I have always prided myself on my ability to be deeply inspired by stupid movies (look, it’s a skill!) but even I was shocked when I found myself making life choices after watching… Zoolander. I know the bloke is really, really, really ridiculously good looking but it’s not exactly a film renowned for provoking deep thought.
It happened the other day when, having come down with a savage case of writer’s block, I took myself for a walk in an effort to reignite my creative fire. At the end of my driveway I turned left and then promptly started giggling – “Take that Derek Zoolander, I can indeed turn left”. (Please tell me I’m not the only one that heckles fictional characters in their head?)
Then I paused when it dawned on me that I always turn left when I’m going for a walk; in fact I couldn’t remember a walk in this neighbourhood that started with me turning right? Had I caught the opposite of Zoolander? Had I caught Hansel? (he’s so hot right now).
This may not seem like the most ground-breaking self-discovery but it was enough to get me wondering; why did I always turn left? Is that not breaking the innate human code of curiosity? What if i’m missing out on something?
So I spun on my heels and headed in the opposite direction, making the mental decision to only walk down streets that I had never walked down before. I was going to get lost in my own neighbourhood.
Instead of being up in my head, mentally ticking off to do lists like I usually do on my walks, I found myself marvelling at houses and gardens that I had never seen before. Hidden gates, murals and incredible trees. I even found an extremely conservative house with a giant, shiny, red sculpture of a polar bear out the front – an interesting and ultimately hilarious design choice.
All the newness that I was seeing on my walk dragged me into the present moment without me even having to concentrate on being mindful. Arriving home I sat down feeling full and fresh. Creatively rejuvenated. I plonked down at my desk and quickly got into flow. That one spontaneous decision to turn right had unblocked my writer’s block.
I have always been told I am a spontaneous person. Actually I believe the term was impulsive – either way, I don’t take it as an insult. Spontaneity is a skill that I am very proud to still have. That it survived all the way into my almost-thirties is a miracle.
Let me count a few ways that spontaneity makes life better.
Spontaneity is vital for our creativity. Without it we are dull and stale and repetitive because we are seeing the same things over and over again. There’s science to back this up – our neural pathways are sensitive to change and by seeing new places you increase your cognitive flexibility as well as your depth of thought (says a study by Adam Galinsky of Columbia Business School).
Spontaneity gives you the gall to take risks and the guts to leap in the hope that a net will appear. It takes you on adventures.
Spontaneity can lead to surprises. Not just in a ‘wow look at that giant red panda what an interesting design choice’ kinda way, but in a way that sharpens your brain and helps you flow more naturally in the world… to trust yourself more. Improvisation comedy comes to mind – a place where you have to have faith that you will have the reply; a zone that develops your wit and makes you test boundaries.
Spontaneity is mischievous – it’s that little spark that tells you to experiment with your own boundaries. It connects us back to our inner child; the one that ate that delicious looking purple crayon once (failed) or decided to try out that rope swing by the lake (win). It temper us to failure and warms us to change. Plus, It’s just plain ol’ fun.
But spontaneity is an endangered species.
More and more society is gearing us towards ‘normal’. Everybody is encouraged to fit in their place, fulfill their role and be what they are supposed to be. Let’s use social media as the example.
+ Our Pinterest feed fills up with ‘Pins that are recommended to us’ based on previous pins.
+ Adverts are chosen for us because of articles we have read and subjects we have googled.
+ Facebook shows us the friends and pages that we interact with most.
What we consume nowadays is specifically catered to our taste and delivered on a silver platter… and that’s not always a good thing!
Sure these are pretty cool technological advancements that often do unearth material that you would have chosen to digest yourself, but our views of the world are becoming channelled by people who directly benefit from them (advertisers, corporations, media houses, celebrity machine-dashians).
With this to-order style of media consumption we are left with no room for piqued interest, new information or shocks to the system. Daily epiphanies are being smothered. Our minds are blown less and less. And… I feel that it is making us a less worldly society. Or – bluntly – it’s making us a little boring. Pushing us a little further into the boxes of our personality and stripping all the colour out.
If we are constantly watching the same shows, reading the same blogs and walking down the same streets – we are likely missing out on a huge amount of new experiences and perspectives that could enrich and change our lives. As one of my favorite quotes says “when you speak you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen you may learn something new”. Is spontaneity not just a way of listening to the universe?
So I would love to invite you to open yourself up to a little more chance, wonder and uncertainty in your life. Select the media you consume carefully. Choose a book or genre that you don’t usually read. Walk down a different street. Shave a line down the middle of your head. (Don’t do that). Get lost. Do something naughty. Start a conversation with a stranger. Shake life up. You might discover something amazing.