Do you know what I like about Starbucks? I like that I can go to Starbucks anywhere, order my bacon egg bites, and a grande caramel macchiato with oat milk and it will taste the same. Every. Single. Time. I find joy in that predictability and look forward to the deliciousness that is offered through this exact experience I relive about once a month. It’s the same with any chain really and why franchises are as successful as they are. For example, my kids love Red Robin’s macaroni and cheese, and when we get off an airplane, that’s usually where we go because I know they will be happy and their stomachs will be full. In this way, predictability is a positive experience because it relieves the anxiety of the unpredictable or the uncertainty of spontaneity.
Just like that cup of coffee, predictability helps us meet our expectations easily. Once we know what to expect, it gives us something to look forward to. Think about some daily expectations you have that are met… maybe a morning kiss from your partner, or that your paycheck will be in your bank account every other Friday. What about a birthday gift from a parent? or that’s you’ll be motivated enough to prep healthy meals or take a morning walk?
When our expectations are met, we can feel a sense of calm. This is the same sense of calm that can also guide us through our days by taking the same bus, sitting at the same office desk, or planning our DoorDash orders. Predictable life can feel good because we know what’s going to happen, no surprises, it’s easy to prepare for and our to-do lists get checked off. At times when my life feels overwhelming, I often yearn for the stability that predictability offers. I remember what this felt like before children and working on a predictable and balanced schedule… predictably hitting the snooze button and getting up at the next alarm, working out, going to work, hanging with friends, etc. My days and nights were accounted for and there was a sense of peace as all my boxes were checked each day.
Benefits of Predictability
Particularly for people who have worry, anxiety, or fear in their lives whether rational or not, predictability has its benefits.
- Lower stress levels because you know what to expect and understand how to prepare for what is next.
- Better health in the way of having a predictable routine of getting a decent night’s sleep, maybe eating the same healthy foods, and having movement in your schedule on the daily.
- Feeling happier because, with predictability, you can create better boundaries from drama, and have a more balanced lifestyle that leaves you feeling content and satisfied.
- A sense of comfort and control can be found in a predictable life because we can be comforted by our needs being met.
- Efficiency can also be achieved by predictability because you already know how to plan for what’s next and have learned the best way to go about whatever you are doing.
When life throws you curveballs, predictability can seem like the light at the end of the tunnel because it gives the illusion and feeling of confidence. It’s like when you have a bad day and go to your favorite restaurant because you know you can look at the menu, order your favorite meal, and have that small, simple way to satisfy yourself while other aspects of your life may be out of your control.
Jeez, predictability sounds so good! Why would we even want to consider a spontaneous life? It seems overwhelming, out of our control and downright scary! I know, I know, living life on autopilot has its perks…BUT you can’t predict the unexpected and with the unexpected can come new experiences, new opportunities, and meeting new people. Naturally anxious individuals usually hate the idea of spontaneity and like the comfort of their predictable lives, but in that life, they miss a whole lot that can be exciting and fulfilling in ways unimaginable to the predictably inclined mind.
Just because you aren’t sure about the unknown doesn’t mean it’s not something positive that will add to your life.
When you take your life off autopilot every once in a while you have a chance of discovery. Discovery of a new meal, a chance encounter to make a new friend, stumbling upon something beautiful and so much more. I find that when I am more willing to be spontaneous in my life, wonderful things happen that are pleasantly surprising. I now look at spontaneity as a necessary path of discovery after each new and unpredictable experience leaves me in a state of anticipation instead of the overwhelm I used to feel in the safety and confinement of predictability.
Benefits of Spontaneity
I like to say “uncomfortable is where change happens,” and although change can surface fears, it also can be the path towards a fulfilling and beautiful life. Here are the benefits…
- Trusting your intuition can lead you to places you may not have gone if you followed a predictable path.
- Discovery is usually found in unexpected places that fall outside of the predictable norm.
- A sense of awe and wonder is around the corner of spontaneous moments.
- New friendships can be made by visiting a new place or initiating spontaneous conversation.
- Happiness can be found through the joy of the element of surprise.
- Confidence can be gained as you test the boundaries outside of a predictable routine
- Innovation can be found through thinking or taking paths “outside of the box”
How much predictability and spontaneity a person needs in their lives is individual to them and can change throughout various seasons of age and circumstances. For me, my life is mostly predictable because I have 3 small humans and 2 grandparents to care for, but I pack my day with about 20-30% of spontaneity because that’s where I feel most alive, grateful, and creative. I get my spontaneous joys through little ways such as hiking different trails, driving a new route, making new connections, and saying “yes” to things that scare me. Time is a resource that we use and how we use our time predictably or spontaneously may take some trial and error for learning what we need and what we can feel good about.
Our time may be well spent getting to bed on time, but also can be well spent having an impromptu family dance party that delays bedtime by a few minutes. We can be intentional, but also commit to the moment in a way that surprises and delights us! Moving forward is about motion, whether you’re using cruise control or closing your eyes and seeing where the wind takes you.
Do you prefer your days more predictable or spontaneous?
After reading the benefits of each, what do you want to add more of or change?
For the heck of it, what can you do that’s spontaneous today just to see how it feels?
However, you choose to live your days, see if you can surprise yourself by practicing the opposite for some time. Maybe you are spontaneous for an afternoon if you are more predictable. Or maybe you set a routine for a morning if you are more spontaneous. See how it feels as if it’s like trying on an outfit that’s not your style and falling in love with it when you see yourself in the mirror. These days, I’m trying more spontaneity on 😉