As part of my Ascend Mastermind, each quarter I bring together all of the badass women in the group to share an experience. Usually these experiences are designed to push them (a little) outside fo their comfort zone and to beef up their self-confidence. And yes, of course, so we can all spend extra time together! 🎉
Our first experience was a self-defense class (amazing!) and this quarter we are doing Improv! As I look forward to the experience with this amazing group of women (and Phil, our instructor), I HAD to pull up an old blog post about one of the best lessons I took from Improv class a couple of years ago.
One of the basic principles of Improv comedy is “Yes, and…” It is a practice that encourages free flowing conversation and quite frankly, anything to happen. When fellow actors present to you, your role is to say, “Yes, and…”
It’s a rule of acceptance.
A rule where you take the scenario that is presented to you without judgment or rejection (or commenting on where you think it should have gone), and then add to it. You accept what has been offered and then respond by giving your partner(s) something they can reply back to - esentially setting them up for success.
It is a fantastic tool to use in relationships - with colleagues, friends, and partners.
So I started thinking about how this principle can impact various areas of our lives…
What if this principle was used as a tool with health & lifestyle behaviors?
What if we flipped the script so to speak, and used “yes, and…” with the dialogue we have with our mean girl (or guy) in our head?
In life we say “no” quite often. We do it to manage our time, stay productive, and as a self-care rule to preserve our sanity & health. I endorse having an awareness around how you give away your time (in fact, I advocate for setting massive boundaries), but applying the “yes, and…” principle is a bit different. It can improve our relationships, careers, overall wellness and attitude. (Who doesn’t want that?)
When it comes to how we respond to ourselves, saying “no” might come a little too easy. It’s in our nature to shut down our innate desire to do something with a “no”, especially when a “yes” means we have to do a little extra work.
You know that inner mean girl (or guy) I mentioned? The one that has an opinion about everything you choose to do whether you like it or not? It can be judgmental, indecisive or downright self-sabotaging because it’s afraid of change.
It is our job to change the conversation, because we have a choice in how we respond. And I’m telling you right now, by changing the way you respond you can use that inner voice in a positive way.
Let’s say you think to yourself, I should go to the gym tonight. Your normal response to this thought is to come up with any number of reasons why you can’t or don’t want to do it. Using “yes, and…” will encourage that behavior rather than blow off the idea.
The built in enthusiasm makes it almost impossible not to agree. If you respond to that idea with, “yes, and the run will totally help me relieve the stress from this day”, you are solidifying the fact that a run is a great idea. 🙌🏼
Here’s another. Let’s say you have a big project you’re trying to work on for your business but you are finding every single excuse in the book to avoid it by doing other things. (Hello resistance!) If you respond to the “I should spend an hour working on the project” with “yes, and” you will come up with reasons why this is a good choice.
I know, you’re thinking…
“But Kelly, what if my mean girl/guy has it out for me and suggests something negative? How does “yes, and…” help that?”
This negative voice happens all too often when we are in the middle of growing, and I’m going to tell you that this tool is great for shutting that down.
Let’s say you skipped that workout at the gym or let resistance set in and didn’t work on that big project. As a result, you hear those negative beliefs start to creep in and need to shift out of that downward spiral of telling yourself that you are a failure or can’t do something.
Here’s how it would go...
Negative dialogue: Oh my gosh, I am such a failure because I can’t stick to my plan to accomplish my goals.
(Obviously those thoughts aren’t helpful and the negative self talk will not inspire confidence - let alone behaviors that are encourage action.)
A response to try (using “yes, and…”): Yes I definitely didn’t stick to my plan today and tomorrow is an opportunity to try again.
So. Much. Better.
I could go on for days doing this scenario stuff, but you get where I’m going with it. Like I mentioned earlier, there are some great things that can come from this practice.
Here are a few:
It allows you to drop the judgment + gain trust. Many times my clients come to me with terrible trust issues (with themselves) when it comes to creating positive changes/habits. The reason? They have spent years making poor decisions and can’t believe they could ever turn that around. With this practice, you can begin to repair that damage with enthusiasm and a new perspective.
It creates awareness around how you respond to yourself. If you start to put this into practice, I guarantee you will be shocked by how often you say “no” to yourself. Or further, how negative the self-talk throughout the day can be. I want to challenge you to keep a running tally of the dialogue you have with yourself for one day. Then, on the following day practice “yes, and…” and watch how that number changes. This will create awareness around your natural reaction and allow you to begin to change that behavior.
You begin to see that every moment is an opportunity to choose. When it comes to changing habits and mindset, there isn’t a moment throughout the day that doesn’t require a decision. As mentioned in the point above, each one of those decisions, great or small, will add up. So why not set yourself up for success by making a conscious decision to choose to accept the scenario and work with it rather than try to fight it.
Now, go practice! Start by keeping a tally of how many negative things you say to yourself and once you’ve established where you’re at – get to work.
By practicing “yes, and…” with yourself or others, you will reap the same benefits you would if you used this in Improv! You’ll experience more positive interactions, feel better about yourself and will likely make more positive choices.
Let me know what you think and how you will apply this principle to your life!
P.S. Know someone struggling who’s working on stepping up their performance? Have a friend who needs the courage to start a make some changes? Share this post — it’s full of actionable advice and it’s free 🎉