Some weeks ago I read The Happiness Advantage (Shawn Achor) and I’ve been thinking about how can I apply some of its lessons to my Improv journey. This is not an extensive summary of the book as I let that two weeks pass by to see which lessons sank in me.

Disclaimer This post is a transcription of my first video on youtube. The main purpose behind the video is to get more comfortable on camera and force myself to improve my enunciation, so as part of the exercise I used a tool to transcribe the audio to understand where I did not enunciate. This way I can also add the things I missed on the video. I am also conscious about my accent and I really care about this message; so I wanted to make it more accessible by writing it down(although I tried to keep the same voice by barely editing it).

The Pygmalion Effect

I won‘t get into the details of the Pygmalion effect. Summarised, it tells that if a teacher believes that a student is ahead of the curve -even if none of the tests results say so- after some time the students will become ‘ahead of the curve’ ones. Even when the teachers are told to not treat them any different!

That resonated with lessons we learn at Improv. We are told to treat all our scene partners as if they were geniuses, artists and everything they said was what the scene needed.

What if we embrace this concept and treat our cast as if they were the idols we always longed to meet! If I believe that my scene partner is exactly doing what I need, probably they will end up becoming those amazing improvisers we are all inside!

Priming yourself before a show

The second lesson talks about how important is to prime yourself with happiness before doing something stressful (like a show). Researchers found that if you do something joyful before doing an exam or taking a difficult decision, you usually perform better and have fewer levels of stress than if you are just focusing on what things might go wrong or how you can do a better job.

I can tell that if before a show I’m focusing on the things I want to do, or which ideas went wrong on the past show and how can we fix them; it will get me in less playful headspace.

I end up having more fun, enjoying the scenes more and doing a better when I come to the show understanding that is just one show more. When I take a breather and a minute to connect with my cast before going on stage, instead of focusing on rehearsing and analyzing what went wrong last times.

Willpower is a finite resource

The third lesson he talks in the book is that willpower is a finite resource. All the times I restrict myself -by not wearing what I want or not eating that cookie- will have an effect on later activities that will need your willpower. You will find it depleted.

Personally, I care about which fights I want to pursue and which are not worth it. That way, when I’m on stage I can drop ideas faster focusing on what my partner is bringing and building on them. I am still on the stage where I need some willpower to tame my ego on stage, so knowing that I have to save it helps me immensely.

The glue players

The fourth and last lesson I want to share is the importance they put on the glue players. In every team, people bring different technical skills and having variety is important. But we often overlook the people who keep the team together, who makes everyone have a nice time, bringing the conversations, checks up on people, etc.

I think it’s super important that we identify those glue players in our communities and we embrace and empower them. Building a good team is usually more than gathering the all-stars (as you can see on many World Championship games), you need someone who creates the team spirit. They are so valuable.

I can perfectly tell the difference of having a glue player on a team. Researchers also found that you only need one person keeping the positive mood to make an actual change so if you think your team needs you can be that change.

What about you?

I’m reading a lot of books recently and I find it interesting to extract some of those lessons they are sharing for business environments and apply them to other parts of my life. If you find this interesting, please check the Happiness Advantage. It has changed my life.

I listen to a lot of books (as you can check on any of my Goodreads challenges), so I am always open to new books. Which books had a big impact on your Improv journey? Or your personal life?