A New Year’s Resolution

Okay, so how many of you remember this…you are about 12 years old and you are sitting in school and your teacher asks a question to the class. You are pretty sure that you know the answer, but you hesitate. You don’t raise your hand. Something inside of you says “don’t!”…”what if you are wrong.” Another eager students puts their hand up and calls out the answer. It was the exact answer you were going to say…but you said nothing. That happened to me so many times in school. I felt so silly for not trying, for not believing that I could be right. Why do we doubt ourselves so much? I get that no one likes to be wrong, but to not try something because of the risk of being wrong limits us in so many ways – grades in school, relationships with others, job opportunities and so on. It closes off incredible possibilities just waiting to come into our lives. Learning from trying and making mistakes is what makes us grow and change, and it is only through change that great things happen. I believe it is so important for young people to hone this skill. Improv style acting is a fantastic way to practice this. There are no rules in improv (except that you can’t say no, which many acting instructors will explain), so jumping into a scene and just going for it, is a huge risk that teaches many valuable lessons. You have no idea if the scene you are creating will make sense, be funny, or if your character choices will resonate with the audience. But you keep trying and putting yourself out there, and if you have a great teacher they will give you feedback about what you are doing well. Sometimes the scenes will be amazing and sometimes not, but you keep learning from the mistakes. And if it doesn’t work? Most of the time we anticipate the reaction of others to be far worse than they actually are. When you make a mistake are you laughed at? Ridiculed? Publicly humiliated? Usually not. But we make the possibility of that happening so real in our head that it stops us from trying. Our thoughts have an incredible power over us, so why not start to shift what we think in a more positive way. I spent years in an improv theatre school as a teen and looking back I see that it taught me so many things beyond acting skills. The consistent act of jumping into the unknown and trying something new created a “muscle memory” that allowed me to keep doing that in other aspects of my life as an adult. There is always the risk that it may not work, but what if it does? You never know unless you try, so as you all consider your New Year’s resolutions for 2012, consider taking that risk, raising your hand in class, trying something that is a bit scary…it may just open doors to opportunities you only thought possible in dreams. Happy New Year!