The Power of Being Spontaneous

Spontaneity is something that many, many people don’t like. Why? Because they equate spontaneity with surprises, and nobody likes surprises while they’re doing their job. This rings true for CEO’s to Stay-at-home Moms. Routines are what we productive people crave! But we can learn a thing or two from being a tad more spontaneous, especially while we’re working.

Being open to change can be a good thing. Being spontaneous as a person is defined as:

“Spontaneous- Of a person having an open, natural, and uninhibited manner”

Oooh. I like the sound of that. That sounds more like a Buddhist monk meditating than teens diving into a Volkswagen van for an un-planned road trip. Being spontaneous can give you some relaxed and uninhabited qualities, because no matter what happens next, you can deal with it. This is an incredible trait to have in life.

Aside from the whole mind-like-water mentality, spontaneity has some other added benefits:

  1. Keeps your mind sharp as a tack. Yep, if you sprinkle in a few daily doses of impulsive activities, your mind is sure to be on top of its game. Having unknowns in your schedule and being OK with that can force you to really focus on what’s at hand.
  2. Less Stress. Let’s face it: The better you are at coping with unknown situations, the less stress you’ll accrue throughout the day.
  3. Gets you out of the dooldrums. Feeling like the only exciting part of your day is having another glass of OJ with your bran in the morning? Do something completely unexpected. Shake things up a bit. Blow off work, if you need to. The spur-of-the-moment has a strange ability to lift a funk.

Like any good quality or reflex, spontaneity has to be practiced before it can truly become useful. There are lots of variables in our every day life that we can’t control. The power going out. Snagging a nasty cold. The neighbors dog barking all. day. long. We won’t able to give up control of these unknowns, but learning to be a little more flexible sure can help your outlook. That’s where being spontaneous can really help us. It conditions us to relax.

Here are some tips to adding spontaneity to your work day.

  1. Draw boundaries. Above all, your work has to be done. While not paying bills can throw a little spontaneity on your credit score, it may not give the result we’re looking for.
  2. A little can go a long way. We’re not looking for a buy-a-camero-for-my-mid-life-crisis type of change. We’re only taking an ordinary piece of the day and giving it a twist. Try working at a coffee shop instead of the office. Making a fun dinner. Start a small, manageable project that you’ve always wanted to do. Anything to spice up your work routine, or even the rest of your life.
  3. Pencil it in. While this seems like it goes against everything spontaneous, it helps to add a little control to it. Give yourself time every day to be a little impulsive. Set aside a chunk of time each day to do whatever you want. This same principle can work for planning your breaks and working out of rest.
  4. Be naughty. It’s ok to have a little fun and break the “rules” sometimes. Skip class, watch too much TV, eat too much chocolate. It’s OK to overindulge every now and again. For crying out loud, health guru Tim Ferriss pigs out once a week and it helps him lose weight.
  5. Look for inspiration. If you’re needing a boost of creativity to really be spontaneous, just look around for inspiration. There are some other incredible blogs that can provide some motivation, but my favorite is the Improv Everywhere blog. It’s an organization of people who plan spontaneous events, like 111 men shopping shirtless in Abercrombie and Fitch in New York. Priceless. (This probably falls under the “be naughty” category as well.)

If one can practice disciplined spontaneity, they will start to see the benefits of being a more flexible person in general. It’s like my dad always said:

Don’t sweat the petty stuff, and don’t pet the sweaty stuff.

Leave a Comment

{ 32 comments… add one }
  • george carlin February 3, 2008, 7:38 am

    i think your dad stole that from george carlin, but it is a great quote nonetheless

  • Arjun Rajagopalan February 1, 2008, 12:54 am

    “uninhabited” ?; I’m sure you mean “uninhibited” – surely there is someone living there behind the spontaneity.

  • Fake Name February 1, 2008, 12:49 am

    Your site is unreadable in Opera.

  • bbwdating January 31, 2008, 8:32 pm

    I can never seem to find the time to be spontaneous unless I plan it out in advance.
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  • Grammar Police January 31, 2008, 8:05 pm


  • Brian W. Roberts January 31, 2008, 7:41 pm

    “Spontaneous- Of a person having an open, natural, and uninhabited manner”

    UNINHABITED? Maybe you meant uninhibited?

  • steve wang January 31, 2008, 7:35 pm

    the real meaning of spontaneity is here

  • Lisa G January 31, 2008, 7:34 pm

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  • Tom January 31, 2008, 7:34 pm

    I had never considered being uninhabited! Loneliness could be a problem.

  • CORRECTION January 31, 2008, 7:31 pm

    NO! It’s:

    “Don’t sweat the petty stuff, pet the sweaty stuff.”

    … as in va-jay-jay.

  • pubed January 31, 2008, 7:05 pm

    Good tips!

  • Mike January 31, 2008, 6:49 pm

    Being intentionally spontaneous is hardly being spontaneous anymore.

  • Michael Wong January 31, 2008, 6:46 pm

    Spontaneous led me to buy an acoustic guitar and play it once. Spontaneous got me to sign up for Tae Kwon Do classes. I paid $625 and went exactly three times. :(
    On the whole spontaneous is great, except for the lazy. Oh wait, that’s not spontaneous. That’s impulsive. My bad. Great post!

  • DermDoc January 31, 2008, 6:32 pm

    Excellent post, and good timing too. It’s easy to get caught in full, head-down, GTD mode, especially in the month of “resolutions.”

  • Kris January 31, 2008, 11:17 am

    Refreshing! Love it! Although it’s not very spontaneous, I’m a big fan of penciling it in! :)

  • Lodewijkvdb January 31, 2008, 6:46 am

    Good tips for a healthy balance between productivity habits and enjoying life. They don’t need to be mutually exclusive (they shouldn’t be), but for productivity junkies it’s a good tip to plan time for spontaneity :)

    I like the draw boundaries tip. Spontaneity on my credit balance is not appreciated :D

  • Karl Edwards January 30, 2008, 6:43 pm

    Good reminder. The voices in our heads that shout, “Work, work harder!” need to be balanced with the voices that say, “Did you see that?! I think I’ll stop what I’m doing and go check it out.”

  • JenniferH January 30, 2008, 5:59 pm

    Hey, Glen –

    I’ve been meaning to stop by here anyway (I’m one of the new blogging kids on the b5 biz channel) and this article was a perfect reason.

    A friend of mine calls it “planned spontaneity” when she pencils in a block of “I don’t know what I’m going to do with that time.” Ironic, but it works.

    Lately I’ve been on the learning edge of balancing the Have To’s with the Want To’s – and giving the second category as much weight as the first. It’s tough, but life is a lot more satisfying overall. Thanks for the reminder!

    Warmly, Jennifer

  • glen January 30, 2008, 4:15 pm

    Thank’s Mrs. A! Leo’s a great dude.

  • Almost Mrs Average January 30, 2008, 2:52 pm

    Have just popped over from Leo’s Zen Habits and this is great advice. Often my best ideas result from spontaneity. I love it.