In this ever-changing world, we can all say with certainty that stuff happens. Things go awry, unforeseen challenges appear, and results aren’t always as expected.
Sometimes we brush it off, saying something like, “It is what it is,” or, “Meh.” At other times, we have a more intense reaction and say things like, “This can’t be happening,” or, “Why me?”
When a challenge arises, something has to change to move things forward. Ignoring it won’t make it go away, and may even cause it to grow until it explodes. Wallowing in self-pity keeps you firmly stuck in the muck.
A better choice is to adopt a practice used in improvisation called “Yes, and”.
The “yes” is acknowledgment of a situation. It doesn’t imply agreement or endorsement. It just means that accept its existence.
The “and” is what’s next. Things don’t just stop where you are.
“Yes, and” opens the door to finding a solution to a problem. It encourages creativity and, when you incorporate this in your work with others, it opens the door to collaboration and teamwork.
We learn this concept when we’re kids and we play make-believe games with our friends. When I was a girl, we played School or House (or Children, as a girl my grandmother watched, in Tennessee, called it). Someone started by saying, “Let’s play ________, and I’ll be __________,” and announced some action (s)he would perform. Then someone else said, “Yes, and I’ll _______,” and so forth. Play sometimes lasted for hours.
Nobody was in control of these games. They developed however they developed, and we took turns taking the action in different directions.
As we grow up, we leave that world of imagination. We rely on tools such as plans, scripts, and roles to guide us. We sometimes do what others tell us to do when something goes awry, trusting their experience and not what we feel deep inside. Sometimes these aren’t the right tools.
To protect our energy and our time, we learn to say “no” and “but” to opportunities, to set boundaries. These aren’t words to eliminate from your vocabulary. Sometimes they just aren’t the right words.
The reality is, sometimes when you take a close look at a situation, you do have to make up the answer.
The next time you’re faced with a challenge, try the “Yes, and” approach. You might be surprised at the new reality you can create!