The top of your intelligence

When I studied improv comedy in my early twenties, teachers always emphasized “playing at the top of your intelligence.” Even if your character isn’t a Nobel Prize winner, “playing at the top of your intelligence” means that in every situation, she’s trying to be as smart and savvy as she can with what she’s got.  

People who are playing at the top of their intelligence are more compelling to watch. The plots of their stories are more likely to move forward and not get bogged down in repetitive, boring, unnecessary stuff.

Are you playing at the top of your intelligence?

Many of us aren’t.

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Many of us know, on some level, what’s working and not working about our lives. If we had a half hour of quiet to reflect, we could make a pretty accurate list of the things that are going great and the things we’d like to work on to have lives that are happier, healthier, more meaningful or more productive.

Many of us don’t do that kind of reflection very much. We may think it’s because we “don’t have time,” but most of us have plenty of time for Netflix or YouTube or whatever our technological pleasure might be. I suspect the real reason might have more to do with how uncomfortable it can be to see ourselves clearly or how making changes might require time or energy or shaking up parts of our lives. We might have to seek out help to figure out our next steps.

The end result of avoiding this reflection and truth is the same: We’re not playing at the top of our intelligence.

But remember what happens with characters who do play at the top of their intelligence? They’re more compelling to watch. The plot of their lives moves forward, and doesn’t get bogged down.

Isn’t that something we’d all like?