“You must plan to be spontaneous” ~ David Hockney
I have a question for you.
But you mustn’t think about your answer.
Before we get to that though, can I quickly jump to the words of David Hockney above? I came across them this morning and sat right up straight, leaving my coffee to cool.
“You must plan to be spontaneous”.
“Huh?!” That’s crazy advice, right?
Spontaneity is another word for unbridled joy. For carefree fun. For riotous glee!
Planning takes detailed thinking, intention, decisions. There’s a reason, a rationale and a goal.
And planning takes my least favorite word of all time ‘preparation’. Yuk!
But those words, ‘You must plan to be spontaneous’, stayed with me.
And I realized I wanted to ask you an important question.
And, likely as not we both want to enjoy life slowly. Or at least, more slowly than the crazy pace of modern life dictates.
And in between we (mostly) manage to keep enough milk in the fridge, bread in the bread bin and money in the bank while doing so.
We’ve got a lot going on, you and I.
But every once in a while, the lure of being spontaneous beckons. Oh, to just kick our heels without thinking… of anything.
- A totally unplanned, glorious day out. Just dressed and in the car, with a purse or wallet. No concerns for the jobs not done.
- A scrummy dinner out enjoyed on a whim. Just walk in and order. No thoughts about the calories devoured.
- A crazy gift chosen on first sight. Just rung up through the till and wrapped. No worries over the color or the price, however large, or small.
That would be amazing! Imagine that feeling: no thinking, no worrying, no consequences.
But my question isn’t about kicking your heels. Because some would say this doing things on the spur of the moment is irresponsible. Or reckless. Or selfish.
Or asking for trouble.
Maybe they’re right. I don’t know. I don’t know because I’m rubbish at being spontaneous. I haven’t given myself the chance.
Until this morning that is, when David Hockney popped up at my breakfast table and slid his crazy advice in between the layers of fruit spread on my oaty crackers.
Now I realize just how much I’ve missed by not being spontaneous now and then.
But I also think David Hockney has got it spot on: planning to be spontaneous is a whole lot more fun than just hurling yourself off a cliff. Or throwing yourself out of a plane.
And there are others who agree:
“Spontaneity is a meticulously prepared art” ~ Oscar Wilde
“It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech”. ~ Mark Twain
How to plan to be more spontaneous.
If you’re like me, your spontaneity muscles might be rather flabby and out of condition.
There’s no glory in being gung-ho however. It is a simple case of giving yourself permission to step out of doing what’s expected. Initially for a few minutes, then hours and then, who knows?
However, it does take a little practice. Tiny acts of doing something without over-thinking. Mini steps in a direction you’ve never taken. Delicate dippings of your toe in something you’ve never tried.
Here are 9 fun exercises to train your spontaneity muscle.
1. Decide randomly.
For each unimportant decision: tea or coffee? pizza or pasta? Don’t think – grab the first one.
2. Play silly games.
With loved ones, play Trivial Pursuit, Millionaire or Jeopardy. Don’t ponder – blurt out your first answer.
3. Let Amazon or Netflix choose.
Open your inbox, Amazon or Netflix has sent you a book or movie suggestion. Don’t read the blurb – watch or read the first one on offer.
4. Give a friend your purse or wallet.
Let your partner or best friend shop for you. Don’t argue – carry the first set of things they’ll love you in to the till.
5. Give your friend your hand.
Free up a day, or a few hours if it’s all you can manage. Tell your partner you’ll be ready at 9am, ready for anything! Don’t ask – go along and jump into the spirit of whatever they plan.
6. Say ‘I love you’.
With what you have in the house, create a simple expression of love: a doodle, a card, a craft piece. Don’t get precious – pour your love into your creation.
7. Go with the flow.
Instead of smiling politely, join in and see what interesting insights the conversation brings. Don’t judge – let the chatter flow on both sides.
8. Meet up with the unexpected.
Take a trip out with a group who share a passion of yours: try Meet Up, your local paper or community board. Don’t ask questions – just pitch up at the allotted time and place.
9. Sign up for an unusual course.
Stimulate your imagination and enthusiasm by joining a ‘just-for-fun’ course: try Udemy, SkillShare or Coursera. Don’t look for ‘useful skills’ – pick one that won’t take you anywhere except enjoymentsville!
Who knew David Hockney, the king of Pop Art and set design could hijack our thoughts so unexpectedly?
That’s the power of spontaneity.
But there’s more to it than that.
You see, I’ve learned something incredible this year: we often have more power to set life up the way we want than we realize.
But something strangles our belief that we can really, truly, make this happen.
Fear, worry, expectations, preconceptions, they all get in the way.
And spontaneity is the key to breaking free.
So, I do have a question for you.
But remember, you honestly mustn’t think about your answer, that’s the whole point. Blurt out your first answer.
What would you do if there were absolutely no consequences?
This being spontaneous can be harder than it looks!
Never mind, practice some of the spontaneity exercises above and then have another go. Leave your answers in the comments below.