Living in the Moment: For the Planners, Perfectionists, and People-Pleasers

Are you the type of person who likes to know what’s coming next?  I mean what’s coming in the next hour, day, week, meeting, or big event?  I am!  I have forever been a person who likes to plan.  I am a trained actress, and can get up in front of people with a script with virtually no problems, but a few years ago if you asked me to get up and do an impromptu speech or improvised scene, my heart would race, my palms grow sweaty, and my stomach curl.   Seriously, in my head I would often think,  “I’m going to die because I don’t know what I am going to say! I’m going to mess this up and look like a fool!”  If you asked me to write a speech or think before hand what I had to say, for even five minutes, I would have been fine.   However, ask me to do something on the spot, and I virtually felt my blood pressure escalate!

I never liked the fact that I was terrified of improvisation, and the fact that I always had to know what I was going to say in real life situations and acting scenes.   After all, I saw how so many good actors and leaders were so comfortable and spontaneous in improvisation.  I really wanted to get over this.  So, I started making myself participate in activities that involved improvisation.  One of them was Toastmasters.  This is a speech makers club. In every meeting people deliver pre-written speeches, and one part of every meeting involves having to give an impromptu speech after receiving a short prompt.  The first few times I had to do it, I was literally nauseous.  However, after making myself get up and do this more and more, that nauseous feeling starting becoming less and less.  It was really quite miraculous.  These small successes helped me to believe that not being good improvisation all those years had more to do with a fearful mindset, than a lack of improvisation skill.

Another way I confronted my fear was by doing improvisation with my Drama students. I have been teaching Drama now full-time for over five years.   I had to first learn a million different improvisation activities to use in my classes, and I started throwing myself into them along with my students.  I guess I just felt like it was a safe place to learn how to be a better improv artist – around 11 – 14 year olds with no adults around.  I could just throw myself into crazy scenes with them, and have fun without trying to feel like I was a “master” at improvisation. There are “rules” for improvisational acting, and in my classes, I could practice following these rules right along with students.  I started coming up with these crazy characters and scene ideas all the time! It has become quite addicting.  We do only improvisation activities always on Fridays, and my students look forward to this thrilling way to end their week in Drama class.

Developing my improvisation skills with my students was such a breakthrough for me –  a break-through fear!  I used to be blocked all the time in my formal theatre education classes.  Seriously, I was terrible at improvisation because I judged myself, over-thought everything, and just expected myself to do do a lousy job every time.  However, now I was not so self-conscious of my improvisation skill, but I allowed myself to trust my instincts and be creative moment by moment!  I was finally just taking my thoughts and ideas for characters and scenes, and running with them, without out over-thinking them.   This is one of the rules of improvisation – commit to your choices!  So, I was learning how to commit to my choices!

About a year ago, I was still itching to take this newfound improvisation ability to a new level, so I took a formal acting improvisation class.  A big step for me.  Something I would have NEVER done a few years ago, because of the sheer terror of looking like a fool!  This time I was determined that I would learn how to do this with adults.   I have to admit that first class was so nerve-wracking.   We had to do long improvisation scenes, which I wasn’t used to doing at all.   We had to do improvisation games that required ridiculous spontaneity, the likes of which used to scare me silly!  Low and behold, I threw myself into these scenes and games.  I was not always tremendously successfully because I am inexperienced at more complicated improvisational acting, however, by the final class, I had come a long way.  I mean, try doing a 3 minute scene with only one word as your starting point?!  It is quite a fun ride!  All you can do is listen and respond, say “yes, and…..” and just go with the flow!

This improvisation class changed my life.   Why?  I began to understand more what it meant to just live in the moment, a concept that seems very profound, but yet is hard to do for perfectionist-type personalities.   I learned how I didn’t always have to think ahead.  There were so many times when I had no idea what I would say or do in a scene, even when I supposed to be the one starting a scene from a frozen position!   All I knew was – the idea would come to me once I boldly put myself in the position.  All I needed to do was step out with confidence that all the creativity I needed was in my head to get the scene started!  So many times I surprised myself and my classmates.  So many times!

My creative challenge to you is to make yourself get involved in activities that involve improvisation, especially if you are an introvert or perfectionist-type personality who is terrified by impromptu activities.  Here are a few activities:

  1. Swing Dancing (Yes, after you know the basic steps, you make it up as you go!)
  2. Toastmasters Club
  3. Leading a small group at church, work, school. (Bible study, interest group, book club, etc.)
  4. Jazz Music Club
  5. Improvisation Acting Class
  6. Teaching (whatever subject you know a lot about)
  7. If you are just a worship leader and all you do is sing, start making yourself speak here and there in between songs.
  8. Karaoke (This is singing in the moment!)
  9. Cranium, charades, or board games that involve having to get up and act out things on the spot and get your team to guess.

It may be that some of us will never be “brilliant” at activities that involve a lot of impromptu, but I truly believe that even most planned, perfectionist-type, analytical, left-brained personalities can still become better at living in the moment.  We can conquer the fear of having to always know what’s coming next, and it can help us become more confident in every area of our lives!   I have been there, done it, and I am learning to live in the moment more every day of my life!

 

         

 

3 Ways to Revive Creativity in Your Life

Creativity is a powerful force. It exists in the heart of every human being. Some thrive on its power. Some make a living off of the creativity in them. Some musicians, writers, painters, singers, composers, actors, and dancers find joy in allowing the force to move through their lives.   Some delight mostly at watching others express it.   Some even feel it is a force that is not in them.   Some feel the very force of creativity has eluded them.  You may be one who marvels at the creativity of others, but never feel creative.  If you are this person, then it’s time to start marveling at your own creativity.  We were born to create.

Creativity is force that is inside of all of us whether we feel it or not. To create is to bring something into existence, or to form something out of nothing. It is to transform something that is maybe plain, boring, unappealing, or mundane and make it beautiful, interesting, or attractive.  Creativity is to believe the impossible.  It is to see beyond the very moment and into the next moment of what “could be.  It is to bring out the colors of the world into the view of natural eye.  If you do not consider yourself an artist, and you do not feel like you are very creative, then please read on.  If you are an artist, but you feel like creativity it lacking outside of your works of art, then read on, too.  How can you revive the creativity in your life?

1. Remember creative things you used to do that you haven’t done in long time and start doing them again.

Even though you may feel like you have never been creative, let me just say that “creative” doesn’t necessarily mean you produce skilled works of art.  When you were a child before you grew to know the troubles of the world and adulthood, you were creative. You drew pictures in school, even if they weren’t “good”.  You colored in coloring books.  You came up with new games on the playground to play with your friends.  You created excuses to your parents for your mistakes. You created study methods to succeed in school.  You created sandcastles at the beach.  You created forts in the woods.   You drew with colorful sidewalk chalk on the pavement.   You created outfits to get attention. You imagined what clouds were in the sky. You did so many creative activities!

Here’s the challenge…come up with a list of at least 20 creative things that you haven’t done in a long time that you used to love doing (even if they were in your childhood).  Do one of those creative activities a day for at least 5 – 15 minutes.

2. Start a dream journal.

Cultivating creativity in yourself has a lot to do with giving yourself the chance to dream.  When we stop allowing ourselves to dream, we stop the creative force in our soul. We are the ones who literally block it. There are many reasons why you may have stopped dreaming. It could be because of hardship and heartaches, emotional and physical pains of all kinds. One way we can pursue healing our souls from wounds is by allowing ourselves to dream again.

I challenge you to start writing at least one journal entry a week by starting with one of these phrases (or you can come up with your own):

Some day I would like to….

If I had all the time and money in the world I would…

If I could have the perfect career it would look like…

Heaven is…

If I could go to any place in the world right now, I would go to….

If I could meet anyone in the world it would be…

If I could have my own business it would be…

I will have my own family someday and we will….

My dream home will look like….

My dream job would be…

If you don’t like to write a lot, try cutting out pictures and gluing them to a picture album page, poster board, or cork board to create a dream collage.  You might do a new collage for each dream like: dream home, dream job, dream vacation, dream business, dreams for family, etc.  Or you could just put them all on one big board.   Make it your own.  If you do a dream board, I recommend putting it up for you to walk by every day, so you help keep hope alive in your heart for your dreams to come true.   At this stage in the game, this is not a vision board really that has to do with goals on how to reach them.  Another blog will deal with the issue of setting goals, but this is just about starting to dream big again.

3. Create an idea board or page for your job.

You may be tired of your job. You may tired of the people at your job. You may be tired of the endless new stressful challenges. You may just be tired, period.  It may not be a job that is your passion.  What if you added a little creativity on a daily basis in the job?!  Perhaps the job is so tiring because you are approaching and performing tasks the same way pretty much every time.

I challenge you to start an idea board or page for your job either on your office wall or in a journal.  You can write, tack up post-it notes, or put cut-out pictures on it.   What kind of ideas could go on it?   Here’s a few ideas to get you started:

  1. How to re-decorate your office or cubicle
  2. Better and more efficient ways of doing the same activities you do every day
  3. People you need to get to know on the job whom you haven’t made an effort to get to know yet….and maybe how and when to talk to them
  4. Needs that you see not being met that maybe you could meet in your time on the job that will help your company grow
  5. People you noticed doing a great job at some activity whom you don’t want to forget to compliment
  6. People on the job who basically do what you do and seem like they need a little help because they are newer on the job than you
  7. Ways you change up the order of your daily routine – to help you escape boredom

As you tackle these creative challenges, let “you” be “you.”  There may be part of “you” that you have stifled and kept inside for way too long, so you might feel awkward at moments.     Don’t criticize what you do creatively at all right now.  Don’t look at what you do as if someone is judging it.   Don’t even judge it yourself.  I promise you will start feeling more alive than ever.

Creativity is a life force that makes us different than any other created being on the planet.  Reviving creativity in your life can revive joy, passion, and peace in your soul!   It can also help your heart and soul to heal, too.  Allow yourself to be okay with expressing the creativity in you, even if you might think others might look at it and think it is odd.   Your creativity is unique to you, and it represents a one-of-a-kind person.  You might just be surprised at how your creativity will put a smile on other people’s faces, and improve the quality of your life in amazing ways!