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The Innovative Mindset by Elena Imaretska, John Sweeney

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Chapter 5The Mindset of Fear

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In theory, there is nothing easier than improvisation. After all, you don't have to prepare or think ahead; you only need to be present in the moment, pay attention to what is happening around you, and react from a place of authenticity. In fact, improvisation demands only engagement and authenticity.

However, over more than 55 years of teaching people how to improvise we have found that there is one major barrier to finding the joy of improvisation.

Fear of failure.

When fear sets in, an internal monologue takes over the brain of even the most rational, confident, and competent individual:

What if I can't do it?

What if I draw a blank?

What if I let others down?

What if people think I'm stupid?

What if I lose my team's respect?

What if I say something offensive?

And the most common one:

What if I let myself down and my performance doesn't match up to my expectations for myself and the success I have had so far in life?

Fear of failure can be a paralyzing, time-consuming, heart-wrenching, or stomach-sinking experience, which too many of us have spent energy feeding—or, depending on the day—fighting. Unfortunately, it often lives on beyond the stage and the improvisational classroom or training session.

Of course, fear is an integral part of the human experience; it has clear survival and evolutionary purposes. In fact, as Caltech professor ...

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