AKA Planning to be Spontaneous
After a day browsing the interwebs, it’s hard not to feel confused over conflicting advice.
People from all different kinds of backgrounds are blogging all over the place about how to live your life and get things done.
On the one hand you have people telling you to live in the now and throw caution to the wind; just do it.
On the other there are people advocating detailed and all-encompassing planning systems involving complicated moleskine systems, or planning programmes.
Which route is the right one? How do you decide? Do you just choose one on a whim or do you outline your choice step-by-step.
And so the cycle continues!
My answer falls somewhere in the middle ground.
If you never do anything spontaneously, then the likelihood is that you lead a pretty dull life involving a minimum of excitement and risks.
Yeah, you’re boring.
But if you never plan anything, then you are never prepared for anything, and as the old saying goes;
“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail”
A balance is needed between these two extremes. A way of living which gives you flexibility, but which also ensures that you don’t miss out on things you want to do.
That seems ideal to me.
How do we go about achieving that?
Well I think first things first; you need some guiding principles.
You need something that lets you know whether to do something on a wink and an intake of breath, or whether it would be a waste of time. To this end it is absolutely imperative that you spend some time thinking about what is important to you.
When the time comes – and it will – you must be willing to walk away from something because you know it is not in line with what you want from your life. Or it is not in line with your beliefs. Or it may compromise your integrity.
Whatever your decision, you need a well defined personal compass that helps you make it.
In effect, you need to spend a bit of time planning your response to spontaneous situations. Sound paradoxical? Well, maybe it is, but you will be able to make quicker and more confident decisions if you do a bit of ground-work.
A lot of different people have provided a lot of different ways of doing this, and you may prefer their ways – certainly they probably all have merit to varying extents. And if you disagree with my way, then I’d love to hear it and learn from you. We are, after all, talking about an intensely personal thing here.
Here’s how I like to do it;
1. Establish a few things in life which matter most to you
Check out this list below:
- Family and friends
- Building a strong and awesome body
- Learning from the great minds of history
- Cultivating my own image, mind and voice
- Living up to my own expectations.
These are a selection of things, ideas and people which I strive to make the most of in life. They are part of the blueprint for my own Identity Design.
Your list may share some, all, or none of these things and that is exactly how it should be – we are not all the same, and shouldn’t try to be.
But you should be able to identify what really makes you tick in order to get the most out of life.
2. Think of ways of maintaining, improving, or achieving these things.
For some it will be obvious – for example if you put friends and family on your list then spending more quality time with them and being more present when you do are two great ways to have more fulfilling relationships with these people.
If its learning skills then you don’t need to look any further than How To Be Good At Everything, my free eBook for all subscribers (form at the bottom of the page).
I’ll be discussing more strategies and ways of fulfilling this principle in future blogs, so make sure you don’t miss those.
For now however, if you’re struggling with this, then comment and me and anyone else reading can try to help you out – or alternatively, you can email me; firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Establish your personal thresholds and boundaries
If you truly want to be free to make spontaneous decisions you must have a granite foundation of principles and boundaries.
You must know when to say yes, and when to say no.
There are at least two great ways of knowing this; the first is by building on the themes of this post. If the opportunity allows you to build on, maintain, improve, or achieve any of the those few things that matter most to you, then you should say yes.
Sure, there might be something you “miss out” on, but if it does not positively affect the most important things in your life then are you really missing out?
The second is even simpler, and I love it. It’s the “Hell Yeah” principle. First written about by Derek Sivers and discussed by Chris Guillebeau the idea is very simple; if you have the chance to do something, and you don’t think Hell Yeah then very likely your time is better spent elsewhere.
So What Now?
Well, if you’ve been struggling to find the balance between planning and spontaneity, then you now have some tools at your disposal to fix that.
Spend a bit of time working through my suggestions – actually grab a pad and pen or open a document and just write it out – and let me know how you’re getting on or if you have any questions.