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Improv Wisdom with Patricia Ryan Madson | Ep 20

How can you utilize the principles of improv to improve your life? What can you do to hack your mind and reexamine a situation in a better light? Are you able to shift your mindset from improv principles? In this podcast episode, I speak with Patricia Ryan Madson about improv and the principles you can start using.



Patricia is the author of IMPROV WISDOM: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up (Bell Tower, 2005), and a professor Emerita from Stanford University where she began teaching in 1977. In the Drama Department, she served as the head of the undergraduate acting division and developed the improvisation program. Patricia founded and coached the Stanford Improvisors and taught beginning and advanced level courses in improvisation for undergraduate as well as adults in Stanford’s Continuing Studies Program.

In 1998 she won the Lloyd W. Dinkelspiel Award for Outstanding Innovation in Undergraduate Education. In 1996 Patricia founded the Creativity Initiative at Stanford, an interdisciplinary alliance of faculty who share the belief that creativity can be taught. She had the pleasure of teaching Design Improv for the School of Engineering, and has been a guest lecturer for the Stanford Technology Ventures Program and for the Mayfield Fellows Program.

Regularly Patricia is on the faculty at the Esalen Institute, and she has given workshops for the California Institute for Integral Studies, the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, the National Association of Drama Therapists, the Western Psychological Association, Duke University East Asian Studies Center, Wellness in the Workplace for BC University, the Meaningful Life Therapy Association in Japan, and for the Intrepid Foundation.

Visit Patricia’s website.



  • The principles of improv
  • How can you use them in difficult circumstances?
  • Negative thoughts


  • Improv places focus on what is happening right now, instead of the future or the past. Whatever the suggestion for the improv is, you take what you are given and you make something from it. How can I appreciate and do the best with what is in front of me now?
  • Secondly, what can you do with what you have?
  • It is okay to try stuff and see what happens and be curious about the outcome.
  • In reality, confidence with improv is more important than self-confidence. See everything that comes your way, in improv, as a kind of gift.
  • Acceptance – sincerely working with what you have been given, and you build on it. Think about what is on your plate right now, and how can you then extend it? How can you make the most out of it?


The thing that is happening, I might not like it, but what I need to do is open to it rather than just reject it. Saying ‘no’ and arguing isn’t gonna move us along. (Patricia Ryan Madson)

The mind is good at building on the problem and how the problem affects us, and we get lost in this twisted reality. Think about this when you are next arguing with someone:

  • What have I received from this person, in a sincere and kind light? You look at the ways in which this problem person has supported you in the past.
  • What have I given to them? What have your contributions to them been?
  • What trouble and bother have I caused them? If we look at the trouble we caused them, we might get a helpful perspective that aids us in moving forward.

By opening your mind to the bigger picture, you are able to better handle the situation instead of getting caught up in the scenario itself. This exercise helps you evaluate your own blind spots.


Get active if you can, to shake up negative thoughts from your mind. Explore your creativity and release restrictions. Do not be afraid to get silly. A change in perspective is incredibly healing, to separate yourself from your activated ego, shift your attention off yourself and onto the others in the room.

Try out ‘Yes’, ‘And’ instead of a ‘But’ or a ‘No’, because getting comfortable with using ‘Yes’, ‘And’, secures a good thing for you too in the equation.



About your host:

Susan Orenstein, Ph.D.

Dr. Susan Orenstein is a licensed psychologist and relationship expert  with over twenty years of experience. In 2005, she founded Orenstein Solutions, a private counseling practice in North Carolina that serves children, teens, adults and couples. 

She created the After the First Marriage Podcast to support individuals through the significant life transition of divorce. She whole-heartedly believes that “happily ever after” is an option for everyone, and is dedicated to helping divorcées regain the confidence to pursue a fulfilling future after the first marriage. 

Whether you listen to the podcast, join the Facebook community, or follow along on Twitter,  you’re in the right place!

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