Photo credit: Eddric Lee via Flickr
“The essence of pleasure is spontaneity.” –Germaine Greer
Spontaneity: it’s a word that seems to draw images of tattooed hippies sleeping in hostels and not holding “real” jobs. They throw all caution to the wind and engage in wild nights filled with drugs, rock and roll, and sex. Maybe.
In a world that is dictated by the 9-5, the older we get, the less important it seems to be to go with the flow and live in the moment. And usually, we become conditioned not to be spontaneous.
I can remember as a kid being very spontaneous. I had no sense of time, did not think in terms of schedules, and lived very moment to moment. It was not until high school, when I was forced to become organized to succeed, that I began obsessively using a planner so that I would complete all my assignments.
In college it became even worse: with more and more clubs, part-time jobs, and class assignments, I resorted to an hourly planner that I would write my work schedule, class schedule, extracurriculars, and due dates.
Don’t get me wrong: being organized has its draws. It is usually impossible to do well at your job if you aren’t organized. Showing up places on time show the people you’re meeting that you respect them. It can also bring you a sense of fulfillment to accomplish certain goals. And that’s great.
But spontaneity has its place too: it allows us a space to clash with the scheduled, and bring a different kind of fulfillment – a fulfillment that is characterized by risk-taking, living large, and enjoying moments – so that our lives become balanced.
1. Planning and labels box you in
The second run your life in accordance with a strict schedule, you automatically exclude every other experience that could happen outside of that schedule. This is extremely limiting, and can cause you to miss out on a plethora of experiences.
2. Things never work out the way we think they will
I never would have thought if you’d asked me 5 years ago that I’d end up working with special needs students for a career. But just look at me now – incredibly fulfilled and happy. If I had let my expectations rule my life, I never would have found a career that brings me fulfillment. By losing my expectations, I was able to experience something I never would have before.
3. Trust trust trust
A lot of spontaneity involves actively facing fears. Why? Because most of us fear what we aren’t used to. So, when you jump out of a routine and expand your comfort zone, you are constantly facing fears. The more you face those fears and overcome them, the more you begin to build trust: trust in yourself and trust in the universe.
Spontaneity and happiness
Contrary to what you may think, spontaneity and happiness are connected. Research in positive psychology shows that those who embrace mindfulness, flow activities, and living in the moment report lower self-consciousness and anxiety; they are also reported to be happier.
By living in the moment, we can avoid over-thinking, which in itself can cause lowered self-esteem and heightened anxiety.
One baby step at a time
Spontaneity doesn’t happen over night – it takes work! Most of us have been conditioned by our routines, and have lost our spontaneity if we ever had it to begin with. It takes constant practice.
By starting small with something as simple as changing coffee shops or driving differently to work, you can begin to stretch your comfort zone. Before you know it, reaching outside of your normal routine will become your new “normal.”
Now tell me: are you spontaneous? Is your spontaneity natural or did you have to work at it?