Let go. Notice more. Use everything.

What is around you? Right now. 

What do you notice? At this very moment.

How valuable is this all?  I’ll wait…

As improvisers, we aim to let go of our agendas and “notice more.” We practice being fully present so we can notice what is happening in every moment as we build scenes. We look for every offer, pick up on tiny changes in body language, and listen for shades of meaning. Everything we notice we honor and use in our scenes, because everything we need is found right here in the moment.

This past weekend I joined about 200 professionals from around the world that apply improvisation to areas of practice such as conflict resolution, innovation, public speaking, personal growth, organizational effectiveness, and even humanitarian missions. We gathered for the Applied Improv Network Conference in the woods of Quebec at a beautiful lakeside retreat with stunning chalets dotting the shores nestled in the Laurentian mountains. Sessions were held in various locations around this lake, and in each we grew our understanding of the bedrock principles of “let go, notice more, and use everything.”

One afternoon, as I rushed from one session to the next on the long winding paths through the woods, I decided to pause and really apply this principle. I let go of the need to hurry and the “fear of missing out.” I slowed down and noticed each leaf beginning to show its red and yellow signs of the start of Fall. I noticed the white papery bark of the birch trees and the gnarled roots that wound across the paths. I even went for a swim in the crisp cold waters of the lake (yes, by “crisp” I mean cold!).

I would be on this welcoming path, circling this pristine lake, in these gorgeous woods just once. This was exactly the time to “let go.” This path offered so much more than I could see when my focus was on the program and the next session. As I sat on the wooden dock feeling the warmth of the sun, I used everything from that walk and in that moment to absorb and digest the knowledge I was gaining from those around me. I was allowing inspiration to percolate. My most valuable thoughts were clarified in this moment. This moment “in between the real moments” was, in fact, the essential moment. How valuable are these moments to us? To our careers and our futures?

I was reminded that I had carved a large chunk of time out of my busy schedule to fly 2500 miles from home to pursue both professional and personal development, as well as to be exactly where I was at that moment. The time spent on that path was just as important as the ideas and practices I gained in each session.

This opportunity was a reminder of the value of slowing down, and of the inspiration that finds us at rest and at play more often than at “work.” It was a reminder to let go, notice more, and use everything that is being offered. We are all receiving offers all the time, but it’s up to us to notice them.

What can you let go of today? When can you take a bit of time to just notice more? And how can you use everything offered to you, particularly in the “in between moments?”

Like we do for our improv shows, this is a skill to be practiced. A habit to be formed. When we cultivate this skill we are more prepared to notice ideas and welcome inspiration. How valuable is a great idea for your career?

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