24 | How To Be More Spontaneous (and Less Impulsive)

Are you spontaneous? Can you go with the flow when plans change or if something catches your attention and invites you to follow it?

In this episode of The Gentle Rebel Podcast, we look at the characteristics of spontaneous people and explore how we might add more spontaneity into everyday life. This was the topic of our Haven Theme Kota when we chatted about creating conditions for more spontaneous acts of gentle adventure and play.

A variety of different doorways - how to be more spontaneous and less impulsive

What is Spontaneity? | 4:14

“Spontaneity is enjoying the moment as it unfolds or experiencing something unexpected with open arms. Spontaneity is agile, adaptable, and responsive to new information. It is a willingness to go in a new direction at a moment’s notice. It is a creative burst of energy.”

Ann C. Holm

We might imagine spontaneous people as being constantly on the move. Highly energised and ready for an adventure at the drop of a hat. But it’s less about what we do and more about how we hold life’s invitations.

Spontaneity is an active willingness and participation in the choice.

As Holm writes, “it’s not completely without restraint. Someone spontaneous tends to take a quick inventory of the big picture before deciding to proceed.

A spontaneous decision “occurs without external stimulus”, controlling or compelling it. Spontaneity is freedom from pressure and expectation.

Spontaneous Rest | 7:16

Is rest a spontaneous option for you?

Rest might not be an option, primarily when other demands compete for attention. As such, we often push ourselves to the point where rest is no longer chosen willingly. Finally, we are exhausted and have no choice but to stop.

Spontaneous rest should be an option if we want to enjoy more sustainable rhythms and energising routines. Maybe it’s about flipping the compulsion to earn rest by doing a bit more first and saying instead, “I might do a little more after I’ve had a rest”. How often does the “more” feel less critical through a well-rested lens?

The Spontaneous Story We Tell Ourselves | 9:10

We might close the door to spontaneous choices with the labels we use to understand ourselves. These can be helpful, but sometimes the story we tell ourselves about who we are can compel us to act in specific ways and diminish our preferences and desires.

This might mean we hold ourselves back from accepting one of life’s spontaneous detours.

Building Life on Spontaneous Foundations | 11:31

Spontaneity isn’t a demand to say yes to everything. It’s simply the willingness for yes to be an option. What if we could create the conditions for spontaneous growth in a meaningful direction?

When connected to our core personal values, we have an inbuilt compass that guides our response to the inspiration around us. In addition, it gives us confidence in our intuition when filtering any opportunities and invitations that may appear.

Impulsivity, Compulsiveness, and Spontaneity | 13:12

We all experience impulses. The urges, instincts, and gut feelings that prompt us to react. But what do we do with the impulse?

Impulsivity = acting based on the urge (no second thought about implications or consequences)

Compulsiveness = acting without thinking (a habit that “just happens”)

Spontaneous = the choice to flow in a different direction (aware and accepting of potential implications/consequences)

The Space Between Stimulus and Response | 18:50

Shops place items they know people will impulse buy next to the checkout. They want as little time as possible between the impulse and the purchase. Otherwise, the shopper might “think better of it”. The impulse is to pick up the item, and the second thought tells us to put it back. Spontaneity is the third thought, which is deciding whether to go with the first impulse and make something of it.

Spontaneity and Gentle Rebellion | 22:47

When we hold the world with a spirit of gentle rebellion, we are open to possibilities outside of any compelling forces. It allows us to see the world through our eyes and make meaningful and intentional choices about the reality we are part of creating.

In this sense, gentle rebellion is a spontaneous spirit. It is open to new routes and approaches. It is creativity in action. Of course, there is no guarantee that things will work out for the best, but the decision is made despite that, not ignorant of it.

Impulsive Goals | 24:25

The world oozes urgency and impulsiveness. It wants us to act without thinking and think without acting.

If we are driven by the injunction constantly to grow, pursue success, and find happiness without knowing what those things mean for us, our goals can become traps. They take us where we wouldn’t choose to go if we stopped to think about it. So instead, we follow the crowd, buy another tool, and sign up for the program that promises to solve our problems.

When our decisions are based on fear, we act impulsively, not spontaneously.

Sometimes the spontaneous thing to do is nothing. To slow down, wait, and allow the fear to pass through.

Spontaneous Acts of Kindness | 28:01

Our impulses often point in a good direction. For example, we might be urged to say something encouraging or do something nice for someone. The instinct to connect and empathise is very natural. But our second thoughts can derail the process.

It always seems strange that we are surprised by acts of kindness. They seem like moments that successfully get through the defences. We talk ourselves out of doing the good thing that initially occurred to us. Maybe we convince ourselves that we would be bothering the other person, we might be afraid of what people would think of us, or we might overthink and overcomplicate a simple gesture.

Spontaneity is the third thought. It returns to the original impulse and decides to flow with it.

Trying Not to Try | 36:43

In his book, Trying Not to Try: The Art and Science of Spontaneity, Edward Slingerland cites cognitive science research that points to spontaneity as a source of trust in our social bonds. We are drawn to spontaneous people because it makes them more trustworthy and less calculating, cold, and robotic.

Spontaneity Grows in the Gaps | 40:23

“We over-structure our lives and plan too much…Most people don’t have any gaps in their day to play.”

Edward Slingerland

We might think of spontaneity as making the most of every day. But this can be another trap, especially when we feel pressured to say yes to every invitation and opportunity.

Fear of missing out is the opposite of a spontaneous spirit. It’s a coerced, not a willing yes. It is always left wanting, always grasping for more.

How To Practice Being More Spontaneous | 42:33

Spontaneity is a muscle we can grow with the right environment around us.

Time with other people can be a platform for spontaneous happenings. It happens when we nurture space for boredom (gaps in the day). The door opens when we exchange the question “what can this do for me?” with “what could I do with this?“. Creative spontaneity explodes into life when we embrace mistakes as happy accident gateways to magical new worlds.

An Unexpected Detour | 50:37

I finish the episode with a narrative soundscape meditation. It came from a reflection on the theme of adventure. I imagined it growing from a tiny delicate seed—a quiet invitation on the regular route home that we meet with openness and a soft yes.

What could this make possible?

The Haven is a virtual sanctuary that provides refuge for weary travellers and sensitive souls looking for a calmer rhythm, friends who get them, and a deep breath of playful creativity. It’s an invitation home for those seeking inspiration, encouragement, and support as you nurture a meaningful and sustainable life alongside others who “get it”.

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