Get out of your ruts and improvise…

February 7, 2022

Two quotes that I’ve saved from the Jack’s Winning Words blog just seemed to fit together this morning.

“How do you tell a rut from a tradition?”  (Fr Don Talafous)

“Life is a lot like jazz.  It’s best when you improvise.”  (George Gershwin)

Ruts occur in life all the time. One gets comfortable going to the same places, doing the same things and seeing the same people all the time. It’s not tradition, it’s a rut. Even beloved traditions can become things in which you find yourself just going through the motions, not really enjoying it; but, hey, it’s a tradition. Holidays can be like that. Even small things like gong out to eat can become ruts, when you restrict yourself to a small set of places that you “always go to on weekend.” I suspect that the answer to the question about how to tell if you’re in a rut rather than just following tradition is that ruts have no passion – there is no real enthusiasm in being in them.

Heeding Gershwin’s advice to improvise is the best way to break out of the ruts in your life. Improvising means trying something new, going someplace new or interacting with someone new. The phrase “getting out of your comfort zone” accurately describes what is likely to happen when you improvise. The sense of danger or discomfort in a new experience immediately heightens the enjoyment.

Trying a new restaurant or going to a new store or maybe trying a new sport are all ways to improvise; but, perhaps the most impactful is meeting new people. The other ways of improvising are mostly passive in nature – you mostly just experience them. That’s not a bad thing and experiencing them does add to your store of knowledge; however, you don’t really interact with them, you just experience them. Meeting new people forces you into an interactive mode and may immediately challenge some of the ruts (pre-conceived notions, or stereotypes, or prejudices) that have been dictating your life.

Of greatest impact to get you out of your ruts is meeting new people who are dramatically different from you. Meeting people of different races, ethnic groups or sexual preferences exposes you to points of view that may be very different from yours and forces you to consider those differences. Improvising by meeting new people from different backgrounds, cultures and beliefs will also expose to you some of your own prejudices and hopefully cause you to reexamine and debunk them.

When a Jazz musician takes off on a riff he/she may not know where they will end up; they just know that they are enjoying the moment by improvising. The result is new and beautiful music. Life can be like that too. Improvise and enjoy the moment. You may discover that the new relationships that you form on those moments make beautiful music in your life. Get out of your ruts and improvise. You’ll have the best times of your life and maybe make new friends.

Improvise and put a little jazz in your life

April 13, 2017

From a recent post to the Jack’s Wining Words blog come today’s inspirational saying – “Life is a lot like jazz.  It’s best when you improvise.”  (George Gershwin)

Improvising is basically doing something that is out of the ordinary or the expected. Jazz musicians may have no idea where they are going or where they’ll end up when they take off on an improvise riff, but it often ends up being something great sounding. Life jazz-1can be like that if you are willing to head off into a new adventure, not sure where you’re going or where you’ll end up but just improvising as you go. Put a little jazz in your life.

The same thing that makes Jazz work can work in our lives. The brains of the Jazz musician have enough understanding of music principles and progressions to keep the musician from getting off into the weeds of just sounding like random notes. When improvising in life we need to trust what some call our instincts and others would call our common sense. We don’t usually do things that are really stupid just to try something new; however, too often we let misplaced and unwarranted fears hold us back from trying new things or meeting new people. Change up your life and try to improvise from time to time. Put a little jazz in your life.

Improvising is trying something new. Ralph Waldo Emerson put it well when he said – “Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.” Yet many people sit and wait for something to happen in their life that will somehow magically change it. Germany Kent said, “Happiness is achieved when you stop waiting for your life to begin and start making the most of the moment you are new-way-forwardin.” Making the most of that moment is trying something new, putting a little jazz in your life.

For some people the way to try something new is to go somewhere new, to travel. Alex Day put it this way – “If real, regular, normal, boring life, (when you’re at home every day, seeing the same people, doing the same things) is like sitting at home on the floor surrounded by toys… traveling feels to me like going to Toys R Us with your toy box and getting to trade stuff in and buy new things and explore whole new ideas.” I don’t think you really trade in your old toys (or memories) but rather add to your memory toy box. Put a little jazz in your life.

Trying something new or even going someplace new will always involve some risk and that’s a good thing. Rita Wilson said – “Be fearless in trying new things, whether they are physical, mental, or emotional, since being afraid can challenge you to go to the next level.” And Roger von Oech aid this about risk – “Everyone has a ‘risk muscle.’ You keep it in shape by trying new things. If you don’t, it atrophies. Make a point of using it at least once a day.” So, take a risk, improvise and put a little Jazz in your life.

You can certainly find new things to do in life without looking like an episode of Jackass from TV. Just think of things that others have told you that you can’t do or maybe you convicted yourself that you couldn’t do and then go do it. Pablo Picasso out it this way – “I’m always doing things I can’t do. That’s how I get to do them.” Don’t end up life with a bad case of the coulda, wouda shoulda’s. Like the Nike ad says – Just do it. Improvise and put a little Jazz in your life.

mime in boxLife without some improvising and trying new things can begin to feel like the world that the mime is trying to portray when he mimes being in a glass box – there are walls everywhere that prevent you from going beyond some self-imposed limits. You can see through the walls and some things look appealing, but you hold back, afraid to try something out of the ordinary for you.  There is comfort in the familiar, in staying within the box; but a feeling of confinement, too. Break out of your self-imposed box and put a little jazz in your life.