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Spontaneity: Where Has It Gone?

2 min read

Have you noticed the older we get the less spontaneous we become? It’s a shame we don’t allow ourselves to let loose like the old days, not worrying about conforming to society’s rules and doing something we usually wouldn’t do.

Strange but true, while foraging in the woods, picking up juicy blue raspberries (much tastier than those usually bought at a supermarket, though bigger), I was reflecting on the power of spontaneity. I was not just considering how surprisingly good wild fruits and herbs that grow in a bush are; that particular moment also reminded me of how lovely are those genuine, unpredictable situations and those laid back people who seem able to go with the flow bringing sunshine everywhere they go, no matter the circumstances.

In his book ‘Trying Not To Try: The Art and Science of Spontaneity‘, professor of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia, Edward Slingerland explains why we find spontaneity so elusive.

We’ve long been told that the way to achieve our goals is through careful reasoning and conscious effort – he writes-. But recent research suggests that many aspects of a satisfying life, like happiness and spontaneity, are best pursued indirectly. Take sports stars and musicians, for example; they usually believe they perform best in a cultivated state of effortless action. However, while ‘being in the zone’ is extremely productive, it is also not something that is easily achieved. In fact, for many of them trying to get there is often a one-way ticket to failure: the more one tries to be spontaneous the more tried their actions become, and therefore less spontaneous.

So how can we recover our spontaneity? One must somehow deal with this paradox of ‘trying not to try’ in order to get ‘in the zone.’ Slingerland points out that this is part of everyone’s daily lives. Everything from dating to competing in the Olympics can benefit, he argues, from a strategy for overcoming the tension between conscious effort and acting in a natural, spontaneous manner.

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It’s about shifting your source of internal info, rewiring your brain through action, and getting comfortable with taking risks. Yes, it’s scary to let go of your plans because then, you are inviting all kinds of uncertainty into your life. However, by conquering those fears and getting out of our comfort zone, we can become less dependent on our plans and live a far more interesting life.

Think about it: you’ll never make unforgettable memories just laying in bed, spending hours in the library, or feeding into the latest friend drama. So, take the leap and dare to be different and…oh yes, talk to strangers!

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