How To Invite Spontaneity Into Your Life
I wish I was more spontaneous.
Most days, I’m a homebody—and the past two years have only made me moreso. I imagine that I’m adventurous, but really, one of my favorite things to do is play the same video game, with the same people, and go on the same missions I’ve already played. It’s not quite the picture of spontaneous adventure I’d like my life to be.
But all the advice I see about getting out and into the world spontaneously always includes the recommendation to just book a last-minute trip. That sounds amazing, but who has the time and money for that? This version of spontaneity feels like it’s all or nothing, and when I don’t have the resources for “all,” I often feel disappointed with the “nothing.”
So as we head into fall, in the spirit of trying new things and pushing myself outside of my comfort zone, I’m embracing smaller spontaneous moments. More random beach and library days, less of the same-old slump. Here’s how I’m cultivating spontaneity (and play!) in my everyday life.
Take a long, hard look at your regrets
Okay, so that’s a bit dramatic. But I’ve found it helpful to acknowledge the events I most regret not attending to help inform myself about what I really want to do.
A few years ago, I had a chance to see one of my favorite musicians in concert (yes, it was Josh Groban), but my typical concert-going buddies weren’t available. I remembered other shows that I missed, or left early from, because I didn’t have companions—and I knew those were opportunities I regretted not taking. So, a week or two before the show, I obliterated my comfort zone and purchased a single ticket. And guess what? No one made fun of me for being alone. I got to bask in Josh’s music for two glorious hours, and it was one of my favorite concert-going experiences to date.
Make note of the shows, events, or experiences you missed out on. This will help prepare you for quick values-aligned decision making when spontaneous opportunities crop up.
Make a list—if that’s your thing
Once you’ve set down some guidelines of what you don’t want to miss out on, take a few minutes and make a list of what you do want to do. No need to take this too seriously—these lists are tools to help evaluate where you’re at right here, right now. Write down everything that comes to mind, and don’t filter it based on cost or time.
If it doesn’t feel true to you, throw it out. Start a new one. This isn’t a to-do list; it’s an “I would love to” list. When you get clear with yourself on what you want, you can more easily set yourself up to do those things. This list right here is the list you’ll look at when you’re feeling spontaneous, but don’t have a specific goal in mind.
Schedule unstructured time
I know, I know. The idea of spontaneity is that you drop what you’re doing right this second and hop on a plane to who-knows-where. But for those of us who live in the real world, we need a bit of structure.
Set aside a small space of time where you can do whatever you want. It can be a whole day, or it can be just an hour in the morning before work—whatever feels natural and accessible to you. Now, try something new. Maybe you read a new blog that a friend recommended, or you drive to a new part of town and stop into the first coffee shop you see. Maybe you text that old friend you haven’t spoken to in years just to say hello.
Building in some space to your schedule to do whatever the heck you want will remind your brain that this kind of playfulness is important. It’ll take some practice to avoid common distractions like email, Instagram, or your comfort TV show, but be gentle with yourself. Getting out of our comfort zones requires a different type of energy that needs cultivated—it doesn’t just show up overnight.
Let yourself be bad—really, really bad—at something
One of the biggest things that holds me back from being truly spontaneous or trying something brand new is fear. I don’t like the discomfort of being bad at something, and so I avoid doing some things all together.
For example, I’ve often thought about vlogging. I think it’s interesting, and I’d love to have a video record of myself at this point in my life, but I haven’t done it. I’m convinced that other people will think it’s weird, or that it will be embarrassing for me and everyone involved. I’m so caught up in doing it right, that I’m not doing it at all. I’ve thought this for so many years.
But I think it’s okay invite that awkwardness in and embrace it like it’s a long-lost friend. Because honestly, it is. Awkwardness is just another part of the human experience and the more we avoid it, the more we push away our creative risk-taking selves.
Show up. Be bad at stuff. Enjoy it anyway. Then maybe, or maybe not, get better.
Invite play by following your gut
Ultimately, the idea of inviting spontaneity is to invite play back into our lives. We held an innate playfulness as children, but rules and responsibilities crowded it out of our everyday lives. This is where we have to turn inward and listen closely for that voice.
Maybe that voice is telling you that it’s time for a day off, or that it’s time to grab some ice cream. Follow her, and work on hearing her more regularly; this voice is the one who knows what’s best for us. This is also the voice many of us have worked hard to quiet in our adult life—let’s celebrate her instead.
Some Ideas You Can Use Right Here, Right Now
All of this mindset work and list-making can be helpful, but if you’re looking for a quick-start way to be more spontaneous right now, here are my go-to activities.
Pick the destination first. I recently decided to go to a cafe in the next town over. I had no plans, no other destinations in mind, but the afternoon evolved into a lovely experience of a new place. I wandered to a new restaurant, shopped a bit, and explored a new place on foot. Pick the destination, then let the rest unfold from there.
Drive a new way to work. I love doing this. If you can, try a new route to or from work. Who knows, you might even find a faster route.
Listen to a new podcast or song. I’m such a creature of habit that I tend to stick with what I know. But finally indulging in that podcast my friend keeps recommending feels fresh, and also gives me a new point of connection with my loved ones.
Phone a friend. Spontaneous friend dates sound more stressful than they actually are. If you find yourself free after work, text a buddy and see if they’re free for dinner or a walk in the park. I’m fond of this one, because you never know when someone has had a hard day and just needs to hear a friendly voice.
Try a new cuisine or order something new at the cafe. Even adjusting your regular order at the coffee shop can be energizing. Break the routine and swap out your iced Americano for a hot almond milk latte. Not groundbreaking, but sometimes subtle spontaneity works, too.
Wear a new combination of clothing. Pretty straightforward. Maybe it looks weird, but who cares? It’ll give you a fresh perspective on your wardrobe.
Spontaneous gifting. Pick up some flowers at the farmer’s market and drop them on your neighbor’s doorstep. Venmo a friend coffee money. Everyone feels great, end of story.
Create something just for yourself. If you’re not a blogger or a vlogger, but want to explore it, consider this your permission to dive in. Make something just for you, without the pressure to post or share it. One of the real crimes of the social media era is that we feel like if we put in the time and effort to create something, then we must share it. Remove that expectation and do it without worrying about what other people will think of it.
Are you in need of more spontaneity in your life? Share how you’re cultivating it in the comments below!
Emily Torres is the Editorial Director at The Good Trade. Born and raised in Indiana, she studied Creative Writing and Business at Indiana University. You can usually find her in her colorful Los Angeles apartment journaling, caring for her rabbits, or gaming.
Featured image includes model Shelly Cochrane wearing shirt by Reformation; denim by Boyish; jewelry by Apse; hair clip editor’s own