Actors and comedians use this technique to learn to expect the unexpected -- and you can, too.
This morning was my first official day as a Camp Gladiator trainer. Despite the months of training I’ve been through since January, I was still nervous … right up until I started camp.
The minute I got rolling, my nerves disappeared. I felt comfortable and confident, even when the lights flickered off and the music stuttered to a stop. I kept rolling right through all the opening-day technical difficulties and snafus and ended up having a blast, and I’m pretty sure my campers had fun too.
When I auditioned to be a trainer at CG Academy, I was asked if I had teaching experience. I told them I had taught some kickboxing and taekwondo classes and they said, “that explains it.” What I didn’t realize then was that it wasn’t my teaching experience that made me comfortable with a crowd and quick to adapt. It was my years of acting classes, specifically of the improv variety.
I finally connected the dots this morning when I read an article at Medium about improv and its powerful effects on indecision and anxiety.
Left to my devices, my natural inclination is to hang back, watch, analyze, observe, waiting forever for the “right” thing and the “right” moment to do it. Life doesn’t wait for you to “decide,” and “deliberating” means absolutely nothing — only doing does…
We build only by doing. Nothing ever gets done by “thinking.” “Thinking” is procrastination. Getting it right is only built through repetition, and the more you hang back, the more time you lose to build what you want.
This is so true. Despite years of performing in front of a crowd, both as an actress and as a cheerleader, a solid decade of stay-at-home-momming took its toll on my confidence. I was so nervous before my CG audition that my hands were shaking, and the anxiety itself was so overwhelming that I almost quit right then and there.
But once I started assisting at camp more, it all came flooding back. I definitely made mistakes and got tongue-tied and forgot key points, but those mistakes happened less each time. I got more and more comfortable joking with campers, correcting form, and making changes on the fly when things weren’t working as planned. The more comfortable I felt, the more fun I had … and the more fun I had, the more fun they had.
This has a spillover effect into every area of life, by the way. Proactively confronting anxiety and indecision by choosing to act and decide becomes a habit that gets easier and easier. I’ve found myself making daily decisions much more easily — and most importantly — sticking with them. When my kids start begging for a snack before dinnertime, I don’t feel worn down and beleaguered by their pleas. I just say no and stick to it. (They hate it, btw. I love it.)
So if you struggle with anxiety and indecision, and if it’s interfering with your ability to live life on your terms, try an improv class. It might be unconventional, but it’s also effective … and fun!