It’s another harmattan morning, the dew is blanket thick, and the air is cold, yet so dry.
You have an appointment in the next two hours, and want to take your shower.
But, you can’t get out of bed. You’ve been thinking about how chilly the water is. You hear the wind howl, and a gust of cold air sends chills down your spine.
You wrap yourself tighter in your blanket. Another hour passes. Anxiety sets in, then panic.
You rush into the bathroom
*Only 30 mins left*
You dip a finger, then two. However, you retreat.
“It’s so cold”, you cry within.
You think of the appointment, and remember how important it is.
Then another splash, and another.
In no time you rush out of the bathroom, wear your clothes, and race to the bus stop.
You arrive 15 mins late.
“What happened?”, someone asks from behind.
“I couldn’t bring myself to bathe with the cold water… not until it was 30 mins to the meeting”
The story above is not new or strange…it is the story of millions of people.
From students to bankers, reluctance to act is a huge impediment.
But, it’s not always about bathing in cold water on a cold harmattan morning. People feel hesitant whenever there is an inconvenience in front of the desired goal.
This inconvenience can be in the form of
- Emotional requirements
- Monetary requirements
- Energy requirements
- Time requirements
- Facing criticism
- Feeling pain
- Feeling cold
Palpable or imagined, hardly anything is done until the obstacle is overcome
Why aren’t more people spontaneous?
People generally gravitate towards pleasure and away from pain. Whilst this works for many people and in many circumstances, the best things in life are almost always shrouded in discomfort.
- Will not go to an event because they find it tiring to dress up, and get on a ride.
- Avoid talking to the opposite gender because they fear embarrassing themselves or getting rejected
- Cancel dates because they don’t want to spend money
- Stay all day without bathing because they don’t want to feel the biting cold
- Avoid paying for a course because it seems too expensive
- Don’t write because thinking and researching are not fun
This mentality is not okay. It limits how much they can achieve in life.
“Get your mind going in the right direction and you’ll get your life going in the right direction”.– Joel Osteen
If you want the good things of life, then you must learn to shun or circumvent the limiting mindsets. In other words, being spontaneous is good because it gives you uncommon results, as a result of your uncommon enthusiasm and action.
What Does It Mean To Be A Spontaneous Person (With Examples)
A spontaneous person does what they believe is right, without depending on external motivation. They can commit and do what it takes even when the external environment or circumstances are not pleasant…even when they don’t feel like it.
This is because they have made peace with the discomforts – be it time, money, energy, or weathering injuries, rejections, or failures – that come with getting the “good things” in life.
They know it takes
- reading and thinking every day to get wise
- showing up and grinding every day to get rich
- working out and sweating every day to get fit
- practising and failing every day to become a champion
- giving and caring every day to keep a relationship
A spontaneous person knows that the more and faster they can do inconvenient things, the more their chances of getting more out of life.
“You must expect great things of yourself before you can do them.”– Michael Jordan
To become this person – who is not reluctant, but spontaneous – you will have to fix your mindset and approach.
How can I be spontaneous in life?
To be more spontaneous in life
- Define your goals: Clearly state what you want and don’t want. Make it crystal clear and easy to remember. For example, I want to come first in class. And I don’t want to stay addicted.
- Add deadlines: Use schedules to add a sense of urgency to your life. Time frames force you out of “the two minds”, and into a spontaneous state. For example, if you knew you only had 10mins to eat, you won’t waste it struggling to decide what flavor is best, or eating it sluggishly. Your mind will also cease to wander since you know there is time for whatever it is that wants to steal your focus. Setting deadlines doesn’t guarantee that every task must be accomplished, rather it forces you to focus; giving you a greater chance of finishing or enjoying it.
- Define your obstacles: If there are real obstacles, then identifying them early helps you prepare for them. If the obstacle is insurmountable then you can decide not to waste any more time thinking about that task, and rather focus on activities you can carry out at the moment.
- Define your worries: Labelling your worries has a way of taking away their powers. For example, if you identify that fear of making a fool of yourself is the underlying reason you haven’t been practising (i.e. procrastinating), then you can easily draw inspiration from the life of other successful people who were novices at some point too.
- Optimize your environment: Nudge yourself to act by removing obstacles or distractions and adding incentives or triggers. This could be setting an alarm or reminder, having your workspace all set up, not subscribing to the TV, having spare cash in your account, and so on.
- Remember your capabilities: Affirmation and afformations (i.e. asking questions about how you got something positive you don’t yet possess) can help you remember that you can do so much more than you are currently doing. It fuels your drive.
- Stay objective: Know your limits, and also know what is not your limit. Whilst it is okay to feel anxiety from sitting on a rollercoaster, it is important to remind yourself that it is safe. It is also important to remember that it is not safe to jump off a speeding bike.
- Get an accountability partner: There is no shame in having a cheerleader who encourages you to be more. If you are experienced, you can even transmute people’s criticism and hate into fuel for your passions.
- Make peace with mistakes and failure: It is not realistic to always expect to win. If you are going to get 10 medals, chances are that you are going to have to run over 100 races and lose 90 of those. But don’t let that stop you, remember you are doing much better than the person who has never tried.
- Push yourself: Above all, spontaneity requires a conscious effort to be, well, spontaneous. You should be able to remind yourself that fear and uncertainty are where the adventure begins. It is also very helpful to just begin – it is easier to accelerate than to start. I’ve found that doing something, no matter how little, helps me face and overcome the bigger challenges. This could be just sitting up rather than lying down, then brushing your teeth, before going for a cold bath. And, if you find yourself feeling uninspired or lethargic despite the schedule and reminders, try counting down from 5; try counting “5-4-3-2-1!” and then just do it.
“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.”– Unknown
Is it good to be spontaneous? (and are spontaneous people happier?)
Whilst it is true that spontaneous people take action without giving too much thought to it, it doesn’t mean they give no thought at all to it.
The reason they can act so “thoughtlessly” is that they have thought about it harder in the past.
For example, it is hard to not give thought to dancing at the edge of a narrow cliff, or jumping off a plane unless you have taken the time to think about how reliable the safety measures are, and how ridiculous fear is at that moment.
Because the spontaneous person understands that there is a risk at every point – life is risky; living puts you at the risk of pain and ultimately death – they do not fear anymore when the risk of doing something they feel like is infinitesimal.
Spontaneous people are happier because they don’t let fear hold them back from going for, getting, or experiencing what they want.
- the girl who isn’t scared to ride the rollercoaster
- the guy who isn’t scared to invest a huge sum of money into a viable idea
- the mom that plays like a kid with her son
- the father that charges toward the dogs to protect his daughter
- the lady who walks into the boss’s office and asks for a raise
- the young man who is not scared to profess his love to his crush
“Wherever you are in your journey, I hope you, too, will keep encountering challenges. It is a blessing to be able to survive them, to be able to keep putting one foot in front of the other — to be in a position to make the climb up life’s mountain, knowing that the summit still lies ahead.”― Oprah Winfrey
What is the difference between spontaneous and impulsive actions/people?
Impulsive behaviors like joyriding, public nudity, doing drugs, hitting people, or sleeping with random strangers are very different from spontaneity. This is because they are ill-conceived, ego-driven, rude, and sometimes cruel. It is often done for short-term reasons and is compulsive (almost to the point of being unconscious of it). Needless to say, regret, shame, and much suffering follow after it.
While spontaneous behavior is characterized by a lack of wavering or slowing down when trying to achieve something important or interesting despite doubt, uncertainty, inconvenience, and fear. This could mean deciding to connect with new people every day, visiting new places, trying out new dishes, etcetera. It is often carried out for long-term benefits and is inspired by hope and faith. Needless to say, joy, pride, and greater enjoyment are often born from it.
“Be wise enough not to be reckless, but brave enough to take great risks.”– Frank Warren
Conclusion: What does it mean to live a spontaneous life?
In my dream this afternoon, I saw myself skipping and dancing along the corridor of my secondary school. This dream was particularly strange because I’m a very self-conscious person, don’t know how to dance, and have associated a lot of pain and shame with my secondary school days. Being happy like a little girl, skipping joyfully like a young deer, and dancing gracefully like a ballet dancer in front of all my peers was the most spontaneous thing I can dream of.
The truth is that I’ve not been a spontaneous person: it took me till I was 19+ to have my first kiss, a bit longer to have my first sex. I’ve not yet gotten a girlfriend as of the time of this writing, and still avoid public gatherings. Sure, this is partly because I’m introverted, but also because I’ve always held myself back.
I’ve always been afraid of commitment, embarrassing myself, or failing. I’ve also been afraid of the cold water in the harmattan mornings. And, I won’t say those fears are gone. Maybe they will never leave.
But, I’ve also learned something new. And, it is that I was made ready for all those things. I was made ready to withstand the challenges of relationships (or any social interactions at all), the shame of embarrassment, and the pain of failure. I was designed to survive cold waters and immeasurable uncomfortable situations and circumstances.
So, these days when I’m feeling lethargic, have cold feet, or am uninspired, I say to myself, “I was born ready”, “this can’t harm me”; or “I’m bigger than this”. Then, I do it.
And, I’ve found that, indeed, I am built for so much more than I realize. My ancestors, with bodies and minds hardly distinguishable from mine, faced real life-threatening challenges, raised their families, and built their clans and societies. So, why can’t I, who draws from the powers of thousands of ancestors, take a damn cold bath?
A Self-Help Writer And Editor Who Keeps It Simple (Yet Elegant)