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Good Habits When You're a Spontaneous Person. A Guest Post by ZELDA

Surprised by habit? Surprised by spontaneity? Surprised by how fast they can alternate?

Surprised by habit? Surprised by spontaneity? Surprised by how fast they can alternate?

Has this spontaneity topic ever been surprising and educational to me! Our latest discussion of Empath Empowerment has morphed into a conversation about habits, loathing of structure, and what to do when you cannot abide scheduled ANYTHING.

For background, in that conversation there were references to Myers-Briggs, a typing system with four different categories. One of them is whether you are:

  • A “P” — for which the simple summary is that you prefer spontaneity.
  • A “J” — for which the simple summary is that you prefer order, structure.

Within each of these four categories, what complicates things is that you can be just a bit in that category. Or you can be very extremely in that category. Or anywhere in-between.

In terms of Myers-Briggs, I already knew I was an extreme, extreme J. For instance, graduates of my workshops consistently praise how much they learn. I think that’s because I prepare loads of handouts plus highly structured segments and processes.

All this sets the stage for spontaneity: Only repeat participants discover how every workshop becomes a unique improv, based on who comes and whichever questions they ask. Definitely, though, structure first. 

So commited I am to structure, I never considered how readers of my books — and this blog — might not operate that way. At all!

Joke on me then, when folks started commenting at SANDY’S wonderful guest post. Many are extreme J’s. ISABELLA C. and EMILY from our Enlightenment Life List, for instance. Given that thread…

Here’s a delightful follow-up from Blog-Buddy ZELDA. Blog-Buddies, you’re invited to share how you juggle habits, structure, and spontaneity.

How to Develop Good Habits When You Are Thoroughly Spontaneous

ISABELLA C, this guest post is dedicated to you as a fellow “P” from Myers-Briggs-Land. I wanted to chime in and say that I see following a rigid schedule as something entirely different from developing habits.

I wouldn’t be comfortable either, trying to follow the regimen you described. Can’t stand a 9-to-5 job! Need lots o’space and freedom, for sure!

It’s been hard for me to put into words exactly, but I’m spontaneously structured…or spontaneous within my own created structure….or something like that. :-) For instance:

  • I don’t get up or go to bed at the exact same time every day.
  • Or eat at the exact same time every day.
  • But before I go to bed, I have my self-care habits that have become an ingrained ritual. Bubble bath, candles, relaxation, etc.

When I do eat, it’s carefully thought out within a framework I’ve developed of food that works with me. Then I have it organized so that I choose spontaneously within that framework.

Spontaneity rules in my classroom, too

As a teacher, I can see these differences (J vs. P, I’m thinking) between us, Rose. :-)

My classes have a clear structure in terms of trajectory and structured lessons. But within that, I love having spontaneity. I love allowing students to chime in with questions or comments during certain parts of the class.

I noticed how different my conversational style as a teacher is from Rose’s when I attended some of her workshops.

Though I see conversational style, and spontaneity preferences, as being very different from habits.

How are habits different, to me?

I guess what I’ve come to see is this: Getting clear about certain habits, again, mainly in the areas of self-care, like food, sleep, exercise, empath skills, gives me structure.

Ultimately these habits allow me to be more spontaneous, because I feel fundamentally stable.

Where have the skills of Empath Empowerment® helped me most? In keeping me clear and in charge.

As Rose might put it, I have developed a habit of positioning my consciousness as a skilled empath. I’m not being spontaneously spacey and blowing off my important goals.

Do I sometimes just set it all aside and stare at the walls?

I definitely do. And *love* having unscheduled time so I can follow my own introverted whims… spontaneously.

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  1. 1

    About Myers-Briggs, I have great respect for this type indicator.

    So I encourage any of you who are curious about Myers-Briggs to use the link I’ve provided in today’s article.

    Unfortunately plenty of websites take this intellectual property and play around with it. Meaning well, no doubt. Yet it’s always best to go to the source of a teaching, so you get the full depth and nuance.

    (Plus I’m not a big fan of stealing anyone’s hard-won intellectual property.)

  2. 2
    Isabella C. says:

    Thanks, Zelda! In the other thread you mentioned the “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg.

    I’m going to check that out because I do believe in the power of habit and would love to harness it for myself. I’m totally down to grow in that way, if there’s a way to do it that doesn’t hurt.

  3. 3
    Cathy says:

    I completely get this. I tend to be very random, and can be disorganized on a personal level. Just ask my husband 😉

    On the other hand, certain structures, like being able to sit in a quiet kitchen with my cup of coffee with cream, and ready myself for the day. Certain structures have to be kept, for everything to run right, like making lunches, getting my child up and dressed. I go to work, and same thing, I need a few minutes to organize my day, tasks, ideas.

  4. 4
    Cathy says:

    But I work in car sales. And the rest of my day is totally random, and I love it!

    Until I get home, and I get my kid ready for bed, story and snack time, and so on.

    Order and spontenaity. It works.

  5. 5
    Kira says:

    As another P, who’s married to a J, I often organize my life around his structure. But I don’t think I’ve really figured out yet how best to balance everything; I know strict scheduling was one of the main things I found extremely draining about having a job. Any job I’ve ever had.

  6. 6
    Kira says:

    I’m also “allergic” to practice. I either do something right, or at least good enough, the first time, or I stop doing it. There are things that are important enough for me to practice anyway, and there are exceptions such as play or music rehearsals (because somehow, practice in a group is fun).

  7. 7
    Kira says:

    I’ve spent some time finally trying to work with my natural tendencies instead of trying to change them or berating myself over them. It took me a while because my parents are J’s and kept trying to train me to be a J.

    My husband, at least, learned ways to work with people who are the opposite letters of all 4 of his (he and I are actually exact opposites by letters, but not equally extreme in each one–I’m ENFP, he’s ISTJ). He wasn’t trying to make me a J, but as an empath, I was still trying to be what I thought he wanted.

    I got better but I’m still working on how to make certain habits stick.

  8. 8
    Kira says:

    Actually, I thought I was done commenting, but it just occurred to me that part of my problem with habits may well be that I’m still new enough to living as an actual P and not a P trying to be a J that I’m still in a rebellious stage that hasn’t subsided yet. That is, my inability to form certain habits was actually a refusal to form them because I was trying to suppress my need for less structure.

  9. 9
    Emily says:

    Also thanks for the book recommendation Zelda, as habits are something I’m still working on.

    I also don’t eat, wake up or sleep at the same time everyday. Even to the extent that my boyfriend and I decide what we want for dinner on the way home from work and then walk to the supermarket if we need something else.

  10. 10
    Emily says:

    I do want to get more into the habit of being a skilled empath definitely and this recent discussion has inspirede to make it a priority!!

    I know it makes life far smoother. I think I can attribute a lot of work stress to other peoples stuff, and also meandering stomach issues that sometimes pop up.

    I did the coming home technique this morning and am going to read a chapter of “Become the Most important Person In The Room” (specifically the one on the space dial concept) to get started on my new habit!!

  11. 11
    Jnana says:

    I’m a person who needs structure. But it’s when I’m being spontaneous that I have the most fun.

  12. 12
    Jnana says:

    I’m remembering a talk given by a Master. How I looked forward to it.
    Then he got spontaneous and allowed some overzealous and insistant participants questions. Inwardly I was fuming. The talk went in a completely different direction as a result. I did feel we lost out.

    I’d have preferred he kept his ‘structure’ of him deciding what to speak on.

  13. 13
    Jnana says:

    Hey, I’m remembering something else about that teacher.
    We were in a course. The participants were highly excited, overly enthusiastic and kept asking personal questions. The teacher allowed himself to be waylaid by them. As a result much of the material of the course was not covered. Structure would have served him better.

    (Zelda I know you would never use spontaneity in this way.)

  14. 14

    Exactly, JNANA. Because my workshops have a lot of content, we stay on track. During breaks I’m available to answer questions, chit-chat etc.

  15. 15
    Zelda says:

    Hi Isabella!

    Glad it was helpful!

    Yes, I definitely recommend the Duhigg book. It’s a great read on top of being so instructive. Very interesting and engaging stories.

    The takeaway for me from his book is to be clear about the reward in a habit loop.

    More on that in a second…

  16. 16
    Zelda says:

    I was laughing about tonight’s example in my life of my love of being spontaneous within structure.

    I was just teaching a class to an incredibly lively, engaging group.

    Definitely a structure for our class this evening.

  17. 17
    Zelda says:

    But, for the second week in a row, in the course of our class, we could hear the periodic roars of gatherings in the nearby mall of NBA fans watching tonight’s game of the NBA finals.

    This game was a very big deal here in the San Francisco Bay Area, with the local Warriors facing the Cavaliers and possibly becoming NBA champions.

  18. 18
    Zelda says:

    It was so exciting! So we’d work on our lesson and then we’d check the score after a roar.

    Back and forth like that, feeling the excitement of those who were watching.

    I couldn’t have imagined just ignoring what was going on and blocking it out.

    Very exciting that the Warriors won!

  19. 19
    Zelda says:

    Anyway, back to habits.

    Here’s how I incorporate the takeaway from Duhigg.

    I focus on what I want to create, vibrant health, for instance. Feeling good, having energy, thinking clearly, feeling comfortable in my body, etc.

    That becomes my reward in the habit loop.

  20. 20
    Zelda says:

    So then I develop the habits to get me there.

    I kind of surprised myself recently with this stuff, after I got unexpected results from a blood test.

    My doctor advised me to eat fruit only once a day, to cut back more on sugar.

  21. 21
    Zelda says:

    I *love* fruit, especially this time of year, when it is truly luscious at my favorite market.

    But I sure do love vibrant health even more. Can’t stand blood sugar spikes and how awful it feels.

    So I just did it. Cut back on fruit. Done.

  22. 22
    Zelda says:

    What keeps me going with this new habit is how much better I feel.

    I get more pleasure from that than from eating more fruit.

    When I’m clear about the reward that the action brings me, it’s much easier to maintain a habit.

  23. 23
    Zelda says:

    I think it’s common for people to be confused about the connection between their behavior they want to change and the reward that it gives them.

    Duhigg spells this out.

    I think, too, that it can be very tricky for empaths to make those connections in the beginning.

  24. 24

    ZELDA, thank you for this series of comments. I do think it’s important to clarify something about gaining Empath Empowerment.

    This really is NOT like developing a habit in behavior. Skilled empaths do not consciously avoid unskilled empath merges.

    Empath difficulties are related to positioning of consciousness, not behavior, and not trying to consciously control anything.

  25. 25

    So which habits are helpful for developing empath skills?

    If you have learned from “Become The Most Important Person in the Room,” that might do it for you. That simple 30-day plan for Empath Empowerment!

    When you feel the need for even more personal growth, cycle through the book again. Easy and sloppy, one short chapter per day and a bit of homework.

  26. 26

    If you are learning from “The Empowered Empath,” you will learn a bunch of practical techniques.

    It’s a more sophisticated approach, all related to positioning consciousness.

    For each technique that you learn, there will be clear instructions about when and how and why to use it.

    That simple.

  27. 27

    Whether you’re using the Expanded Edition or the Quick & Easy Edition, “The Empowered Empath” culminates in a super-duper technique for positioning consciousness. And for personal development.

    That’s the “Coming Home” technique.

    It IS recommended to make that into a habit. Not difficult, since it comes complete with instructions where, after time, it takes just 1-2 minutes per day. Which means faster than brushing your teeth with an electric toothbrush.

  28. 28

    There is one big habit that I DO urge all you Blog-Buddies to develop, whether you are empaths or not.

    That is to be careful about Technique Time, and keep it to 20 daily minutes maxiumum.

    You can find loads about that at this blog, including this Top 10 Post about Technique Time.

    Actually I wouldn’t call this a habit, really, so much as a Consciousness Lifestyle.

  29. 29
    Jnana says:

    ‘Empath difficulties are related to positioning of consciousness, not behavior, and not trying to consciously control anything.’

    I did realize when I got skilled that I really did not know how I did it.
    And yet don’t certain behaviours result in the positioning of consciousness differently?

  30. 30
    Jnana says:

    Not maintaing eye contact for too long.
    Or studying a persons features instead of looking into their eyes.
    Or doing the ‘I Like’ technique.

    Aren’t these consciously controlled behaviours which lead to the positioning of consciousness differently?

  31. 31

    Good points, JNANA.

    Regarding the short list of three things you mentioned in Comment 30, important for all you readers and lurkers:

    These come from “Become The Most Important Person in the Room.” Do not, I implore you, think you just read two “Tips” for empaths. Plus one technique, the “I Like” technique.

    With the first two, JNANA is referring to two variations on behavior that are taught in a context in that book. She used shorthand. Without the context, there could be problems, like “The cure might worse than the disease.”

  32. 32

    I wouldn’t call those first two ideas to be habits, JNANA. Rather these are strategies you can learn to do, helping you to live as “The most important person in the room.”

    They are not must do’s.

    Or all the time things to do.

    Instead they are part of a program, a “30-Day Plan for Empath Empowerment.” You play with that day’s concepts and homework. Then let it go.

    It is just like learning you could button your collar differently for some occasions, and then do it as you wish. And the context is that for the day, or chapter, when presented… you play around with it.

  33. 33

    You might wonder why I go to the trouble of making this distinction between a concept and strategy you learn to do as an occasional thing vs. a habit.

    That’s because, as an Empath Coach, I’m very aware of problems that empaths can have.

    Unnecessary problems.

    Most commonly, people develop a “Tips and coping strategies for empaths” mentality.

    This doesn’t work.

    Empath Empowerment requires a very simple shift to positioning of consciousness. My books for empaths are designed to make that happen, just like when I do Empath Empowerment mentoring over the phone or teach a workshop.

  34. 34

    By contrast, all over the Internet you will find loads of busywork.

    Like “Use crystals to clean off your aura.”

    Or “Protect yourself from negative people.”

    And by adopting these habits, constantly working on themselves and manipulating their lives by emphasizing energies, empaths don’t succeed. And can’t succeed. At becoming skilled empaths.

  35. 35

    However, these well-meaning people often DO succeed at propelling themselves into spiritual addiction.

  36. 36

    EMILY, regarding your Comment #10, here’s what will help you more than opening up a favorite chapter of “Become The Most Important Person in the Room.”

    Open it to the first chapter. Do one chapter per day, nice and sloppy.

    This way you go through the entire program. You deepen your skill level.

    A huge scope for deepening skills is built into that book, like my other how-to’s. You could cycle through that same book once every six months and keep getting more and more established as a skilled empath.

  37. 37

    Please do not use that “30-Day Program for Empath Empowerment” like a recipe book.

    If you want that sort of book, or just crave variety in your Technique Time, I recommend something else instead: “Let Today Be a Holiday: 365 Ways to Co-Create with God.”

    As an eBook, the title is “365 Ways to a Stronger You: Balance Your Human Life with Helping Others as a World Server.”

  38. 38
    Emily says:

    Thanks Rose. That does make sense. Will start at the beginning!

  39. 39

    EMILY, you’re welcome. And you know what else can really help?

    Start to use some Technique Time for exploring the techniques in “The Master Empath.”

    This is a huge resource, the only book you will find with a full set of techniques for doing Skilled Empath Merge.

    When you already have pretty good skills established at living with your empath gifts OFF, it can really help to experience some Skilled Empath Merge.

    It re-sets a kind of balance within you, as you’re finally activating your empath gifts on purpose, doing what these books are meant to help you do.

  40. 40
    Primmie says:

    Another ENFP here, so not a natural organiser. I have however changed a lot of habits in my time as I’ve let go of a fair few addictive patterns. Changing my behaviour never meant I lost spontaneity as I still pretty much relied on my wits and instinct to see me through everything.

    Recently though I’ve become super organised and my days are very structured. Having twins, especially when one has Autism, has changed me.

    Unfortunately, it’s not exactly a tip that I can suggest as a way of developing good habits – “Oh just have twins and make sure one of them adores order, easy!” I think other people might have a few more sensible and less sleep-depriving suggestions 🙂

  41. 41
    Isabella C. says:

    Jnana, your story about fuming made me laugh, in remembering some sort-of-similar experiences I’ve had.

    I have definitely learned a lot from, and gotten used to, the way Rose teaches.

    I train at a boxing gym that is run by one man, no employees. He operates the gym and does all the teaching and training. He is very effective and commands a lot of respect.

    He is different from Rose in many ways (for one, Rose is not a curmudgeonly old man), but is still very effective.

    So it has been useful for me to notice similarities and differences. What are the important things to keep and what are personal quirks and preferences?

  42. 42
    Isabella C. says:

    But, back to the fuming.

    Most people who come in are quite respectful. The atmosphere of the gym is relaxed and there is flexibility, but you know who is the boss and teacher.

  43. 43
    Isabella C. says:

    But sometimes new people will come in who are apparently not comfortable with, or acquainted with, that sort of subtly respectful dynamic.

    With respecting the teacher.

    And it makes me really angry.

  44. 44
    Isabella C. says:

    The other day a new person came in and sat on the mini-fridge in the corner and started talking on his cell phone.

    When the teacher walked over to greet him, he told him he was busy on the phone, wait a minute.

    I was so angry I almost informed him verbally of how impolite he was being, talking on his phone in the middle of our class.

  45. 45
    Isabella C. says:

    However my teacher didn’t look very annoyed and I think instead took it as information – that this new guy might not work out here. But no big deal, lots of people don’t work out here.

  46. 46
    Zelda says:

    Jnana, I’d have been annoyed by that teacher, too! Your comment helped me realize something about how I choose to go with spontaneity when teaching. Basically, it’s to support a teaching point, use an example of something from among those in class, like that.

    The basketball championship was a test! 🙂 It was only toward the end of the game and class that I relented and allowed a student to check her phone to update us.

    But going waaaay far afield, letting students take things off track? Oy!

  47. 47
    Zelda says:

    Rose, I wasn’t suggesting going down that path of trying out all kinds of supposedly empath-supportive techniques that are touted, but a waste of time. Nope.

    Certainly there are behaviors to be chosen to even get empaths started on the road to becoming skilled. Picking up a book. Reading it. Taking the actions at a very basic level that will integrate skills.

    That’s all I was referring to.

    Actually, I’m not keen on what sounded a bit like an insinuation that going down that other road was what I was talking about in mentioning habits.

    Just wanted to make that clear.

  48. 48

    Ooh, ZELDA, no insinuation meant. You know me, I’m not fancy enough to hint at people. And even if I decided to go into the Insinuation Business, no way would I start it with you!

    Thank you for all your contributions here. Meaning exactly that.

  49. 49
    Jnana says:

    Zelda, I actually thought that was a great and appropriate use of spontaneity for a class of students of that age group.

    An astute combination of routine and spontaneity.

  50. 50
    Jnana says:

    Isabella, that’s one zen teacher.
    A very different approach but considering he has a class of respectful students, it’s one that works.

  51. 51

    Gee, now that you have praised that teacher, JNANA, I can’t resist sharing my view as well. And it’s not nearly so complimentary as yours, in response to what ISABELLA C. described in Comments #41-45.

    So I’ll share my reaction to how that teacher handled the disrespectful student. Not commenting on the wonderfulness of this curmudgeonly teacher in general, but just that incident.

  52. 52

    This class wasn’t just Teacher JOE’s personal exercise in being. Or seeing what would happen if he allowed a badly behaved student to act out.

    JOE’s way of handling the disrespectful student wasn’t particularly respectful of the rest of the class.

    If someone as flexible as you, ISABELLA, fumed to such an extent that you nearly spoke up to express your displeasure, guess what? Every other student in that class probably had a similar reaction. And maybe a stronger reaction that soured that student’s experience of that whole class.

  53. 53

    Class time is sacred for learning. The teacher protects class time for the students who are respectful. And how many in that class signed up to learn about zen or minor interpersonal dramas?

    There are ways to build opportunities for spontaneous personal expression from students into a class. (I do that a lot.) However, spontaneity needs to be balanced with some structure.

    Otherwise any fool with bad manners can hijack the class experience.

    (My opinion, anyway.)

  54. 54
    Zelda says:

    Rose, I’m with you on that front with the teacher story!

    I consider setting the tone of the class to be an extremely important part of my job. As a teacher I communicate with every action and word. If I don’t make it clear that a disrespectful act will not be tolerated, I’m basically saying it’s OK for it to happen. Which is likely to encourage more of such behavior. Which is also likely to impact everyone else in the class.

    I’ve learned over the years that it’s quite important to nip that kind of behavior in the bud.

  55. 55
    Isabella C. says:

    Rose, I totally agree. Remembering now, he did walk back over and ask the guy to go outside to talk on his phone, which I appreciated.

    This was also in the context of a very noisy, messy space, with people yelling and punching and bells ringing. However there is a lot of structure – organized chaos. The principle still stands.

  56. 56
    Sandra says:

    Thank you, Zelda for your delightful insight. The idea of “spontaneity within structure” has me intrigued and excited to see how I can express this in my life. I am a “J”, so it will be from that angle, however.

  57. 57
    David B says:

    I took the full MB workshop/test. One thing I discovered there is that broadly, people tend to move towards the middle in any given pair as they age. but some stay very whatever in specific places.

    I’m a J and used to be over-structured, planning everything before acting. Not liking change or disruption. Always a little early for things. Now, much more flexible and spontaneous. Still plan and do the prep when it’s important but have eased way up about it.

    For example, missed a turn yesterday going to a new place on the highway. So I just turned at the next one, knew I was going in the right general direction and at a certain point, it became apparent where I was. All was well.

  58. 58
    David B says:

    While I’d agree the J-P axis has a bearing on structuring habits, I would not say it’s the only factor.

    One of the key details about habits is that its change and its programming the sub-conscious. We inherently resist change and a new habit may push against old habits. It must be repeated regularly to become established. Just like learning to walk or read.

  59. 59
    David B says:

    Another key detail is reinforcing the benefit. If we only experience the practicing of a new habit as difficult, it won’t get emotional buy-in and acceptance and will fall away.

    Another is environment. Is the environment supporting or creating resistance to change? For example, if we’re trying to loose weight, it’s a bad idea to keep our favorite ice cream in the house.

  60. 60
    David B says:

    Another that comes to mind is Belief. If we don’t believe we can do it, we may self-fulfill. This is where experience is useful, like in a workshop or the book exercises. When we have an experience to contradict the belief, we open the door to acceptance.

    If we can shift our beliefs, we shift the emotions that drive our behaviour and the habit gets easier to reinforce.

  61. 61
    David B says:

    The ideal is to find ways to make the habit-forming period pleasurable so we self-reinforce. Once it’s established, we experience the benefits and it will continue.

    Thats a few points that come to mind…

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