We can’t completely plan out everything that happens in our lives. Instead a lot of the situations we find ourselves in we have to respond to spontaneously – which requires a certain amount of fast and creative thinking on the spot.
When we try to plan too much, we often over-think and over-analyze, which leads us to hesitate and not take action. For example, if you’re having a conversation with a new girl or boy you like, you may often find yourself thinking in your head, “What should I say?” which takes you out of the moment and usually ends with you not saying much of anything at all.
For some people, it’s really difficult to get “outside of their heads” and into the moment. However, one way we can practice being more spontaneous is by practicing improvisation exercises to make our minds think faster and more freely.
Improvisation is the process of taking information from your immediate environment and then responding to it in a creative way.
Often, we associate improvisation with music, dancing, comedy, or acting, but improvisation is really something that we all do throughout our daily lives – whether it’s making a quick decision at work or sparking up a conversation with a stranger.
If spontaneity is something you need to work on, especially in your daily conversations, consider trying out some of these improvisation exercises to get your mind thinking more creatively.
Easy ways to practice improvisation by yourself:
- Listen to a random TV channel on mute and speak for each character.
- Google an image for a random word and tell a short story for one of the images you find.
- Use one of these random scenario generators (like this or this) and act out a short 5-10 minute scene.
- Choose another random scenario from above, now practicing miming it without using words to practice improvising with gestures and face expressions.
- Choose a random object in your house and see how many different uses you can think of for it.
- Watch other actors and comedians do improvisation (for example, the show Whose Line Is It Anyway? is really good).
- If you play an instrument, practice improvising on it without repeating any pattern more than once.
- Put on one of your favorite songs and practice dancing to it in your own unique way.
- Watch your pet or an animal and practice speaking as its inner voice.
In all of these exercises you’re taking something from your environment and generating something unique and creative out of it. That’s all improvisation really is at the end of the day.
When first practicing improvisation, you’re going to feel a little silly and weird – especially when you’re doing these just by yourself. Try to just have fun with it and think of it as a game. It’s not meant to be taken seriously. This is “mental playtime.”
Often to be creative you need to let go of your critical thinking and let yourself be absorbed in the moment. Try to overcome that discomfort of being silly and make sure you laugh at yourself when you’re becoming too serious or skeptical.
Discover more tools to daily growth in the digital guide The Science of Self Improvement