It's surprising how powerful the third maxim is. How often we avoid showing up for the things we need to do in life. Procrastination, laziness, fears—it's easy to find a reason for not going. The "just" in this maxim reminds us that showing up is already enough. Woody Allen quipped that it is "eighty percent of success." Prerequisites such as motivation, desire, and warm, fuzzy feelings aren't necessary. It is a con to imagine you must have these to get going. Improvisers know this. If they had to wait for inspiration or a good idea, few scenes would ever begin. Players step onto the stage because that is where things are happening. They just show up. Then the magic begins.
Kick-start your life—walk, run, crawl, fly, bicycle; move in the direction of your purpose. Love your parents? Pay them a visit. Need to write? Sit down at your desk. Want to have more friends? Show up at a volunteer job or a class in a subject that interests you. Need to exercise? Go to the gym or walk to the park. Believe in ecology? Take a plastic bag to the neighborhood park and pick up trash.
When you show up, it is important to be on time. The issue of punctuality is critical when the activity is a shared one. Every minute counts. Each latecomer robs the whole group of time to work together. Taking time seriously shows courtesy. You are a part of a greater purpose. Showing up for class on time, I tell my students, is their first big step in becoming an improviser.
Timeliness applies equally to couples, families, and companies. And don't forget to be on time when you are by yourself. Treat your own time as valuable. Benjamin Franklin reminds us that "time lost is never found again."
Why not jump-start the process of showing up by using a ritual? Daily rites that precede the main event can be powerful triggers. These may involve putting on special clothing or equipment, going to a specific location, organizing the work area, or cleaning the space. In her enlightening book "The Creative Habit," celebrated choreographer Twyla Tharp confesses that her ritual at 5:30 each morning is putting on leg warmers, going out onto the sidewalk in front of her New York apartment, and hailing a taxi to take her to her uptown workout studio. The moment that she steps into the taxi, her day is on the right track.
A busy litigator joked that his ritual was stepping into the shower. Once he had gotten his body behind the glass and under the streaming hot water, his day was under way, on track. On mornings when he hung around sipping coffee and debating how to spend the day, he was more likely to waste time and lose direction. For him, stepping into the shower began a sequence of positive actions that effectively launched his day. Even on the weekend, stepping into the shower had the payoff of setting his course.
For me, it is making the bed. Every morning as soon as my body is standing, I make the bed. I smooth the sheets, pull the blankets tight, tucking them under the mattress, arrange the patchwork quilt over the bedding, place the nine pillows (some functional, some decorative) into studied casualness, and fold a throw onto the bottom of the bed. This takes less than two minutes. When my husband and I get up at the same time, we do this together as one of many happy rituals of married life. Once the bed is dressed, the room feels orderly, and, for me, normal. Now the day begins. I am astonished by the number of people who find this ritual unnecessary. "Why on earth make the bed, since you are just going to get back in it at night?" I recommend it, however. Perhaps you already have a ritual that puts you on course. What is it?