“Spontaneity, the hallmark of childhood, is well worth cultivating to counteract the rigidity that may otherwise set in as we grow older.” — Gail Sheehy
I don’t know about you but it’s been a while since I’ve given into a bit of impulse and just lived completely in the moment. Without any worries or expectations. With a childlike curiosity and wonder.
I’m naturally a daydreamer but rein it in with organized to-do lists and efficient Kanban boards. In learning how to adjust my dreamer tendencies in a productivity-obsessed world, I may have lost some of the careless abandon that comes with childhood imagination and creativity. As a result, I’ve become a planner, a perfectionist and an over-thinker.
Despite this fact, my intuition is always there, vague and subtle. It gently reminds me — like an old friend — that I should check in with it every once in a while.
Some people may question the validity of intuition, though. Valerie van Mulukom, Research Associate in Psychology at Coventry University says that the Western world often values logical thinking over intuitive thinking, regarding intuition and emotions as faulty.
But as she explains in The Conversation article, intuition and emotions are actually a form of information processing. She says that the brain is always comparing incoming sensory information in the present with stored knowledge and memories of the past. She adds that we aren’t consciously aware of this predictive processing framework.
It’s why you get a feeling you should stop before turning through an intersection, just in time to see a car go through a red light.
That’s your intuition working.
Throughout the years I’ve learned to acknowledge and trust my intuition more. It’s always given me a “sense” about people or situations that I can’t always explain with rational logic. But my observations often turn out to be right.
Yesterday that gut feeling was so strong that I just couldn’t ignore it. I planned to continue my online lessons for a graphic design class — when another class caught my eye on the homepage. Fortunately these are classes you can learn at your own pace, so I had no deadlines to meet for the other one.
This new one was about plant care.
You might be thinking really, plant care?
Logically it seems more important to learn about graphic design, which is a great skill to have nowadays. And I do enjoy graphic design. But emotionally I was really drawn to the class about plants that day.
You see, I inherited a shamrock plant from my grandmother, cultivated from her own shamrock plant but I’ve always felt I lacked a green thumb. Fortunately, my shamrock plant is pretty hardy, despite my lack of plant knowledge.
As of yesterday, I’ve officially joined the ranks of houseplant-obsessed Millennials and decided to become more of a dedicated plant mom. For many of us Millennials, it’s an affordable and fulfilling hobby that’s less expensive than owning a pet or a house.
There was also just something about the instructor’s beaming smile that pulled me in. My curiosity led the way and I followed, deciding to put aside my plans and follow my instincts instead.
Sometimes an intuitive detour is exactly what you need
As soon as I started watching the class, I realized that this diversion was exactly what I needed. It’s similar to the type of detours you sometimes take while traveling. You might get lost or wander off to explore — but in the end, you’re glad you did. You followed an adventurous pull and it rewarded you with a new discovery.
That’s how I felt when watching the class. I felt energized, inspired and excited — something I feel I haven’t felt in a while. The instructor had a bright, cheery energy and his passion for plant care was contagious, so I also felt that beautiful energy. It also felt great to be learning about something out of my comfort zone and knowledge — yet the instructor’s encouraging words made me feel completely capable.
Diving into something that engaged my passion and interest was like stopping the car at a lookout point to gaze at the scenery all around me. I was taking everything in, basking in its beauty. Instead of just driving along the same road, intent on only moving forward to my destination and not pausing to appreciate the fields or mountains or flowers around me.
Even though I was in the driver’s seat, I was feeling really uninspired and stagnant, but I think the reason why I felt so stuck was because I was living too much in my head and not enough in my heart. I had become too caught up in structures and results and numbers. And I disregarded the spur-of-the-moment, just “being” and really feeling the feels.
My intuition was basically telling me I need to chill out and listen to those emotions. Get more in tune with them. That I needed to go with the flow of life every once in a while, and have some fun.
Listen to your intuition to inject some spontaneity into your life
With so many articles and books on how you can adopt better routines, habits and productivity hacks, it’s no wonder that we need a bit of spontaneity to balance the rigidity and inflexibility that’s set in. We’re beholden to our calendars, meetings and task lists.
To practice spontaneity, I think we have to first listen to our gut.
What is it telling you?
What do you feel?
What do you need?
What do you want?
One of the best ways I’ve been able to tap more into my intuition has been through meditation. Lissa Rankin, M.D. outlines several ways you can boost your intuition in this Mind Body Green article, including taking up creative hobbies (drawing, colouring, journaling); reading oracle cards; spending time outdoors; tuning into your bodily sensations and more.
It’s difficult to be as spontaneous now as we could be pre-pandemic but spontaneity is just as much a feeling as it is an action. I’m not saying we should take any crazy risks right now but I am saying that a bit of spontaneity is still possible.
Being more spontaneous could be as simple as belting out the lyrics to a song, changing up your usual walking route or playing a board game with your family or friends instead of watching TV. It’s following your heart and listening to where it’s guiding you.
It’s also about infusing more fun into your life.
And I’m sure we could all use a little more of that these days.