Jazzing Up Your Day
Spontaneity is a meticulously prepared art.
— Oscar Wilde
Spontaneity is a goal I have been striving to achieve since I could spell the word. Seriously, I could teach the armed forces a thing or two about order and precision. I want to be unpredictable, but that’s not likely to happen anytime soon.
Why Routine and Checking Boxes Works
We are creatures of habit and we find great comfort in routine. For me, it’s waking up, playing torture Paco in bed, and quiet time with my morning coffee on the terrace. It delights me so; it gets me out of bed in the morning excited to start the day. I add the gym and a trip to the market to the mix and I am thrilled to be alive, but that’s not good enough.
My “To Do” list also offers great comfort. Chores and projects I am eager to check off as completed. It provides a sense of accomplishment and a satisfying feeling. I don’t like how good it makes me feel because like any addiction, it’s hard to stay away.
Don’t try this at home: I actually fill my hourly calendar with small chores (i.e., feed Paco, tighten eyeglasses) so that it makes me feel like I have a lot going on. Throughout the day I delete these items and each time I remove something from my date book, I get a little adrenalin rush — sick right? And I’m only sharing part of it.
The Benefits of Spontaneity
I have been telling myself that being more spontaneous and less scheduled, is good for me. When I have been able to break out of my daily routine and do something just because I felt like it or because someone called and said let’s do xy or z, it was more often than not, very satisfying.
There have been several unforgettable moments in my life that I can happily recall; the irony is, many of these moments were unplanned. If this is the case, why do people like me spend so much time mapping out every minute of their lives. The satisfaction I get from checking boxes on my to do list doesn’t come close to the positive feelings I have taken away from an unplanned outing. The only explanation I have is that the routine is daily and the unplanned is rare. The mind is so powerful, it forces your “go to” behavior right back to the safe, the familiar, the known. Like any other thing in life you are committed to, you have to work hard to change it.
What I force myself to focus on:
- The feeling I have when a surprise is exciting and new.
- What occurs in my life when something unexpected changes my day. The snowball effect of positivity.
- How changing things up takes your mind away from the small/minor things that bog you down.
- How short life truly is and how the mondaine can eat up your time.
- My desire for adventure and change.
- How much I believe other people enjoy my spontaneity.
Coloring outside of the lines can be risky because you never know what the outcome might be. This makes whatever it is you are doing that much more exciting. The unknown can be titillating and growth fostering.
A short story: A few years ago I was riding the subway; the same train I squeezed myself into daily. After another horrendous day at work, I got home and thought something has got to give. I called a friend who had joined me on a couple of adventures and asked her if she might like to meet me in Belize. Without hesitation, she said yes. There was a Madonna song that I heard in my head a thousand times; the lyrics went like, “. . . last night I dreamt of San Pedro,” and that’s where I had to go. San Pedro is a small island. You can get to it by ferry from Belize City — it’s a very pleasant two hours heading to paradise.
This trip was without a doubt one of the most memorable getaways of my life. I only had a short time to plan and hardly any of the details were mapped out (eg., excursions, meals). I decided to allow my days in Belize to be organic; to wake up naturally, to eat when I was hungry, and to do basically nothing unless I was moved to do otherwise. For the most part Kathy, who is much more relaxed than I am, and I, stuck to our plan. The resort was fairly quiet and clearly, this is an island you go to to chillout. This was a time in my life when chilling was medicinal and restorative. Keeping my mind and days uncluttered allowed me to think freely. I was able to take long walks with Kathy and spend quite a bit of alone time on an unspoiled, virtually empty beach. I returned home enlightened and resolute. It was during this time that I made the decision to resign from my position at The International Culinary Center and leave New York City. Possibly two of the best decisions of my life.
This is one of the many reasons I am convinced that spontaneity provides a space for out-of-the-box thinking. I believe we schedule ourselves to the max in order to avoid organic thinking; our fear of the possibilities life might present bog us down and keep us from truly being free.
Ways to Get Yourself to Loosen Up
Here are some of the the things you can do to be more spontaneous:
- I know this will seem crazy, but you can pencil it in. Don’t write what you will do, but when you might do it. Say you open your date book or laptop calendar on on Thursday morning you’ve written “do something you’ve never done before.” It will force you to think of something on the spot and then follow through and do it.
- Tell your friends you are trying to be more spontaneous and have them call you when they are about to do something fun or different.
- Allow yourself days where absolutely nothing is planned.
- Talk to yourself about the pleasures of discovering the unknown.
- Wake up, pack a bag, and take a trip to a place you’ve never be.
- Throw away the leftovers and go to a new restaurant (call someone and ask them to join you and then treat them).
- If you have a guest room, do something as simple as sleeping in a different room in your own house.
Imagine a Life Where You Do What You Want, When You Want
Use your imagination to consider a world where you are free of the bondage you have inflicted upon yourself. We lie to ourselves to keep from doing something crazy. We tell ourselves we’ll get into trouble, that we have no money or that we’ll lose all of our money, that freedom will make us seem undisciplined, hard work is the only way to achieve happiness, that minor indulgence leads to frivolity and a loss of control, and on and on and on.
I will, no doubt, continue to plan most of my life going forward. It’s not even about teaching an old dog new tricks, it’s about comfort — the older you get, the more you seek comfort and stability. Still, I figure if I keep reminding myself about Belize, I may occasionally surprise myself by choosing the road less travelled.
Why Most Unplanned Adventures Are Often the Best Ones
I don’t know about you, but I watched the first presidential debate and found myself angry, disgusted, and fed-up. I sat down with myself and wondered how these emotions were taking control of my life and why it had to stop. I believe that allowing myself the freedom to just be, is a useful tool going forward. There are things happening all around that I can change or control; however, what I can control is my own life, my own behavior, my own path.
The President’s COVID-19 status is a topic I am choosing to stay clear of.
8 thoughts on “Routine Versus Spontaneity”
On the debate and the diagnosis, we are of one mind. On spontaneity, I’ll have to get back to you, I have it on my calendar to think about it next Wednesday…
I love your sense of humor Patrick. I’ll speak to you next week. What time were you thinking? 8:17 a.m. work for you?
Spontinuity just gets harder as you get older, particularly when you’re at home a lot and you feel you’ve been everywhere and done everything within reason. Part of the problem is weve had aloud whole lives to work out what we like and what we dont like, consequently have learnt behaviour that suits us. Hence going out of that non spontaneous routine seems futile or wasting time.
This is even more problematic when you’re alone a lot. Thinking about it this year (not the best year to be spontaneous) the times I’m most spontaneous is when I’m with other people or in new places….when I have less control over my life.
The older we get the more aware we are of our mortality and the more we value our precious time and continue to do the non spontaneous things we like.
The main joy of youth is there is so much time without responsibility and so much time to go with the flow often because you still dont know or care what your own flow is. Looking back though, was I happier being spontaneous? I dont think so…but I may have forgotten.
Hey Mark. One certainly must do what’s best for them. I’ve always been a bit uptight and way too structured.
I’ve always been spontaneous, I much prefer spur of the moment plans than planning something way ahead of time. For me, planning ahead never seems to work out; mainly because I never know how I will feel in a couple of days or weeks. If I am up to it today, I will do it today
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Imagine two friends who are so opposite in their approach 🙂
Like you….I wish I could, I wish I could……
I have started to force myself just too list “planned” events (non-committed) on my phone, with a reminder a couple hours in advance. Of course there is the risk the event is sold out…but them I try and find something spontaneous to do.
Great article, keep them coming!!
Love a kindred spirit. Together, we will live spontaneously!