This is part of a book I am writing on character strengths.
|We have a challenge in developing or breaking habits. Spontaneity! For some of us, acting spontaneously gives us an energy boost that makes us feel good, feel more alive. For others, acting spontaneously is nerve-wracking. I have an urge to do something and the question is do I just do it, or do I sit and reflect on it first and then make a decision driven by my intellect? Many faith traditions promote the second sober thought and want our intellects to rule over our desires. I would like to suggest a more nuanced approach, one that follows the middle way. I don't think things need to be either/or, life is not black and white. It might be more challenging to live life in the grey zone, but that zone is closer to reality and allows for a fuller life. Therefore, when faced with any situation, moment to moment, it might be an interesting experiment to sometimes jump to action and other times to sit and reflect first. By alternating with this approach, we might come to learn where we are better served by employing our intellect and where we might thrive more by just following our intuition or drive. I think that the way to evaluate these opposite approaches is to make sure you are clear on your values and life goals and then upon evaluation after the fact, you can see when spontaneity serves your life goals best and where careful thought before acting serves best.
I have a friend who gets quite hot under the collar and often loses his cool at work. He, unfortunately spends too much time apologizing after an outburst and so for him, the path of second sober thought at work would almost certainly be the preferred mode of living. However, outside of work, he thrives more by being spontaneous. The choice of how to live in the grey zone should not be decided in a black and white manner. It calls for flexibility and sensitivity to the subtleties of your needs.
Exercise: At the beginning of each day this week, decide if you will use the day to do something spontaneous or with much deliberation. Then look throughout the day for any opportunity in which your desires are sparked. It could be as simple as going for a coffee and seeing the person in line in front of you add an extra shot of flavour. If that day is a day for spontaneity, then you might just add an extra twist to your drink also. Or perhaps you get home from work and are exhausted. That day is a day where you will reflect before doing. You may stand at your front door and consider the options of either going in and flopping on the couch or turning back around and going for a walk. Each evening write down your reflections and see at the end of the week whether a pattern begins to emerge, or whether you have had any insights.