacity.  However, it really got me thinking about the connection between improv and personal capacity.

Pamela explained, "Everyone has times when they need to respond to the unexpected and unplanned."

Among many other great insights, she also conveyed three specific dynamics:
     1. Competence - ability to respond using only available resources

     2. Consciousness - lively and active awareness of possibilities

     3. Confidence - belief in one's own and others' abilities

As you can imagine, her ideas really resonated with me (especially the one about confidence.)   Furthermore, its clear that these things become increasingly important in a world which is changing exponentially and on so many levels.

Thinking about my own experiences, I might actually add one more to her list.  I know - who the hell do I think I am, right?

     4. Centered-ness

(It may not be a real word but since Pam used "time-ful" in her speech, I figure I'm good.)

In my mind, centered-ness is the presence of a healthy "home base" that we can rely on and come back to.

As individuals, it's the solid foundation of physical, mental, spiritual, emotional health that we can count on to get us through any change, obstacle or unexpected event.

(There are some great organizational connections here as well but we can save those for another time.)

Thinking about what makes a successful improv performance group, there's a certain "go with the flow" that just works. You know it's unscripted but somehow a cohesive story emerges with a clear beginning, middle and end.  Magic.  

As I observe Miss M's improv team, that collaboration is centered by specific "knowns" such as understanding the strengths of each individual and solid principles of teamwork. On a more basic level, it's having a clear head, being well-fed and well-rested, etc.

The truth is that life can present us with even bigger challenges than having to fit cable ties and tube socks into a story about the Russian Firebird and having frogs in our pocket.  

When I keep harping on true life balance being internal, this is what I am talking about:  it's about our ability to be ready for anything that comes our way. 

Next time you need a little extra motivation to take care of yourself, think of it as building your improv toolkit so you can handle whatever "stuff" gets thrown at you (or hits the fan, as the case may be.)

Internal life balance... the new duct tape.

Carpe diem,

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Crystal Escobar said...

I love this post. Very inspirational. Such great information. Thank you!

Sarah said...

That sounds like a fun class and an inspirational teacher. Ms. M must have had such a great time doing the assignment. You have a great point--we have to be prepared, as we never know what's coming next.

G said...

Cool. My skit failed miserably.

Charles said...

I am glad the educational value of the challenge is recognized. We strive to ensure that the students take away skills that will benefit them for a life time. Thanks for participating in Destination Imagination.

Chuck Cadle, CEO of Destination ImagiNation

Charlene said...

Thanks for stopping by and the comments Crystal, Sarah & G!

Chuck - I've been involved with DI as an appraiser and manager for six years and it's truly one of the best programs ever! Thanks so much for stopping by and see you in Knoxville!!

Tammy said...

I'm learning that if I want my hair to stand on end, all I have to do is read one of your blogs. lol It seems to happen every time. What you say always resonates with me to a great degree. LOVE this Destination ImagiNation. I will be talking to my kids teachers about it. This is right up Hill View's alley. Love my kids school! And I may never look at duct tape the same way again. :)

Katie Moore said...

Oh how I needed this! Thank you for posting! I just found your blog through the sits/blogfrog link up discussion! I am following you and can't wait to read more. I am a new blogger and I'm having so much fun with it!
Hope that you have a great week!

BadCheetah said...

very nice post! just like others i'm looking for friends and followers.. please drop by :) thanks in advance!

Charlene said...

Tammy - I think hair standing on end is a good thing, right? LOL! Thanks!

Katie - Glad I was here for ya! :-) Thanks for the follow - you rock!

Cheetah - Thanks for stopping by!

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