The Psychology Of Spontaneity: Why Some People Drop Everything And Go
On Sunday mornings, I watch Joel Osteen.
Being that I’m not a religious person, I suppose it’s a bit counterintuitive for me to spend weekend mornings watching a nationally televised mass, but, still, there’s something about Osteen that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
I guess it's a spiritual thing.
Anyways, a recurring theme of his sermons tends to revolve around leaving comfort zones, and, at the end of each broadcast, he usually challenges his audience to try and leave theirs; he urges all of us to “try something different.”
And he’s got this agreeableness to him. He’s got this swag. And he’s also right.
Comfort zones encourage you to fall victim to habits -- good or bad.
On the one hand, if you’re a creature of typically good habits, your comfort zone might be limiting (but not detrimental).
On the other hand, if you’ve picked up some bad habits over the years, then staying in your comfort zone might become destructive going forward.
One way to heed Joel’s advice is to practice living life more spontaneously.
According to the American Heritage Dictionary, spontaneity is that which happens or arises without apparent external cause.
Likewise, spontaneous behavior, as defined by Leon Seltzer, Ph.D., for Psychology Today, is behavior that is performed without any planning, prior.
And while planning ahead is usually a pretty good life tactic, it appears that living life spontaneously -- with no plan -- can provide its own unique set of benefits.
Spontaneity leads to flexibility.
As Seltzer explains, living life spontaneously encourages you to live life in a more “flexible” manner. By not abiding by any set of plans, it allows you the freedom to just play it by ear, so to speak.
Sure, you might have planned to eat dinner at one place, but if when you show up, that place is closed, then you’re forced to come up with a new, usually less appealing alternative.
That’s why sometimes it’s better to attack things with no plan whatsoever.
Think about it: Plans can always get broken, but if you approach things with an open mind -- you’ll never set yourself up to be let down.
Seltzer suggests that spontaneity allows us to “more readily adapt to changing circumstances.”
A lot of people may appear to have their lives under control, when, in reality, they lead sheltered lives that aren't as much controlled as they are bounded to the norms.
Spontaneity encourages a "f*ck it" mentality that everyone needs from time to time in their lives.
I'm a huge proponent of moderation, and while I believe organization and planning are important, it's healthy to shake things up.
By staying in your comfort zone, remember, you're missing out on everything that's outside of it.
Next time you make dinner plans, suggest finding somewhere new, on the fly.
Spontaneity leads to creativity.
Seltzer continues to explain the link between spontaneity and creativity using an artist’s ability to get “lost in the flow” of their vision as a useful example.
When I think of people who live spontaneously, I see their lives as very fluid -- almost like an ocean current.
Sometimes the tide is low. Sometimes it’s high -- the reason why it’s so difficult to accurately predict the tide is because it’s dependent on so many different factors.
Spontaneous people can be looked at in a similar way. Oftentimes, they’re hard to predict because spontaneous people don’t have comfort zones -- they, like an artist, just go with the flow.
According to one Swiss philosopher, Henri Frederic Amiel, “Analysis kills spontaneity.”
Seltzer plays off this notion, suggesting “the state of mind giving rise to creativity cannot be the conscious, critical mind but rather the unconscious, non-evaluative, spontaneous one.”
By allowing yourself to just flow with your instincts spontaneously, you’ll also begin to flow with your more creative intuitions -- perhaps without even knowing.
Spontaneity leads to happiness.
A lot of what is necessary for happiness also deals with flow -- yeah, I know, it’s a very feng-shui type of logic.
Seltzer explains how happiness -- much like spontaneity -- is something we cannot plan for. “Nor is it anything we can contrive, arrange or manipulate,” he writes.
When you become so conditioned to following a plan, it’s only natural to feel sort of uncomfortable in the absence of one.
That being said, it’s a relationship that can serve as a parallel for how we deal with our own happiness, too.
Many of us live extremely happy lives -- up until something traumatic happens -- and, when it does, a lot of us aren’t exactly sure how to react to adversity.
This is because happiness -- like anything else -- can become a habit, a comfort zone.
By training to live your life spontaneously, your happiness won’t hinge on the same old things -- and if misfortune strikes -- you’ll be better prepared to deal with it and cope in other ways.