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by Darren Held

Fair warning, this post is all about me. I mean, me + improv, but still.

If you’ve read this blog twice, you know that I have some improvy weaknesses. What I’m discovering is that, in attempting to address those improvy weaknesses, I’m compelled to address some real life weaknesses.

This, people, is not fun. We all have those things that we struggle with, or things we don’t like about ourselves, or ways of behaving that we’d change if only we knew how. Improv actually goes a long way towards helping with many of those things. So, by improving at improv, you improve in real life – better listening skills, better communicating, better teamwork, more acceptance, more contributing, all those things I yammer about.

But sometimes, there’s something that you have to fix in real life in order to improve the corresponding improv skill. You probably won’t know that for a long time; you’ll be doing improv and getting better at it, and you’ll see things changing in your life (for the better!) and you’ll be all, “Yay! I rock!” And you do! And that lasts for a long time.

But if you do improv long enough, and are committed to being the best you can at it, there comes a time when you might start to notice that every critique, every specialty class, every against type exercise, every well-meaning troupe joke or comment about you involves a specific thing that you just can’t seem to do. Naturally, I don’t like the word “can’t,” but in some cases there is just some kind of block that prevents you from being able to do something.

And then you have a choice: dig deep to figure out what in your personality is holding you back and then deal with it, or accept the status quo. Improv is about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone – but only you can decide how far out you’re willing to go. There’s no judgment if you decide wherever you are now is far enough. Sometimes people cruise along at that status quo for a couple years and then suddenly decide, it’s time for a new push. Whatever your personal goals are is fine.

For me, my career and my life pretty much revolve around improv. And I have to be a role model and set a good example, which means pushing myself even when (like right now) every part of me is trying to hide under the bed and stay the way I am, the way I’m comfortable being. Comfortable is, uh, comfortable… and who doesn’t like comfort? But comfort is seductive, and there’s no growth in it. So I’m gonna keep pushing, and I’ll warn you now that I’m a bit cranky with all this effort, but I’m also pretty excited about the prospect of being better – at improv, and at life.

By Sonnjea Blackwell

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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