Spontaneity vs. Planning: Fight!

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; andrew@themileshighlife.com

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.



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4 thoughts on “Spontaneity vs. Planning: Fight!”

  1. Hey Andy!
    Hope you have a great time on holiday! I enjoyed this post. I was wondering how you came up with your list? Has it always been ingrained in you or did you have to sit and think about it? I’ve always had trouble making my own list! Having just finished uni now I really need to decide on my priorities before I choose a career for the next 40 years (that’s an optimistic 40 years the way things are going)! Hopefully travelling will provide the cliché of self discovery! What do you think? Or anyone else for that matter. Banter.

    I’m not sure about the “hell yeah” principle though. The wisdom that is my dad has a life motto which is “if you can’t be bothered or you’re too embarrassed, do it anyway”. (all right English degree should that have been a semi-colon?). Maybe there’s motto overlap.
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    1. Thank you!

      The list is something you need to spend a bit of time thinking about, and a bit of time letting your brain work on it in the sidelines… My experience is that the things on it will feel very natural and are probably what you have thought about or been enjoying/doing all your life. I also don’t think it should be static necessarily. Maybe just write down anything that comes to mind, and then have a think about which things are truly important, and which merely seem to be. But also don’t be shy to include whatever brings you happiness!

      I like your dad’s motto. I think there’s a lot of overlap with the hell yeah one too, say for example you really want to do something (like act in a play) but it’s a first for you, and you’re worried about what might happen. You’re embarrassed, nervous, but your heart says hell yeah! You should do it! (no semi-colon needed!)

      My opinion on the 40 year career before retiring is that it’s outdated, and unnecessary for a good life – only do it if you want to (but why would you want to?). Travelling is an excellent idea!

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