The paradox of spontaneity

On Tuesday I talked about how I recently had a friend come over unexpectedly. What I didn’t mention was how that came about.

A few months ago, my husband and I decided that something needed to change. We were way too busy – constantly burning the candle at both ends, always overcommitted and stressed out.

Although we both value building relationships, we’d come to the point where our relationships were actually hurting us.

Trying to cram too much into a given week had left us completely used up.

The main problem was that, as introverts, we need nights of doing nothing in order to recharge. Yet we weren’t leaving any time for that in our overcommitted schedules.

So we devised a simple solution. We put a recurring “evening in” event on our calendar. The rule was that we could move it around within a given week in order to accommodate other events, but we couldn’t delete it. If there were no more nights available we’d simply have to refuse the invitation.

This technique has done wonders for our quality of life.

We’re still active and very relationship-focused, yet we’re doing it from a place of rest and balance, rather than frenetic exhaustion.

Thus, when my friend invited herself over for dinner at the last minute, it was an easy decision to say yes. We were well-rested, we had an evening to ourselves in just a few days, and we wanted to reconnect with her. It was a no-brainer.

This story illustrates a great paradox of spontaneity. One of the best ways to be more spontaneous is to actually introduce more structure into your life, not less.

The key is to make sure you are introducing structure around the right things.

Life should be scheduled around your “non-negotiables,” the things that you simply must have to be healthy and whole. Perhaps it’s working out, prayer or meditation, rest, or something else entirely. Often there is more than one non-negotiable.

Yet, even though we know it is not healthy, so often we find ourselves falling victim to the “tyranny of the urgent.” We say yes to the most pressing requests, even though we know that they might push out our non-negotiables.

As we’re heading into the weekend, take a few minutes to evaluate your life. What are your non-negotiables? Is your life structured in a way that honors those needs? If not, it might be time to make some major adjustments.

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