The Discipline of Spontaneity


What a delightful piece of advice!

For those of you who happen to know me, you’ll find out something about me quite quickly. I am not a naturally spontaneous person. And by that I mean when I see spontaneity approaching I oh-so-subtely and casually slowly turn around and hide until it passes by me. As one of my friends told me, she knows when I will say no to something if I say “potentially…”. And here I was thinking that was a good, neutral response. After all, I haven’t said no yet, I could still change my mind! Or at least that’s what I tell myself and her until an hour later when I don’t go.

Yep, I’m predictable, and I’m fine with that. It is not important to me to keep people guessing at who I am or what I’ll say or do. But being predictable doesn’t exclude being spontaneous. One definition of spontaneous is, “suddenly, without deliberation.” And I like to deliberate, I like to plan, I like to know what is going to happen, which right there is the problem. The opposite of being spontaneous is not being organized or planning. The opposite of true spontaneity is fear. I’m not talking about the kind of spontaneity where me and a housemate will decide to ditch studying and eat banana pancakes all day while watching random shows and speaking completely in weird noises. That might have happened on occasion.

The spontaneity I’m talking about is one that can go by a different name, adventure. And while adventure requires some planning, it is impossible to know what will happen along the way, who we’ll encounter, and what challenges we’ll come across. Oh, surprise surprise, I think I just described all of life. Thinking that I can or should have the ability to control the outcomes to situations or know them in advance and rejecting other avenues that are offered is simple fear and pride.



While planning and organization exercise virtues such as self-discipline and temperance, spontaneity encourages courage, boldness, and openness, which are important virtues as well. To use a term from a class I recently took (yes, I’m sorry, I know it’s summer…), Planning and spontaneity are not in a binary, in other words, they are not polar opposites of each other. I can be disciplined and organized but also be equally as spontaneous. Is it easy for me? Nope. Not at all. But it’s a learning process, just as becoming organized is a learning process for those who are more spontaneous by nature. But in many ways, we are all learners and we will be learning all our life. 





2 thoughts on “The Discipline of Spontaneity

  1. Wow. Even when we’re not at school, you talk about that class. But don’t worry. I just referenced the concept of things being “overdetermined” in a letter. I felt really nerdy.

    • Hahaha I know, I know. That class has so overtly hegemonized me it’s a bit disgusting. But I accept it, because deep, deep down I enjoyed that .01% of my week.

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