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by Darren Held

by Sonnjea Blackwell

One of the most important skills that improv teaches is one we rarely talk about. It’s just such an inherent part of any improv exercise or game, that we don’t even list it amongst the rules; and yet, it dawned on me today that we should really call more attention to it.

I’m talking about making decisions.

Improv is all about making an instant choice. You get a suggestion from the audience, and BAM! you gotta make a decision as to what that means to you and go with it. You don’t get to wait, or weigh the options, or make a long list of pros and cons. You have literally about 2 seconds to decide what you’re going to do. And, having made your choice, you have to commit to it 100%.

Holy crap! That sounds scary when I spell it out like this. No wonder we don’t talk about it in class much; everyone would run screaming from the building.

It is scary, of course, which is why oftentimes students really DON’T commit 100%. In the back of our minds, we’re thinking, “Dammit, that was a stupid choice. I’ma hold back a little so nobody thinks I’m in love my idea because it’s clearly a really stupid idea.”

I know that’s what you think sometimes, because that’s what I think sometimes. But the thing is, you MADE A CHOICE. You instantly made a decision, which many people struggle to do in their day-to-day lives. Some more than others, of course. I was trapped behind a lady at Trader Joe’s yesterday who seriously could not decide between potato chips and corn chips. For the love of god, woman, neither choice will result in WWIII. Pick a bag and get out of the way!

But I digress. The thing is, we agonize over so many of our decisions in life. And for what? I mean, really, unless you are in fact a brain surgeon or a nuclear physicist or the guy who pushes the button when we’re at Def Con 1, making the “right” decision is crucial maybe 10% of the time. The other 90% of our lives, it really comes down to making A decision and then playing it out.

It’s what comes after the decision that really matters, right? Your commitment and adaptability and going with the flow and all that. But we stop ourselves at the decision part. Improv doesn’t let us stop there. You literally have no choice but to make a choice. Yay you!

I guess I just wanted to write this to point out to all of you that you ARE able to make decisions, even split-second decisions – I see you do it all the time! So give yourselves credit for that ability, and let it carry over into your real life. Don’t agonize so much. When life throws you some random suggestion, make an instant choice, commit and see where it takes you.

Or don’t. Your call. It’s just a suggestion.

Darren Held
About Darren Held
Darren is the CEO and Creative Director of Held2gether, Improv for LIfe. He has been teaching and performing improv for 15 years, and has performed with H2g, the Groundlings, UCB and Second City. He loves Moto, red wine, and Madonna.

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