Making change fun

15 12 2009

There are probably as many behavioural change theories as there are people who want to change.

What bogs most of us down, I think, is that change is often positioned or perceived as something hard, requires large doses of self-discipline and is longdrawn.

It doesn’t always have to be that way.  In this Volkswagen initiative, site creators believe that fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better.

As I reflect on my own recent path through change, I can relate.

I started taking improv lessons a year ago, and to say they’ve been life-changing is a monumental understatement.

The rewards of improvisation extend far beyond its theatrical ability to entertain and captivate.  When done well, the improviser experiences not just a unique sense of ‘flow’ or being ‘in the zone’, but a surreal feel of collaborative storytelling, reminiscent of childhood playground fantasy games.

In a word, good improv is FUN.  For the performers and the audience.

What, then, does all this have to do with change?

One of the first tenets of improv is having the courage to fail and take risks.  If you make a mistake, celebrate, don’t berate.  That barrier is easier said than done to cross, particularly in our structured left-brained dominant world, but reaching the other side is oh-so-sweet.

For when you’re on the other side, things get juicy.  You begin to release your inner child, that openness that makes you want to play and people want to play with you.  You gain more courage to say ‘yes, and’ to offers that come your way (both on- and offstage), instead of the more typical ‘no’ that keeps you in your comfortable risk-free zone.

As you allow this notion of risk-taking to permeate your consciousness, you start making bolder choices in the characters you play and the extremes you go to on stage.  The audience squeals with delight at each choice, fueling you to go further.

Then there are your fellow players.  In a strong and experienced ensemble, this positive risk-taking is multipled manifold.  Each sentence or movement by an improv player is an offer thrown out to the group, bait that the others must repond to so as to advance the story.  And each offer represents the potential to change the scene, a character or the plot.  When the offer is acknowledged and, more importantly, amplified by another player, the audience is thrilled beyond measure.

Change can happen as often as once every 5 seconds in an improvised scene or play.  And, in contrast to most corporate settings or even many personal lives, these changes are accepted with grace and amplified with confidence by one or all on stage.

An improv ensemble is a mystical thing.  To the outsider, it seems as if they’re magicians conjuring up impossibly cogent stories and compelling characters on the fly.  As a recent insider, I’ve come to know that it’s a delightful exercise in creativity and innovation based on making change fun.


Are you serving your life’s story?

7 12 2009

Always serve the story.

That’s what my improvisational theatre coach told us last week.  If you should feel embarrassed or afraid to portray a certain character, remember that you are an instrument of the story that is unfolding before and through you.  If you’ve never harmed a flea in real life, but are playing a mob boss with a penchant for slicing his enemy’s ears off, then commit to the character and be that menacing boss to full effect.

The larger notion of serving the story got me thinking.  As actors on our individual and collective life stages, what do we do to stay true to our stories?  And what IS our story to begin with?

Every now and again, we pose existential questions like ‘Who am I?’ or ‘What is my life’s purpose?’.  Some of us spend a disproportionate amount of time dwelling on the answers, others give it no more than a fleeting thought.  And yet, our life continues to unfold, with or without our conscious intervention.

What happens if and when you choose to intervene?  Where do you begin?  What needs changing most, and why?

It must surely begin with an exploration and discovery of your inner story.  One that is part of your DNA, something that you and only you were born to do.  Whether sealed by fate or fortune, your life path is a unique combination of personal connections, experiences and realisations.  You are drawn to certain fields of study, particular social networks, specific environments, all serving to uncover and express the story you carry within.

If you had to re-enact your life to date on stage tomorrow, and then improvise the next 5 years worth of experiences and sensations so that you honour that inner story, what would you do?  Who would you add to your fabric of existence?  What would you walk away from today?  What would happen if you started to move in a different direction?  What habits would you introduce?  Which would you cast aside, and why?

Most of all, who is and will continue to be part of your life’s story?  How will they respond to your newly improvised existence?  How do you take them along for the ride, and reassure them that this is a path worth taking?  What would you do if they resist?

I want ChangePals to help you explore these questions and more.  And when you decide to take that first bold step to honour your life’s story, there’ll be fellow travellers on the ChangePals site to guide you on your way and hold you to your promise of life change.

Nobody ever said change was easy.  Yet, it’s the only thing we can count on.  And what better change than that which brings you closer to your inner truth?

So, what are you doing to serve your life’s story?  And are you ready to take it to the next level?

To help or not to help?

1 12 2009

As I flesh out my ChangePals vision, I was struck by this article  that claims we’re born with a shared intentionality.  Science is beginning to prove that we all have an innate notion of what others expect to happen, beyond our conflicting sense of selfishness.  This sense of a group ‘we’ separates us from the other great apes and grounds our sociality.

Which gives me great hope for this journey I’m about to embark on with ChangePals.  It can’t be denied that we’re all selfish by nature and, indeed, I want ChangePals to appeal to your inner self(ishness).  For how can we truly change if we don’t, at some level, put ourselves and desires first?  We need to silence the inner and outter chatter of well-intentioned friends and family.  Of cultural dictates and conventional constructs.  Change begins with a strong sense of self and knowing what part you should or want to play in this giant jigsaw puzzle of a world.

But there is another side to the equation.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone cheer you on as you make positive change?  People who know exactly what you’re going through because they’ve been there before?  Many celebrities, for example, start foundations for leukemia, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, cancer, autism etc after losing a loved one to that affliction.  They speak from a deeper place of knowing, an inner core that resonates with yours.  And they persist and succeed in their cause because of it.  Their exchange is both selfish and altruistic: by helping others battle the disease, they continue to assuage the pain of their past loss.

And so I want ChangePals to be that platform.  A community that eventually helps itself by making its individuals more open to, accepting of and successful with change.

Life is filled with seeming contradictions, after all.  Business swings between competition and collaboration.  Relationships lurch between love and hate.  Team members bicker and support.

Yin and yang.  Selfishness and altruism.

Help and be helped.

Be a ChangePal.

Hello World!

21 10 2009

Change takes time.  On this site, you can discover your attitudes to change, find out how you want to transform, connect with like-minded people across the globe and join ongoing discussions about YOUR change priorities. 

Welcome to ChangePals.  Make change real in your life today!