As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.
~ Henry David Thoreau
At the international conference of the Applied Improvisation Network, held near Montreal, Canada, in September, I presented a workshop (twice!) titled “Life is a Playground of Possibilities: Improvising More Resourceful, Joyful Ways of Being”. The goal was to give participants an experience of how the principles and mindset of improvisation can be used for personal/spiritual growth and healing.
One of the games we played was my adaptation of a well-known improv game called “New Choice”. In “New Choice”, two players perform a scene, and occasionally a third player, offstage, calls out “New choice!”, and the player who just spoke has to change the line they just spoke. The new line then becomes the new reality of the scene. The caller can make the game more challenging by calling out “New choice!” several times in a row about the same line of dialogue, for the same player, who has to quickly come up with several variations on the original line.
Choosing a new thought
In my adaptation of the game, people play in pairs (not performing in front of an audience). One person states a limiting, unresourceful thought, belief or story they have about themselves. The caller says “New choice!”, and the first player must come up with a more useful, resourceful, joyful statement that reverses or transforms the original statement. For example, “I’m not good enough” could become “I’m good enough.”
That’s the logical, grammatical opposite of the original statement, yet maybe it doesn’t quite feel powerful, confident, resonant, joyful or believable. Both the speaker and the listener can pay attention to how the words land in their body – how do the words FEEL? And both of them can observe what happens in the speaker’s body and energy field when he/she says the new statement – what happens with their posture, facial expression, muscle tone, breathing, voice…?
So the caller can then repeat “New choice!”, and the first player has to find another way of changing the original statement. Changing just one word, or adding some words, can make a big difference. For example, “I’m not good enough” could become “I AM good enough” or “I know and trust in my bones that I am perfectly good enough.” (Listener, please don’t coach the speaker by suggesting new wording for them.) It might take several goes for the speaker to find the new statement that truly goes “Pop!” or “Zing!” Then that player can experiment with transforming another limiting, unresourceful thought, belief or story they have about themselves. And then switch.
I play this game by myself when I catch myself thinking a limiting, unresourceful thought.
But that feels fake
The second time I presented the workshop at the conference, one of the participants commented that she didn’t like the “New Choice” game, because each time she made a new statement, it felt fake, false and untrue. (Do you feel the same way when you say affirmations?)
Later, I thought, well, yes, because it was new and unfamiliar. She’d probably had the old, habitual thought, belief or story for a long time, and had repeated it to herself many times, so it was hard-wired into her brain.
And I wish I’d asked her:
- Is the old thought, belief or story useful?
- Is it getting you the results you want in life?
- Does it feel joyful?
- Do you want to believe it for the rest of your life?
- Is it the way you want to be?
Here’s my short video about the game.
So how about you?
Are YOU willing to improvise and experiment with a new way of thinking and being? I invite you to play this New Choice game, by yourself or with a friend. Because if you want to get comfortable with a new thought, you have to practise, so that new neural pathways get built (that’s neuroplasticity).
I’d love to hear your comments and questions.
The hardest part about change is not making the same choices we made the day before. The reason it’s so difficult is that the moment we no longer think the same thoughts that lead to the same actions [...] we immediately feel uncomfortable. This new state of being is unfamiliar; it’s unknown. It doesn’t feel “normal.”
~ from the book I’m currently reading, “You Are the Placebo – making your mind matter” by Dr. Joe Dispenza (I loved his previous book, “Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One”)