The Psychology of Spontaneity: How Spontaneous Are You?

Standing next to my best friend on the Paradise Island beach in the Bahamas, I looked out at the parasailers and turned to her, “we have to do it!” At first she hesitated, but I persuaded her with the “we’re on vacation, no regrets” speech.

As you’ve probably guessed, I’m the spontaneous one in the friend group who goes for it – whether it’s booking a trip overseas with only two weeks to plan it or jumping into the water when it’s 45-degrees. That’s not to say I make dangerous or reckless decisions – i.e. skipping work to go to the beach (it’s tempting, trust me), but overall, I choose to live life more spontaneously.

Also, there’s nothing wrong with planning – it’s a smart life tactic. But sometimes you need to shake things up. There are many benefits to embracing your spontaneous side:

Why Spontaneous Behavior Can Be a Good Thing

Defined as “behavior that is performed without any planning prior,” spontaneous behavior offers numerous benefits:

Encourages you to be flexible and approach things with an open mind

Think about it: the more flexible you are, the more adaptable you are to change. There are many things in life that are beyond our control – as the saying goes, “life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.”

To be spontaneous requires having an open-mind and a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset.

“A ‘fixed mindset’ person shies away from challenges, possibly from fear of failure, and may go into hiding as a way to avoid responsibilities,” says Tchlkl Davis, Ph.D. “In contrast, the ‘growth mindset’ person finds challenges to be exciting and engaging, knowing that they will learn something valuable from their experiences.”

Takes you out of your comfort zone

Being spontaneous opens you up to meeting new people, discovering new places and having new experiences.

Picture the scene in the movie when the shy girl goes onto the karaoke stage – nervous at first, but by the end of the song, she’s letting loose and having the time of her life. Watching that transformation inspires everyone in the room.

What’s an activity you’ve always wanted to try? Beach volleyball? In the past, you probably made excuses not to do it: “I’m too busy” and “I don’t have time.”

But you may surprise yourself! And with enough practice, who knows? You could become team MVP.

Boosts creativity

“The state of mind giving rise to creativity cannot be the conscious, critical mind but rather the unconscious, non-evaluative, spontaneous one,” Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D., explains.

By giving yourself permission to follow your instincts, you’ll become more aligned with your creativity. As I writer, I’ve experienced this firsthand. Rather than self-editing as I write, I let the words flow onto the page. I’ve found the less I analyze, the better my writing is.

Makes you happier

Always having a plan means having expectations. And having expectations essentially sets you up to fail. I’m not saying don’t set goals and have hopes and dreams, but it’s important to be adaptable when things don’t go according to plan.

In life, it’s easy to be happy when things are going well, but when something unexpected and disappointing happens, that’s when you’re tested. As Charles Darwin once said, “it’s not the strongest of the species that survives, but the one most adaptable to change.”

The bottom line: you’ll be happier if you learn to accept life’s highs and lows, and embrace change.

By being spontaneous, you understand a simple truth: happiness isn’t based on conditions, it’s a state of mind.

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