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  • Writer's pictureReflective Resources

S is for Spontaneity

“Say yes and you'll figure it out afterwards.” Tina Fey

Being spontaneous is behaving in such a way that you do something when you get the urge i.e. whenever you want to, rather than planning things first and what you choose to do feels natural and right. Spontaneity is about having the willingness and confidence to try something unexpected. It is about having a sense of freedom and lack of constraint associated with any action or response.

“Being spontaneous is being able to respond with confidence; calmly trusting that, whatever the outcome, you will have a positive if challenging experience that will lead to greater self-awareness and success.” Sylvia Clare

Another element of spontaneity is about allowing yourself to ‘go with the flow’ and not trying to control the situation.

“Something just flashes into your mind, so exciting, and you must out with it. If you stop to think it over, you spoil it all.” L.M. Montgomery

Some jobs are based upon spontaneity. Comedians, for example, prepare, but they also have to be on the ball and be able to read the room and have the confidence to respond to quips from the audience or something they spot whilst performing.

“Especially when you deal with comedy, you have got to be really honest because it’s the honesty and the spontaneity that causes people to chuckle, that catches people.” Austin Peck

Good actors also need to be spontaneous based on the confidence of a wealth of experience.

“I've always been spontaneous and outgoing... I've tried lots of things so I've got some good life experiences, which is great 'cause it means I've got lots of material to work with as an actor.” Leonardo DiCaprio

Is spontaneity good for us?

“Spontaneity is good for the soul.” Robin S. Baker

It is very easy to get bogged down in life, to have everything planned, timetabled and organised efficiently as it is the ‘sensible’, least risky thing to do. However, although this may be the safest thing and allows us to rest in our comfort zone, when we allow ourselves to embrace uncertainty, act spontaneously we enter our stretch zone and expand our lives and our perspective on the world.

“Spontaneous insanity is the real bliss! It's sad that we are honoured for playing sane, serious, safe, miserable and controlling in this poor world.” Saurabh Sharma

When our lives are incessantly programmed, with little room for manoeuvrability we lose the opportunities for unplanned joy, and discovery and limit our chances of happiness.

“It was tragic how life had sucked her down to the bones, all her spontaneity her laughter and freedom had vanished. I knew then that I didn't ever want to be like that. Whatever happened, life was something too precious to give up on so easily.” Belinda Jeffrey

When someone is spontaneous it can be beneficial to their well-being as it allows them to have moments of unexpected discovery and experience things differently. Their brain creates new circuits and pathways and they have a growth mindset in contrast to those who prefer to do the same things in the same way every time.

“A truly new thought or decision is a moment of creation that science cannot explain because it requires either randomness or spontaneity.” Christophe Finipolscie

When we are more open to spontaneity, we find changes of plans or circumstances less daunting because we become more resilient and therefore have a more relaxed attitude towards change rather than becoming uptight or stressed about it.

How do we increase our spontaneity in life?

Leave spaces in your planning

Although initially this statement might seem counter intuitive we increase spontaneity in our lives when we deliberately organise our time so we leave spaces in our planning for things to unfold naturally

“We didn’t see anyone that day. We had no expectations. Everything was spontaneous. There wasn’t a single moment of stress. We laughed like crazy all afternoon – though I couldn’t tell you what about. And there was definitely something in the air – call it magic if you like – because that was the happiest Christmas any of us could remember, which makes me think that perhaps, like luck, magic is something we can make for ourselves. It isn’t something you can buy. It doesn’t come as standard. And you don’t need to plan, or to overspend, or to wrack your brains trying to come up with some extraordinary way to celebrate. Because sometimes it’s the little things that bring us the greatest pleasure.” Joanne Harris

If we want to inject a little spontaneity into our lives we cannot be busy to the point of no free time or busy to the point of exhaustion and total lack of energy.

“I hope you INTENTIONALLY create memories and UNINTENTIONALLY allow memories to be born by intentionally leaving a space open for spontaneity.” Richie Norton

Even when we do find ourselves busy it is important to take a pause or ‘micro moment’ in the midst of everything to do something completely different to break the tension of that moment. When you do something that is not on your timetable without any pre-planning it creates the opportunity for a more unlimited life.

Become more self-aware and in tune with yourself

Observe your own emotional states and you will see that the moments of great joy, great ecstasy, are unpremeditated; they happen, mysteriously, darkly, unknowingly.”

Jiddu Krishnamurti

Do things differently or do different things

We can also do other simple things to be ‘spontaneous’ and create new neural pathways like choosing a different route home, shopping in a different supermarket or walking up and down the aisles in the opposite way you would naturally choose to e.g. start at the far end of the shop and work your way back, eating in a different restaurant, going for a drive without a planned destination or do a familiar walk in the opposite direction to that which we usually do, join a new group or club, go and listen to a free concert or do an activity that you have never tried before.

Become more childlike and curious

“Every child likes to take a pencil to make a mark. Everybody makes beautiful things when they are three, four, or five years old. Most people lose that spontaneity; I think that always happens. Some are able to win a second spontaneity.” Alvaro Siza

Recent research suggests that spontaneity, is best pursued indirectly. The early Chinese philosophers knew this, and they wrote extensively about an effortless way of being in the world, which they called wu-wei (ooo-way). They believed it was the source of all success in life, and they developed various strategies for getting it and hanging on to it. A previous post on Zhuangzi’s wisdom reminds us to approach life with a playful attitude.

Be creative

“Creativity is paradoxical. To create, a person must have knowledge but forget the knowledge, must see unexpected connections in things but not have a mental disorder, must work hard but spend time doing nothing as information incubates, must create many ideas yet most of them are useless, must look at the same thing as everyone else, yet see something different, must desire success but embrace failure, must be persistent but not stubborn, and must listen to experts but know how to disregard them." Michael Michalko

Embrace uncertainty

“I expected it would be exciting; I expected that the freedom from routine was somehow greater than the freedom to determine your own routine. I wanted to get up in the morning and not know exactly what I was going to do that day. But now that I don't, it's terrifying.”

Sara Baume

Laugh more

When we laugh it is spontaneous. We don’t plan exactly when to laugh but we are able to create the opportunity to laugh by deliberately watching a funny film or seeing a comedian or spending time with people who make us laugh

“Humour is a spontaneous, wonderful bit of an outburst that just comes. It's unbridled, its unplanned, it's full of surprises.” Erma Bombeck

Go on adventures - Travel

“The most exciting roads I’ve ever traversed, the best meals I’ve ever eaten and the most wonderful accommodations I’ve ever stayed in were discovered during the ride, not beforehand.” Michael ONeill

Travel or exploring new places per se is a sure fire way to open yourself for spontaneous opportunities and adventures.

“Adventure is allowing the unexpected to happen to you. Exploration is experiencing what you have not experienced before. How can there be any adventure, any exploration, if you let somebody else - above all, a travel bureau - arrange everything before-hand?”

Richard Aldington

I’m not sure if I would completely agree with this statement because if you have made the decision where to go it is great to have someone else make suggestions for you, based on their knowledge and experience and which may not have been things that you might have naturally chosen yourself.

What restricts our spontaneity in life?

Attitude and mindset

“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry” (Robert Burns) because life is unpredictable and “No matter how many plans you make or how much in control you are, life is always winging it.” Carroll Bryant

So what determines our life? The answer is another quote “Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.” There are always things that we cannot control in life but the more flexible and adaptable to change we are, the greater the opportunity for the rewards of spontaneity.

Conversely, always being preoccupied or worrying about what may happen rather than living in the moment can have a direct effect on the experiences we have, the opportunities we take and the sense of happiness we feel. When we stop overthinking, we can focus on the present and make the most out of it.

To be spontaneous it requires having an open-minded attitude and a growth (rather than fixed) mindset


“Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination causing us to fear things that are not present and may not ever even exist.” Will Smith

Everyone experiences fear. Some give in to it and use avoidance to stop themselves experiencing it; others ‘feel the fear and do it anyway'. If we allow it to, fear will stop us becoming the best version of ourselves and achieving our dreams.

“I guess sometimes the greatest memories are made in the most unlikely of places, further proof that spontaneity is more rewarding than a meticulously planned life.” J.A. Redmerski

Breaking the habit of fear-based reactions and developing mindful, considered responses is not always easy. Ingrained habits can be hard to change, but the first step is identifying and acknowledging where our fear initiates and then using techniques like defusion to shift towards thought processes that embrace spontaneity.

What we accomplish in life or are capable of is dependent on how we deal with fear. There is an acronym for fear: False Expectations Appearing Real i.e. we make stuff up and worry about future things that may never happen. If one can learn to fear different things, then by definition we can unlearn those fears and reverse our thinking too.

Having fixed/rigid plans with no scope for change or flexibility

“Trusting in your intuitive, spontaneous, illogical heart requires immeasurable trust in the unknown.” Kris Franken

When you make a plan you have an expectation to reach a goal but there is always a chance that something will happen and you will not achieve your desired aim or not in the way you planned. There is nothing wrong with setting goals but it is important to be adaptable when things don’t go according to plan, re-framing resistance, rather than digging your heels in and insisting things ‘should’ be otherwise.

To get the most out of the situation it is necessary to be flexible and to embrace change. In so doing this will lead to increased knowledge and resilience.

“It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, but the one most adaptable to change.” Charles Darwin

Social media/technology

“We can’t jump off bridges any more because our iPhones will get ruined. We can’t take skinny dips in the ocean because there’s no service on the beach and adventures aren’t real unless they’re on Instagram. Technology has doomed the spontaneity of adventure and we’re helping destroy it every time we Google, check-in, and hashtag.” Jeremy Glass

Concern re our social media presence can limit our spontaneity – whether we look good in a photo – our hair is just right etc, whether the shot will be interesting enough, recording what we are doing in the first place.

Photos and videos can be a wonderful way to record memories but it is important not to be so occupied with recording an event that you don’t get to fully appreciate it in the here and now

Our relationships

The people we spend time with affects our moods, so if we want to be uplifted and feel happy then it is good to spend our time with people that are positive and have a sense of fun and adventure rather than those that are negative and drag us down.

“To like many people spontaneously and without effort is perhaps the greatest of all sources of personal happiness.” Bertrand Russell

Spontaneity, being intuitive and impulsivity

On first examination there appears to be a fine line of distinction between being intuitive and spontaneous. But I think intuition is built up over time through personal experience where spontaneity is more ‘throwing caution to the wind” and just doing something for the sake of it; ie because you fancied doing so at the time

Spontaneity is also sometimes interchanged with impulsivity, but they are not the same. Impulsive actions are often made with little or no thought/consideration for any consequences whereas spontaneity involves the ‘safety mechanism’ of a ‘gut/emotional check’ before any action i.e. does this feel right?

We can’t all be spontaneous full-time as there always things that we genuinely need to do – even if it just the basics of eating, drinking and sleeping etc but we can create space to incorporate some of the benefits of being spontaneous and helping ourselves to live an unlimited life in which we can regain our zest for life and flourish by being self-aware, authentic and create opportunities for spontaneity.

“Some people are pragmatists, taking things as they come and making the best of the choices available. Some people are idealists, standing for principle and refusing to compromise. And some people just act on any whim that enters their heads.

I wonder which one YOU are.

I pragmatically turn my whims into principles!”

Bill Watterson

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