Spontaneity 101

Sometimes things don’t go according to plan even when you really want them to. Don’t panic. Here are some tips for reframing an agenda gone awry.

Get Lost in the Moment. Sometimes it’s not until you get a little lost that you discover something truly memorable. Get Lost in the Moment. Sometimes it’s not until you get a little lost that you discover something truly memorable.

1View your plan as a suggestion, not a commandment.

You had this image in your mind of toasting with champagne at this one overlook point, but for whatever reason, that’s not going to happen today. That’s okay. Resist the urge to script your trip, and consider your agenda more of an open-ended suggestion. “Schedules are fine for keeping you on track,” says Alex Marino, co-founder of the Magnet Theater in New York City. “But hold on with a lighter grip.” Rather than give in to the idea that everything is ruined, be curious. What might you do instead? What other things or places can you explore that you hadn’t planned on?

2Fire your inner perfectionist.

So you messed up: You got tickets for the wrong day, or you misjudged the distance to get from point A to point B. Let it go. A too-rigid approach means that when something throws a wrench into your plan, you may have a harder time recovering. “Move with things as they occur, and you won’t be thrown off,” says Marino. “You’ll end up somewhere even more rewarding than you thought.”

3Stay present.

A plan-based mentality is always about what comes next. Resist that pull and stay in the moment, advises Matthew Walker, author of Adventure In Everything. “When you let yourself be tuned in to the present, you create opportunities for deeper-level engagement,” he says. Look around, take it in, tune in to your senses. Be where you are. Time you spend absorbed in the here and now is never lost.

4See botched plans as opportunity.

Walker was leading a rock climbing trip in Mexico when wet weather kept his group off the cliffs. Instead of moping at the hotel, they headed to a café, met some local folks, and landed themselves an invite to a big Latin wedding that night. “We didn’t have the right clothes or anything, but we went and had an amazing experience,” he says. Instead of being stuck on what didn’t happen, stay open to what could. And if you need a point of reference, says Walker, “Think about all the things that have happened in your life that you didn’t plan for.” Often, those are the moments that change your life.

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