Take That Back: A simple game to refresh your life

I come to life

on a comedy stage, with a suggestion, and a promise of a good laugh. I come to life on a dance floor, with country music, and a group of new or old friends. I come to life at home, with a pen and a paper, and too many words to decide on just one to come next. I come to life in a clinic, with a child, a few stickers, and a toothbrush in hand.

But do I have to be in those specific situations to feel alive, to feel energized by life? Am I less alive through the rest of my days?

No way! 

Because it’s not the place or the situation that brings light to our eyes. It’s our own mindsets. It’s our willingness to free ourselves from restraints and to gift ourselves the joy of life in every moment. It’s the decision to let the worry, stress, and clutter of life pause so that we can just be, and just breathe.

And it’s the forgiveness we offer ourselves when we choose the wrong path and end up locked in a challenging moment.

There’s a game we play in improv comedy called ‘Take that back.’ Essentially, when you say a statement, the coach, at any moment, can demand that you ‘take that back.’ Say you just exclaimed your love for fried fish. Well, take back that love … so now you commit to a love of rolling chairs. Say you just whined about your character’s lost keys. Well, take back that emotion … and now you are overjoyed about your character’s lost keys. Standing in an objective position, the coach can see what helps and hurts the scene, and can guide you to success with just a touch of ‘take that back.’

And with practice, you can do the same in your own life!

Start noticing how you feel throughout the day. Check in with yourself when you wake up, when you are on the bus. Check in with yourself when you have work sitting before you. Pay attention to those moments when time just feels like it is dragging through mundane and tiresome tasks, or when time is lost to ‘spacing out’ of the moment. Pay attention to each moment.

After noticing for awhile, letting the awareness grow more natural, start to ‘take back’ your experience. Say you woke up with the thought, “It’s Monday morning. Ugh. The early alarm, the trudge through traffic, the full week of work ahead.” You feel tired and weary. You’re already counting down the days of the week. Sure, you could try to let that thought pass, but your body has already responded to the negativity. You’re already feeling weak.

Which is the perfect time to tell yourself, ‘Take that back!’

So you start again, opening your eyes, thinking, ‘It’s Monday morning! Yes! An early start, a productive day, and so much I can accomplish. This will be great!’

Already, you feel energized. Already, you feel hopeful. Already, you are wondering what great things will come of the week instead of reminiscing about the past weekend or anticipating the next. Already, you are more alive and free of your thoughts in the moment.

It’s not an easy exercise to use on yourself. (There’s a reason improv teams use a coach!) But it’s an exercise you can learn and build into your life, and, if you try it right now, just for kicks and giggles, I guarantee* you will experience a momentary transformation in the experience of your day.

*Restrictions apply. Must have your own capacity to set back time in order to complete the guarantee refund of reading this post. And if you have that capacity, YOU JUST INVENTED TIME TRAVEL. DO SHARE, PLEASE!

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© 2017 Mirissa D. Price: A Dental Student, A Writer, A Journey to Share.

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I approve of this message

It’s tempting to look out for approval.

We were taught to do so ever since the first grade. We studied for good grades, sat with arms folded for respect from our teachers, and eagerly awaited that next star-shaped sticker for our prize boards.

We did everything we were supposed to do, and looked out for the praise. In a context of operant conditioning, we learned how to behave and how to garner respect. And when we made mistakes, we looked in apology to those supporting us, and tried again.

But we were never similarly untrained.

No one ever gave out star-shaped stickers for NOT seeking approval. No one ever handed out extra candy for letting our self-drive and self-acceptance be enough. Few dared to tell a teenager that the only opinion that mattered was from the reflection in the mirror, not when it came to the day-to-day choices in life. It is much easier and so much more predictable as a caregiver, after all, to stay in control of the world and the people around us.

It’s not that we don’t all want our friends and family to grow strong and independent. On the contrary, we couldn’t imagine a better outcome for our loved ones.

Yet, it’s easy to forget

we as humans don’t naturally know how to look to ourselves for approval. We as humans don’t readily break the patterns by which we were trained. Have you ever tried to break a burdensome habit? It’s hard work! And it takes a lot of time, attention, and awareness of the problem. Not too many of us will turn to that hard work without some external factor pointing out with a big flashing arrow that how we are operating is no longer working.

But with so many resources out there – quotes and the like – reminding us of the value of self-approval and self-direction, you can be sure you are not alone in carrying this trained habit to adulthood. The market simply doesn’t spew out supply without a proportional demand.

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Of course, self-approval has its risks.

When you start to give yourself the approval you seek, you may make some mistakes. And you may have to own up to those mistakes – there is no longer someone to hide behind. The mistakes are softened, of course, because you are aware of the hard day you are having and you understand the sources of that choice. You are responsible for and understanding of your actions.

AND you are empowered by the freedom to choose what comes next. No one can push your head to a slump, and no one can take from you the pride of your smile. At a beautiful level, you are in control of the positive and negative outcomes. Everything you need comes from within, and everything you are is imperfectly perfect.

Everything you are is good.

And everything you can become is stunning, because only you can set the limits on your potential.

But don’t think I expect that you change this trained habit in one day. Instead, let’s try for one minute to make choices without approval, and to applaud those choices on our own. If it’s hard, that’s okay. We can try again in a later moment. Little by little, day by day, you can build to a life where you rejoice at the smile of another, yet garner pride from the approval you give to yourself.

In this moment and moving forward, you are your own greatest advocate.

© 2017 Mirissa D. Price: A Dental Student, A Writer, A Journey to Share.