April 13, 2012

Plan to be Spontaneous

Silly, right? Being spontaneous is, by definition, done without forethought. Spontaneity means just doing something without a lot of planning. So how to be spontaneous is an oxymoron, like Jumbo Shrimp, an accurate estimate, or unbiased opinion.

Actually I want to focus on the mindset and benefits that encourage you to become more spontaneous during your satisfying retirement. I'll also share a recent example from my life. I contend that being over scheduled or closed off to new experiences is not good for you, and is easily changed.

But, first, why should you care? What is there about spontaneity that is helpful to you? What will you gain? Fair questions. I contend that you will:

Have new experiences that could enrich and deepen your life. You might even discover a new passion or interest you didn't know you had.

Add spice to a relationship that has become too predictable. Meet new people and develop new friendships.

Bring some adventure to a static lifestyle. Trying something new doesn't always work out. That's OK. You learn as much about yourself from bad experiences as good ones.

Help conquer unnecessary fears. A lot of us don't try something new or different because fear of failure or embarrassment. Spontaneity doesn't give you time to work yourself into a tizzy. You just do something. There is no opportunity to tell yourself all the reasons why you shouldn't.

Let's stop here so I can emphasize one important point. Being spontaneous doesn't mean you have to try bungee jumping, take a cruise to the South Pacific, or decide to buy a motorcycle this morning and set out on a road trip this afternoon. Spontaneity may mean doing nothing...nothing at all.

Your calendar has a list of commitments or things for you to accomplish today. You look at all of it and decide, nope, today I'm playing hooky. I'm turning off the computer and going to a movie, or maybe reading a book by a lake near my house, or how about cooking a fancy dinner for my wife tonight. You abandon what was predictable and chose to follow a different path...just for the next few hours.

A month or so ago Betty and I had the chance to be spontaneous. I noticed a listing in the paper about a free folk festival happening that coming weekend in the nearby town of Glendale. It was being held a large park that housed an historical ranch, citrus grove and several buildings. After reading about it on the Internet we decided to invest a few hours on Saturday.

What a tremendous experience! I have never seen anything like it. A half dozen different stages and settings (front porches, the maintenance shed, in the wine cellar) featured musical groups performing all day long. We had a choice every 30 minutes to listen to bluegrass, country, folk duos, banjo pickers or Irish ensembles. Dancing troupes in colorful southwest costumes performed on a stage in the middle of a palm tree field.

Dozens of impromptu jam sessions occurred all day as guitar players would gather under a tree and simply start playing together. Two fellows sang sea shanty songs for almost an hour, telling stories behind each song and inviting the audience to sing along. A half dozen auto harp players found each other and discussed the ins and outs of this unique instrument.  A blacksmith demonstrated his almost-lost art in a 100 year old blacksmith shop.







The Dirtbilly JugNots...Who wouldn't love that name!
 .

Playing with a few new friends under the trees

The festival actually ran all day Sunday, too. But, other commitments that couldn't be abandoned meant we missed it. But, that simple act of changing our plans and trying something new gave us a unique experience that we will be sure to include in our planning for next March. Being spontaneous paid off in a big way.

How about you? When have you chucked the calendar or plans and done something "just because?" Are you glad you did? Should you be that way more often? Can you plan to be spontaneous?

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28 comments:

  1. Ah a sore point. My husband is not spontaneous at all. I am. I have kind of learned to work around it. For example, when in Tucson, traveling to Tubac, I wanted to stop in to see a place ( I can't think of the name of it now) It is an old mission. Beautiful place. He wanted to come back another day. HUH? We are driving right past it. Just pull over!!!!!! I did get my way finally but that is what I deal with. He is very hard to travel with. Love him anyway though. Work arounds....

    Oh I just remembered San Xavier Del Bac.

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    1. Yes, The White Dove of the Desert - a beautifully restored mission just south of Tucson.

      You've made an important point. What happens with one person is spontaneous and the other is not? That would be a good subject for another post, if only I had an answer.

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  2. We prefer the term "free form" to spontaneous. For instance, we are attending a Yani concert in Melborne, Florida next week (tickets purchased in Dec.)but have no plans beyond leaving the concert - then what? We will be two hours from home and it will probably be late so maybe an overnight?? maybe drive home??

    Anyway, whatever is okay with both of us because we have become accustomed to just going with the flow...maybe we'll find a Hotwire deal on a hotel close by and stay over - maybe visit Mickey the next day, who knows. I think we might even have a Restaurant.com coupon for a great Thai place up that way... better go look through my folder.

    Anyway, you get the idea. We are about half and half on the planned vs. spontaneous lifestyle. It's good to have some things that are concrete to look forward to while just letting the rest of time unfold as it will. Life is good.

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    1. I like the way your mind works...flowing freely from one possibility to the next. I must take more of the post to heart. Unfortunately, I am much more like the husband in Roberta's comment above: drive past something just to stay on schedule. Recently, on our way home from our mini-vacation in Patagonia on the spur of the moment we decided to return home a different way so we could stop in Tubac. Immediately I got a speeding ticket. See what happens when I change plans!

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  3. "Add spice to a relationship that has become too predictable" - That's it, Bobby Petrino has convinced me I need something new in my life. Maybe I'll go trolling at the U of Tennessee campus this afternoon. Or maybe not.

    Life can get boring if we let it. I have met people who are masters at spontaneity, and they do it every day. It doesn't have to be expensive; you just need to be open to doing different things, big or small. Can't wait until retirement someday so I can test things out more in that regard.

    The music festival sounds like it was great. Would have loved to have seen it. Next month we will be going to Cumberland Caverns for the first time for a bluegrass concert, part of a multi-day motorcycle event we will be attending. Have seen their concerts on TV and the sound is supposed to be great. Here is a link to their site: http://cumberlandcaverns.com/

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    1. What I enjoyed most about the festival is that it exposed me to types of music and people I don't usually listen to or see. Some women were dressed up in early 1900 era gowns and strolled the grounds with colorful parasols. One gentleman was wearing a kilt. Other folks had just stepped off their Harley's and were playing banjos with wild abandon. One performing group was a large family, all dressed in farming clothing of 50 years ago.

      My life can become much too predictable much too easily.

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  4. Hey Bob---Planned spontaneity is a concept that I try to embrace more and more. I first heard the term from a nationaly known travel writer. He talks about planning the important details of a trip--things like where you are sleeping, your flight and travel reservations, maybe booking a tour that is hard to get into--but then leaving yourself lots of time to explore and enjoy the simple things. I do my best to do this on vacations, not scheduling my whole day, stopping places that just look cool, staying longer somewhere when we are having fun instead of rushing off to the next must see attraction. Some of my best travel memories have come about because of this.
    The challenge for me is doing this in my every day life. There are so many must dos--I think every weekend in June is booked for us already between things we want to do, need to do or have to do. I am often frustrated because I hear about something I'd like to do at the last minute, but we already have tickets for something or are committed to a family or volunteer obligation. It's hard to balance everything.
    I guess the important thing is I am aware of the need for balance. It seems odd but maybe what I need to do is write in spontaneity on some of those open weekends on my calendar!

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    1. Our trip this July to Oregon will be like you describe ideal travel: basic arrangements set but the days open to explore with a few blogging buddies who want to show us their hometown. Galen Pearl has even offered to take us to her cabin a few hours out of town just to relax and do nothing.

      My daily, normal, life has the same complications as yours: family, necessary chores, and volunteer commitments. Of course, blogging takes 2-3 hours a day, too. I tried writing "OPEN" on an occasional day to keep it free. But, somehow something always seemed to demand that time.

      Oh well, I'll keep trying!

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  5. The music festival sounds like it was really a lot of fun. I do like to plan the big things on vacations, as CindyP said. I then list a lot of possible activities but I don't decide which ones to do until that morning.

    I really like to have one day a week with no commitments, where I can stay home and do stuff around the house or just do something on the spur of the moment. My job entails a lot of driving, so I prefer to stay out of the car, but if there's a movie or museum I want to see I go.

    Good post, Bob, and food for thought!

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  6. Thanks, Cari. I do look forward to a day with an empty calendar. But, isn't it amazing how it fills up anyway? The cliche about being busier as a retired person than as a working one really seems to be true.

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  7. I'm very spontaneous, my husband less so, but he can generally be persuaded if I present a good case. And conversely, if I'm getting carried away and trying to pack too much into a day, he can generally talk me off the ledge and convince me to scale back just a bit . . .

    Similar to Malcolm & Suzanne above, we do generally go back and forth between hard and fast plans, and spontaneity. I need to have enough structure to keep from getting bored, but enough flexibility to remain open to new possibilities.

    As with everything in life, it's a constant effort to ensure we are striking the right balance. But when we do hit it right, the rewards are so wonderful that I'm willing to keep working away at it.

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    1. Based on your blog post of what you tackled in your first year of retirement, I'd guess you rarely are at a loss for something to do, planned or otherwise.

      My wife used to be more spontaneous than I am, but overtime I'm afraid I've diminished that trait of hers. That has been a mistake.

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  8. I love spontaneity! Fortunately my husband is very easy about just doing things spur of the moment. We travel well together. Your Folk Festival sounded great! I'll keep an eye out for something like that around here.
    b

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    1. First of all, congrats on the move to the new web address. I have freshened the link on the sidebar.

      There is a "World Festival" this weekend in Phoenix. I have no idea what it is but we should be able to check it out. Betty has already said OK.

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    2. Hey, Barb,

      Very strange. I have tried half a dozen times to change the address of your blog but blogger keeps reverting back to the old page and address. People will still find you but I don't understand the problem. Maybe I'll try clearing my cache.

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  9. I was about to comment about the spontaneity of golfing - as in the fact that, after each swing, I never really know where I'm going to have to go to find my ball. :)

    But instead, I want to point out that many of the performers/pickers at a music jamfest are having their own highly spontaneous experience, if they choose. It's fun for me to find a new and/or different bunch to jam with ... and see how it goes. While I usually know what songs I wish to offer up when it's my turn to do so, I also find myself challenged to join in with those songs offered up by other pickers that I've never heard before - and might even have a totally different structure than what I'm used to. Sometimes I musically "crash and burn", but nevertheless, the unpredictability can be delightful. The joy is in the journey as well as the destination.

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    1. That spontaneous experience seemed to be very much in evidence. I watched as people who didn't know each other would gather under a tree. One person would start playing and slowly the others would join in.

      Too bad I didn't think to take a recording device. I bet you would have enjoyed hearing some of the banjo players. Maybe next time.

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  10. Going with the flow--I prefer to use the term "Go with Flo and see where she takes ya!". My husband and I are both pretty structured in our daily routine but are often open to spontaneous adventures as the opportunity arises. When we travel, we never make reservations, as we might miss the perfect thing. We do have a time in mind when we wish to be back home. Therefore, if we are headed to Point A and just don't make it there,(provided it isn't somewhere we have to be) we just turn homeward sooner if we haven't achieved Point A on schedule. Some of our best memories are just letting "Flo" lead us. My best friend is very spontaneous and keeps me on my toes. I never know what kind of fun,frugal adventure she may come up with. We have also found that a lot of the spur of the moment adventures really are so inexpensive. Can't beat that. And it seems you meet the most interesting,friendly, and kind people that way

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    1. Go with the "Flo" (or any name of a free-spirited person!) works just as well.

      On a trip to Great Britain 8 years ago we made no reservations except for the beginning and end of the trip. I had a guidebook and Internet printouts, along with a rented cell phone. Around lunchtime I'd figure out where a good stopping place for the evening would be and place a couple of calls. In that situation it didn't work as well as I hoped. I started to stress out around lunch, worried that I couldn't get a room at a decent price in the right location. We didn't have many problems but I still worried. So, the next time we went to Europe I booked everything, had more pleasant lunches, and slept better at night.

      Traveling in the states we have taken the same approach and had a much easier time. There is always a motel or hotel of decent quality in almost any place in the country. In fact, phone calls aren't even needed. Just drive up to the lobby and ask for a room.

      Spur of the moment adventures can be rather inexpensive. And, you are so right: meeting friendly and interesting people comes with the territory.

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  11. That festival sounds great and for sure something my Hunny and I would love. We haven't been too spontaneous in years but for sure I can remember how spicy it made life when we were spontaneous.

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    1. BTW, your rain storm is coming our way. We look forward to a wet and cool weekend in Phoenix.

      Southern California must have enough great festivals and events to be as spontaneous and you as hubby can stand!

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  12. I have to admit I was surprised by this post, given that my image of you is of a highly scheduled person who would be more likely to put being spontaneous on the day planner from 2-4 in the afternoon! Your outing with Betty sounds delightful.

    I tend to be very open to a spontaneous diversion unless I'm driving! When I'm behind the wheel, I am intent on my destination and can rarely be persuaded to stop for an interesting roadside attraction. I'm sure I've missed all sorts of delightful pleasures by being so single minded.

    Your post has inspired me to set the intention to stop next time I'm on my way to the cabin at one of the charming places I've notice for years!

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    1. You are correct much more often than not, but I'd like to change that.

      Remember my request that our trip to Portland has lots of open time for people watching and café visiting and the trip to your cabin involves lots of porch and walking time. Stopping at a place or two on the way would be fine, too.

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  13. Wonderful post. I have no problem being spontaneous-its the keeping to an occasional schedule that does me in. the festival sounds lovely.

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    1. There is an International Festival on Sunday...Japanese drummers, Irish dancers, food and shows..I think we may have to go!

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    2. Well, sometimes it doesn't work out. The International Festival was canceled at the last moment. I found out after driving downtown and being unable to find it. Out came the smartphone and after a quick search on Google learned it wasn't happening. Oh well. We went to another place downtown to people-watch and have some pizza. I guess that was even more spontaneous than the festival plans!

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  14. Bob. I am a free spirit. Being spontanous has always come easy for me. I feel alive and it breaks up the mundane routines in the world. Good post as usual!

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    1. Congrats on being so open to being spontaneous. From all the comments you can see it is something many of us have to work on.

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