If you have ever played jazz or blues, you know what improvisation is.  Improvisation is playing a melody as it develops by ear and not following set notes.  The chord structure is usually the same, but even that changes sometimes.  Musicians must anticipate the changes and play the notes so that the entire piece comes together in a creative process.  If you are a fan of Clint Eastwood and the movie Heart Break Ridge, you remember the famous Marine Sergeant (played by Clint Eastwood himself), saying "Adapt, Improvise, and Overcome" as the motto that he lived by as a Marine.  Improvisation has been linked to effectiveness in teams as long as two factors are present.  The team must have a leader that is not autocratic and empowers to team to make its own decisions.  Also, the team must not be overloaded with stress.  Does this sound familiar at all?  Training of any kind, whether by playing jazz or training for a sport, builds the self-confidence necessary for improvisation.  Think about it.  When you are completely new at something-anything-its hard to cut loose and try something new right away.  You must learn the basics first.  Once you learn the new activity, then it's time to improvise to get maximum benefit from the activity.  The trouble is, in my opinion, individuals seldom try new things during their activities because they don't realize how important it is to improvise..  Improvisation builds new connections in your brain and at the same time builds your self-confidence regarding the activity. If you swim, try a new stroke spontaneously in the middle of your workout.  If you are paddling, suddenly jump in and swim to the bottom (assuming you are not very deep) and take a sand sample.  At work, try new and creative approached to the same old problem.  Take a different route to work.  Order something completely new at a restaurant and be extra nice to the waitress.  The list goes on and on.  Our brains are built to improvise.  We just need to get out there and practice it.  And guess what; improvisation builds resilience too.  When we improvise, our brains adapt to the new stimulus and we are ready for even more change, on the fly.  Changing on the fly and not being affected by the change (and actually thriving in its wake) are the cornerstones of resilience.  So get out today and start improvising.  Who knows, you may even start playing some jazz music...

"Lean into it!"

Dr. N

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