You’d Never Guess that This is What Makes Life Spontaneous & Exciting

In American culture, there is such a pull to be ultra-super happy, live a spontaneous, exciting life, and be unpredictable and impulsive. It’s fed to us in our advertisements and media as people with broad smiles, in faraway lands, or doing some kind of dangerous or extreme sport.

Yet many people who try to live up to these images often find themselves ungrounded and struggling with overwhelm and low energy. What’s the secret? How do people live such spontaneous, exciting lives while staying healthy?

Answer: Habit & Routine.

It sounds counterintuitive, but habit and routine provides a solid foundation for a life of spontaneity and excitement.

Think of all the extreme sports athletes, or really a professional athlete of any kind. What does their typical day look like? I’ll bet you’ll see a consistent schedule, at least 5 days a week, likely 6 days a week, and for olympic athletes, possibly 7 days a week. This schedule includes doing certain things at the same time every single day. Things like:

  • Going to sleep
  • Waking up
  • Eating (including what to eat at which times)
  • Workout/exercise

When we don’t have a routine, or our routine is thrown off by unexpected or unusual circumstances, our bodies react with stress hormones. It can be difficult to focus on mental tasks, our bodies get confused about when we’re supposed to sleep, when we’re supposed to be awake, and when we’re supposed to eat, … all this starts a downward spiral towards exhaustion.

When we have a consistent schedule, when our bodies know what time to sleep, what time to wake up, and when to expect food and exercise, our bodies will begin to regulate and repair. We will get stronger and more resilient, physically, mentally, and emotionally. (This relates to my Taoist-informed ideas that there is no separation between mind and body, like what western cultures have created in their philosophies, but I won’t go into detail about that here. Basically, take care of your mind by taking care of your body.)

Many of you already know that I’m a partner dancer. In a dance class as a leader, I remember one class where the instructor told us to just lead the basic step over and over. Just repeat the same thing. The lesson: leaders doing the same move over and over, with reliability, predictability, and dependability gives the followers the ability to play with the dance and music.

It made total sense. If you think about trying to follow a leader that is always leading different moves every measure, there’s no room to try anything new. The follower is constantly trying to “catch up” with a new and unpredictable situation. The best they can do is stay grounded, be balanced, and hope they don’t fall over as they wait for the next move. The unpredictable nature of the dance is actually stifling the follower’s creativity.

What’s actually fun for a follower is leading the same step or pattern on repeat, over and over again. Many leaders who haven’t learned how to follow will automatically think this is boring, but it’s the opposite. The reliable, predictable nature of repeating the same pattern means the follower knows what’s coming up. They know where they need to be next, not just one move ahead, but two, three, five, ten moves ahead. They can start to get creative with how to get there, where to slow down, where to speed up, and play with what parts of the pattern to accentuate or suppress.

Habit and Routine are the Source of Play and Spontaneity.

Reader Reflection:

If you find yourself struggling right now, take a look at your schedule. Do you have a consistent schedule for certain things?

A great place to start are the basics:

  • Sleep,
  • Meals, and
  • Exercise.

After that, if you want more structure, you can put other things in:

  • Work,
  • Art/Creative expression,
  • Social time…
  • Anything else you want to make sure you have in your life.

What schedule did you come up with for yourself? How has it impacted your mood and outlook?
Please tell me, I’d love to know!
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