Everything is Useful
Recently I drove over three hours to attend a workshop. It involved staying overnight in the host city and eating several meals out. My first thought as I was driving home was, "Well, that was a costly waste of time." That was not a new feeling. I was active in parish ministry for thirty-seven years. In that time I attended a lot of workshops, meetings, and seminars that I thought were a complete waste of time.
As an improviser, I immediately took that thought and turned it around. The workshop, although disappointing, was still an offer. What I did with that offer is my choice. I began to look at the positives of my six hour journey.
First on my list was getting to know a new friend a little better. While in the host city I connected with a Facebook friend and we spent an enjoyable evening together over dinner. Second item I counted as a gift was going to a new restaurant and having an amazing meal. As for the workshop itself, instead of looking at the flaws in execution, I focused on the meta-skills presented. I learned new concepts that opened me to new ways of looking at things. I stopped focusing on the skill of the presenters and began thinking of ways I could work with the material itself. I always say we learn more from our mistakes than our failures.
When things don't work out or we're faced with disappointment, the Improviser Mindset allows us to take the experience and play with it. What worked? What didn't? What can I do differently? We can ask ourselves curious questions, "I wonder?" I wonder how this could work or I wonder what it might look like if we did this. An Improviser Mindset is not just "looking for the silver lining" or "making lemonade out of lemons" it's about being in the moment (mindfulness) and seeing everything as an offer (yes, and). What makes improvisation unique, then, is the ability to put all that is offered together in a new way that no one else has ever done before. Everything may not be great, or necessarily even good, but everything can be useful.