Menu

The Introvert’s Hate/Hate Relationship With Spontaneity

“The man who is prepared has his battle half fought.” ~Miguel De Cervantes

They say you should live in the present, and “they” form a chorus of voices that is growing in number by the second. Everywhere you turn these days, the message is loud and clear: life is better when you live in the moment.

I get it; I really do. I know that when I hit that flow state, regardless of what I’m immersed in, time passes in a heartbeat and I tend to really enjoy myself.

It’s just that I would prefer it if I could plan those moments of flow some time in advance. I want—no I need—to prepare myself for the event of letting go. I need to be mentally ready so that I may jump into the river and let the current take me.

If I’m not prepared, that river turns out to be less of a serene, meandering brook, and more a surge of cascading torrents that pummel my senses until I’m half-drowned and ready to give up.

This is why I, the introvert, despise spontaneity in all its forms.

The first few weeks of university really tested me. I lived on campus in a dorm where I shared a communal kitchen with eleven other people. It didn’t matter what night of the week it was, there were people heading out to a bar, restaurant, or club.

I’d often get a knock at my bedroom door and an invitation to one of these nightly excursions: “Oh, hey, me, Johnny, and Mike are heading to {insert one of many different venues} for some beers. You wanna join us?”

At this point I’d be searching every corner of my mind for a reasonable excuse, a Get Out Of Jail Free card that would save me the pain of just saying no. I knew that if I did just decline without justification, I’d get the inevitable looks of astonishment as if I were turning down the opportunity of a lifetime.

“It’s Wednesday.” No, that won’t do.

“I’m tired.” Not going to cut it.

“I’ve just sat down to catch up on Friends.” Watch it another time, I’d be told.

I wanted to tell them the truth, but can you imagine what they’d have said? “Oh, thanks for the invite guys, but I’m an introvert and I can’t stand being spontaneous. Maybe another time, assuming you give me seven days notice in writing.”

Instead, I’d often just mumble something incoherent about how I’ve got a paper due the next day, or how I’m just on the phone with my parents. They usually got the message.

I didn’t avoid nights out entirely; I can be quite a social character when I want to be. I just made sure that I was mentally prepared beforehand. I’d agree (with myself in advance) that I was going out on a particular night, and I made sure I spent plenty of time alone in the afternoon or early evening to recharge my batteries for the oncoming festivities.

Eventually, I had a nice little routine going. I’d go out on Monday most weeks, Friday some weeks, Saturday almost every week, and the occasional Thursday. No other nights really got a look-in. And it tended to be the same set of places each time because of certain student promotions or theme nights.

What’s more, my friends knew when I was and was not going to accept their invitations, so they stopped knocking when they knew it was a waste of their time.

Somehow, I had managed to appear fairly sociable and outgoing while avoiding anything unexpected. I had planned my way out of spontaneity.

Structure: An Introvert’s Best Friend

My experiences as a student might not exactly mirror your situation, but as a fellow introvert, I’m sure you can relate to the need for structure and routine in your life.

There are few things less enjoyable for an introvert than being coerced into some random activity at some unplanned time with unfamiliar people. It’s literally our Kryptonite.

We simply cannot handle the unknowns: Where are we going? What is the place like? What will we be doing there? Who else is going? How are we getting there?

Perhaps the uncertainty that scares us most is not knowing when it will end. Social activity drains us, but spontaneous social activity burns through our energy reserves in double-quick time because of how much we have to think, react, and absorb when we’re not mentally ready for it.

If there’s no clear time at which things will draw to a close, we panic, knowing we’ll be utterly spent in the not-too-distant future.

Put some structure in place—primarily in the form of plenty of warning—and we will be able to extract far more enjoyment out of the very same event or activity. When we know it’s coming, we have time to open ourselves up to the possibility of enjoying ourselves. We remove our shackles and move more freely, both physically and mentally.

Be Confident In Your Boundaries

The reason I found those early weeks of university so difficult was because I felt bad saying no to people. I wanted to make friends as much as the next person, and I always had this nagging feeling that my refusal to take part would see me labelled as boring.

Somehow or another it all worked out, but I could have avoided plenty of insecurity had I just understood that putting personal boundaries in place is not a sign of weakness. I did say no to people, and I did it a lot. These days, I’m much more comfortable doing it, and it reduces the anxiety I feel around spontaneity itself.

I know I can turn down anything I don’t feel like doing, and I don’t worry so much about what other people think. I’ve learnt that, actually, most spontaneous people care a lot less about receiving a no from introverts like you or me. Or rather, they get over the rejection quickly because they’re too busy just getting on with whatever spontaneous act it is they are doing.

In these situations, it’s the introverts who tend to overthink everything. You may dwell on the exchange for hours after it happened, considering all of the possible ways you could have handled it better or the consequences of your refusal. The big deal exists almost entirely in your head. So it’s in your head that the battle must be won.

The challenge is to know your boundaries intimately and to build them strong and sturdy so that you are able to confidently say no to offers and invitations that you either have not planned for or do not think you’d enjoy. No is not a dirty word and you shouldn’t be afraid of using it.

Take The Reins Yourself

There is a relatively simple way to avoid spontaneous requests from others: get in there first. You want a plan in place, right? You crave structure in your life. Then create the plan and add the structure yourself.

Don’t wait for your friends to suggest you meet up that night, or the next night for dinner. Suggest a date and a time that feels comfortable for you. A few days time, next week, in a fortnight; it doesn’t matter as long as it gives you enough time to prepare mentally.

And if you know that these events tend to happen naturally every couple of months, keep this in mind and put a note on your calendar to start suggesting dates well in advance. This also has the added benefit of making you seem like the sociable one because you’re doing much of the organizing.

Yes, you may be an introvert, but that doesn’t mean you don’t ever want to see anyone. We introverts can enjoy ourselves as much as anyone else, but having some forewarning will only serve to make the whole process more compatible with your needs and wishes.

About Steve Waller

Steve Waller is a big believer in the power of self-improvement and wants to see others open themselves up to the possibilities of life. He took this passion and founded A Conscious Rethink—a blog dedicated to helping others overcome the roadblocks they face on their paths. You can also follow him on Facebook and Pinterest.

See a typo, an inaccuracy, or something offensive? Please contact us so we can fix it!
  • Cate

    An insightful post, Steve — thank you! My introverted nature has become stronger as I age, and I do my best to respect it. You’re right that being able to bring an end to sociability when one has had enough is key; for that reason, I often drive myself to the few social events I choose to attend.

  • Nigel

    I am an Introvert and i need to be told where we are going beforehand so i can mentally prepare especially if there is going to be a large crowd where we are going. I get emotionally drained easily. Also, I like to retreat into my own fantasy world in my mind from time to time so showing up unexpectedly to go somewhere makes me anxious!

  • ShaunTheCHB

    I hate the spontaneous behavior of the world, I always prefer to plan things out. I’m most definitely an introvert, yet people always tell be to do the opposite. “You ain’t living life” they always say.

  • Steve

    Glad you enjoyed it Cate. Good idea driving yourself – the last thing you want is to be waiting around for a more extroverted person to leave so you can get a ride.

  • Steve

    Sounds like I’m not alone in this then Nigel!

  • Steve

    That sort of sentiment about not living life is rife unfortunately, but it’s also totally incorrect. We introverts just have a different vision of what life looks like.

  • This was eye-opening for me and helped me to learn a bit about myself. I knew that I didn’t like spontaneity and I knew that I asked more questions about the how/what/who/when of an activity when others just went with the flow, but I hadn’t linked that to my being an introvert. Depending on how comfortable I am with the people, I find that I get the “ready to go” feeling within 30 minutes to an hour of being some place social, but that sometimes seems too soon to leave . . . especially if you’re the first one to go.

    I am learning to embrace being an introvert and being comfortable in my choices. For me, it is ok to hear about the updates of a social outing; I don’t have to live each one. I’m also ok with the label of being “boring.” I, myself, know that I am never bored when I am home alone. Never. Even though the person assessing would be bored home alone for any significant amount of time. It’s ok to offer a clear and firm “no” if your heart isn’t into a proposed social activity.

  • andrea

    Thanks Scott! While I definitely agree that introverts can only survive with structure in their lives i’ll take it one step further and mention that I hate planned events even more than spontaneous ones. In other words I hate both. Planned events bring with them a sense of dread. The situation unfolds this way: Counting down the minutes until the scheduled thing arises, planning and un-planning how to get out of it, and then ultimately cancelling last minute because the stress of waiting for a social situation was way worse than doing something I didn’t have to think about beforehand. Don’t get me wrong. My entire day/life is structured so I’ll face the minimum amount of pain, but sometimes that means being painfully spontaneous so I don’t have to factor in the stress and looming doom feelings and an upcoming obligation.

  • Daryl

    How weird. I never thought of spontaneity as relating to introversion. I’m an introvert and I actually enjoy spontaneous events more than I enjoy planning an event myself. If I look at my schedule and I’ve got free time I’ll try to grab some people to do something, and I’m usually up for last-minute invitations from others as well. What I hate is trying to work around everyone’s busy schedules. If someone else is planning the event, all the better, but I’m sure as heck not gonna do it. All of this is as long as it’s with a relatively small group of people I know, of course.

  • Lars H

    I think it is wrong to establish a 1:1 relationship between being introvert and disliking spontaneity.

    I like spontaneity a lot – just not at all times or with anyone.

    I renew my energy with myself, where some of the extrovert people I know, need to be with other people to renew their energy.
    If one of them do something spontaneous to do that, It is usually not for me.

    But if someone suggests something spontaneous just for the “adventure” I’m in..!

    It is difficult to pinpoint the exact difference but I believe it might be, that the first situation is just about the people interaction (an extrovert friend of mine says he sometimes needs his “people bath”) and the other is about the “ride”.

  • name1234

    As am introvert myself, I can’t exactly relate to this. Maybe introversion often goes together with a dislike of spontaneity, but I wouldn’t say they are inherently linked. I usually recognize in retrospect that I act far too impulsively. I am an adrenaline junkie and act often with a bit too much reckless abandon. When a close friend asks if I want to do something, my first instinct is to agree without hesitation.

    That said, I’m still an introvert. I almost always prefer solitude over the company of others. It’s not that I suffer from abnormal amounts of social anxiety, rather I find that socializing with anyone other than a close friend (I only have a few, and none live within an hour drive) saps me of my energy. Often I foolishly agree to socialize with new people and realize my mistake later when I see they have nothing to offer and just want to leech small talk out of me to ease their insecurity. It reminds me that my life is usually richer when I go it alone.

  • robert graden

    I was an alcoholic for decades. Stopped drinking on 9/12/17. Have been treated for schizophrenia for 25 years, but now, medicating seems not to work. I post to my own blog to try to educate myself about my own ‘condition’ and hope others read, too. I gave away my Susan Cain book, _Quiet_, to another introvert. It takes me forever to process information. Dunno if I have autism or not. However, this article gave me an insight. I have joined you guys, and it feels good to know that it’s OK to stay indoors and watch the rain.

  • LMorello

    I’d also agree with other commenters – introversion doesn’t equate spontaneity. I’d recommend taking the Myers-Briggs test It may be you are introvert, but also a judger rather than a perceiver. Judgers plan a lot in advance and aren’t fond of last-minute events. I’m an INFP – love spontaneity, but still crave and need my time alone or just in 1 to 1 interactions. Nice article though, along with the advice of honoring your needs. Important in this extroverted culture of the U.S.

  • Faith McDevitt Liikala

    Spot on! You just summed up my life’s struggle.

  • Kells_Bells

    I would agree. If it is a planned event, I spend the weeks, days, hours, minutes, pep-talk in the car, leading up to said event dreading it. Then there is the event it’s self which often takes me about an hour to relax into (hoping no one notices my anxiety, which gives me more anxiety). I often enjoy more spontaneous social events because I won’t have time to fret over how miserable I am going to be there. Not to mention, I have an easier time saying no to something in the moment than a planned event because I can just say I don’t feel like going.

  • Kells_Bells

    Yes, I always drive if possible. There is nothing worse than being stuck somewhere and wanting to leave. Plus, there are very few other drivers I feel comfortable riding with. Even then, being a passenger makes me anxious.

  • d00n

    Yeah. Take a person hiking through a forest or walking through a city by themselves. An introvert is still an introvert whether they plan where they walk or not.

    That being said, the whole “be in the moment” cliche is way overdone, and not for everyone.

  • Patiently

    My reaction, too. The need for structure doesn’t seem to jibe with introversion.

    My introversion has to do with protecting my battery’s energy — as several others have said.

  • Patiently

    Congratulations on ditching the booze.

  • tippypixie

    Yes, this doesn’t describe me well even though I’m most definitely a strong introvert. I think spontaneity is a different characteristic separate from introversion that you happen to have and others do not.

    I get not wanting to go a huge social event where I don’t know many people well if I’m already low on energy, but knowing about it weeks in advance isn’t really a big help aside from the fact that I probably won’t plan other big social things that day.

    I don’t usually have big social events daily, so if someone invites me to one and I know and like the people going, I’ll usually accept. In fact, I’m often the one who will do things such as inviting people out to lunch at work just as much as the other way around.

    For social events involving huge groups of people I don’t know well and where I have to make small talk and chit chat, I find it much more draining than smaller groups where I know everyone well (such as my immediate group at work). Yet, I don’t find knowing about these larger social events far in advance a big advantage in most circumstances.

  • d00n

    First, we probably need to define what it is to be out of the moment.

    I am going to propose that “rumination” is out of the moment. Analytical reasoning/rehashing: also out of the moment. Everything else is more or less “in the moment.”

    I suspect the reason this is the case is that, for most people, these thought processes are left-brain. I suspect that when the left side of the brain implements these processes, it uses very little energy (the brain is more or less quiet)…AKA, the brain is bored.

    However, if you tend to use your right brain to accomplish these tasks, you are probably exceptionally skilled and can come up with great planning insight…at the same time, the computation is probably more intensive (your brain is lit up), so you are not bored.

    This probably means your social skills are organized to some extent in your left brain, so you simultaneously (1) struggle with many social interactions at once, (2) are very focused one-on-one, (3) generally find it–interacting with people socially–more boring and draining than applying your right brain to an analytical/planning task.

  • Leefy

    I’m an introvert and I do experience same dislike to spontaneity as described in the article. By now I have somewhat educated my family regarding this and everyone knows, if they want for us to enjoy an event together or even my 5 year old knows, if he wants me to walk him in school he needs to give me a day ahead warning 😀
    But from the other side – I do like being spontaneous on my own terms 🙂

  • Carol Morgan

    Me too. INFP here. I am often spontaneous, don’t need to make a plan for everything and am mildly annoyed with those who do to be honest. But I do need my alone time to recharge.

  • ccddppff

    Why do people feel the need to extrapolate their personal experience to everyone that shares one personality trait with them? This should be entitled “I have a hate/hate relationship with spontaneity”.
    I’m an introvert, and I love spontaneity and hate planning. If I have to commit to something in advance, I can’t know if I’m going to have the energy to be with people at the scheduled time. Spontaneity allows me to act in the moment based on my current threshold for human interaction.

  • EMyrt

    Good point.
    I’m an INTJ and the planning is almost more important than the time alone.
    but I agree with Steve that setting aside times to be spontaneous (Mon, Fri, Sat) makes it much less stressful.

  • Marty Ewer

    Steve Waller, you should read up on the Meyers-Briggs personality types. I think you are missing a lot of understanding in your relating being an introvert and despising spontaneity. My understanding is that people who prefer to plan tend to have J (judging) as the last letter in their personality type (versus P, perceiving). This has little to do with the first letter being an I (introvert) versus an E (extrovert). Just because you are an introvert who prefers to plan doesn’t mean that there aren’t just as many extroverts who prefer to plan.

  • robert graden

    Thanks a lot. Working on daily structure and diet. Trying to be more social without fear. Fear is my worst enemy.

  • elektronen

    I have to disagree with this take on introversion. I am an introvert, as are my wife and two sons. The thing that distinguishes me from them is primarily that they all have brain chemistry gone awry, leading to bipolar and anxiety diagnoses and daily medication. To equate introversion with anxiety is a mistake, and it’s the anxiety that leads to the need to have so much structural control. The list presented: “Where are we going? What is the place like? What will we be doing there? Who else is going? How are we getting there?” is textbook anxiety thinking, as I’ve seen it many times in my sons, especially during the phase when we were still zeroing in on the right balance of several medications.

    All ‘introvert’ means in my lexicon is that I prefer to spend time alone to spending time with others, and that the more people present at some function, the faster I’m going to run out of juice for socializing. I can spend hours with a single person, and often find these interactions at least ‘trickle-charge’ my batteries with the enjoyment of individual connection, and buy me more time before I need to go immerse myself – solo – in music, writing, books, and obsessive research on the Internet. I almost universally avoid large group events – as much as they might involve an interest of mine – because I have to balance topical interest with the fact that I will have almost no quality interactions and will likely be sensorily overwhelmed by how loud such events can be.

    However, I do many things spontaneously, albeit of my own volition, and not at the behest of others. I certainly don’t have to plan whether I’m going to go hang (on my own) at a brewery a week in advance – I just do it. I often indulge my curiosity about a place I have never been, also spontaneously. I might have a different take if I was constantly being asked to engage socially on others’ schedules, but the combination of working mainly as a remote tech worker, living in Montana, and being an old dude means those things don’t actually come up very often.

    While I may disagree with your premise confusing introversion and anxiety, the overall list of methods for seeing to one’s own needs, and establishing clear boundaries, is spot-on.

  • Jennifer Kafer

    Robert that is fantastic! Keep up the good work, if you are having trouble I find that drinking unsweetened cranberry juice (R.W. Knudsen is a brand I can think of) diluted with water, for some reason seems to take away cravings. Not sure if this will help or not but wanted to share. Take care!

  • Mark_Tulk

    An idea, expressed in too many words, is as useless as a drug dissolved in too much water.
    – Lao tsu / Chuang tsu , China [ “He said…”, attrib. ca.600 BC – 600 AD ]

  • dpmol

    At age 73 I look back at remarkable life moments, and remember one spring morning when I was in college and there was a loud banging on my apartment door at around 5-530. Who? Some friends were dressed, ready to go, with frying pans in their hands. Off we went into the mountains for a morning breakfast of bacon & fried eggs over an open fire. Could life get better, I thought? Don’t know how. Still think it. I miss that spontaneity that seems to be lacking now that I have older friends. Maybe it’s time to create it again.

  • Eduard Kotorobay

    grow the fuck up and stop creating problems that dont exist

  • robert graden

    I already do like cranberry juice, and tons of tomato and V8. Ice cream is a fave. I was supposed to go to church Sunday, but stayed home to process stuff. Everything takes me longer. Thanks for encouraging.

  • David Green

    I’m an INTP, and I’ll agree with you. My boss and a former team lead at work were both Js, and they wanted everything planned out well in advance, and it drove me up a wall. From what I’ve been able to tell, my P/J split is fairly close to the middle, so having plans that I have made upset really bothers me (unlike I/E, where I peg the meter on I). But, frankly, planning is more a source of stress to me than it is a relief from it. So I’m going to guess that, yeah, the author of this piece is I??J, and it’s that J that’s the source of the planning desire, not the I.

  • Nina H

    For those of you who are feeling the disconnect between introversion and spontaneity, there is a reason. A few of you shared your Myers-Briggs type, and for those familiar with it, spontaneity is a function of the Judging – Perceiving pair (J-P), not the Introversion – Extroversion (I – E) pair. Judging personality types prefer planning, list making, and organization over “winging it”. Perceiving types prefer to “keep the options open” and see what wonderful things could happen. Spontaneity is comfortable for P types, but can make J types go nuts because of the perceived lack of control over what will happen. This article describes a strong preference for J over P behavior, not Introversion over Extroversion.

    Both introverts and extroverts can be either judging or perceiving in their preferences. Extroverts can have just as much of a need for planning as introverts. Mr. Waller has just confused introversion with perceptive preferences, which is what makes so many people not connect with this post. Mr. Waller, there are many sites that can help you learn about Jungian theory. Meyers-Briggs is one of the best know and highly researched ones.

  • Jennifer Kafer

    Oh yes I almost forgot about tomato juice, it’s got potassium and is just very tasty with a little salt added. Foods with B vitamin will also help because we tend to be lower in the B vitamins. & I hear you. I am an introvert as well, I often worry that I may turn into a hermit as I get older, and the sad thing is, I don’t see that as a problem! LOL
    All the best,
    Jennifer

  • MontyJohnston

    The problem is when mindfulness is an addictive escape from your inner demons because you haven’t done psychotherapy and addiction recovery.

    It helps when flow is done for itself and not for one’s ulterior motives.

  • Jennifer Kafer

    Why would you log in to post such a nasty comment? If you don’t like the article, there’s no reason to post such mean nonsense. This may not be a problem for you, but it obviously is for some people. I’m happy that you don’t struggle with it.

  • robert graden

    I thrashed myself for being introverted forever. Finally I had to accept that Rob’s morality is something different, but I don’t harm anybody. Never been in a fistfight in my life. Best to you, too. I like the tip on B vites. I bet thiamine is most important. I eat a lot of enriched bread.

  • durhamguy2

    You appear to be some combination introverted and obsessive-compulsive. You misattribute your dislike of spontaneity to introversion when it is due to your obsessive nature. Many introverts love spontaneity.

  • martincf

    Slayer

  • Bob

    Agreed completely. I love last minute ideas that sound good.

  • Talie Pett

    I was a bit torn myself on this article. While I am an introvert, I wasn’t sure about the spontaneity bit. I actually thrive on spontaneity! But this article got me thinking and I realized something–the spontaneous actions that I’m okay with and love, are ones that I’m familiar with.

    For example, having a friend over last minute? If that friend has come over many times before, than I’m more likely to say yes!

    I’m spontaneous about things I’m familiar/comfortable with because I have a good idea of what the situation will be like. So, less prep time to mentally prepare basically.

    No doubt though, this is not a boxed scenario. But this article is thought-provoking.

  • Bob

    INFP :wave:

  • Bob

    INF P here as well and that is right on.

  • PsychPhDK

    Hey fellow INFP!

  • Eduard Kotorobay

    I struggle with it a lot but bitching and moaning won’t change anything.

  • Jennifer Kafer

    Fair enough. I swear just like everybody else but your comment just got me down, there’s enough meanness in the world without you or me adding to it.

  • Mooderator

    co-sign

  • Eduard Kotorobay

    Oh God, did someone in the outside world effect your emotions? WEAK

  • Jennifer Kafer

    LOL. No not really. I just felt like commenting, new to Disqus.
    I’m an old bat but yeah, probably too sensitive at times. I do try not to be a jerk tho, as much as possible.
    The thing is, maybe bitching & moaning about a problem helps others to see they’re not alone, and maybe that’s the purpose of articles like these.

  • Brandy Lynne

    I am an introvert, yet I prefer spontaneity most of the time. When I make plans I find myself becoming increasing anxious as that date approaches. I do not enjoy surprises, but not planning something relieves a lot of anxiety.

  • Squirrelology

    Can’t leave when you want=panic. That is me in a big way. I also prefer time alone. I have never struggled with it in any big way. If someone calls me and says “Come over, we are having a cook out in an hour”, I have zero problem saying “no”. I simply don’t do last minute. The same invite a day in advance, and I’m all over it.

  • ccddppff

    I don’t know what this means

  • Jennifer

    As an INFJ, I have to say this describes me to a T. I enjoy being with friends and family but more so when prepared in advance. It took me a while to recognize that it is important to me to have alone time and boundaries and not feel like a party pooper, a moniker bestowed on me when I didn’t always want to go out as a child with my more outgoing sister and peers.

  • Kati

    This truly speaks to my soul. Thank you, fellow Innie, for writing this. I find I do like spontaneity, but only when it’s on my terms (such as the desire for a job not to be mundane, and for new things to be done and encountered… within the boundaries of “reason” I’m okay with, that is). I also love spontaneity when it’s with that one person in the world I can truly be comfortable around, because I’ve found that alone time with them recharges me as much as alone time with myself does; still looking for said person, but the rare glimpses in life I’ve felt, and experienced of this phenomena with people I became most comfortable around (on a short-term level, since I was younger and more open to being vulnerable than I am now; learned that lesson though lol), were surprising.

    But it’s much more difficult when it comes to having to encounter people in general, yes. I’m still growing when it comes to the act of saying no to people and obligations I don’t actually want any part of. Michaela Chung also has a superb article on how we (or at least many of us seem to) hate telephones, too, because of how they spontaneously barge into our lives with their ringing. It’s funny how many shared traits we have.

  • Toria Rose

    Loved this article, laughed out loud at the point where you mentioned several days notice and in writing,ha. I’m totally in line with what you’re saying here. But I even kinda wince at all the social activity you say you’re good with, as long as it’s planned. A little too much for me. Crowds overwhelm me, but I do like a reasonable amount of human interaction. It does depend on the ppl. What I crave is freedom, and I see that in having structure that aligns with what I want or that I implement. To me, when you answer the phone or the door or say “yes” to any other right-now invitation with a sense of obligation you’ve just given someone else the reins to your life. It feels suffocating and controlling to me. If I feel pressured to do anything, my automatic (usually quiet) response is, “oh hell no.” lol. Even if it’s something I may have wanted to do 🙂 Really appreciated this article.

  • Kati

    Can completely relate with that sense of dread. Ohh, how horrible it is :/

  • James Alias

    Some introverts love being spontaneous. If you believe in the Myer-Briggs 16 personality types not everyone is an ISTJ. I am an ISTP personality type and find ISTJ people boring while I can’t handle the overload of an extrovert the other introvert types don’t overload my senses while not being bored out of my skull.

  • Kati

    Agreed. That’s one of the big things missing from this. Have found the enneagram to be quite helpful as well, actually, as certain types there, are also known to do things like hoard time to themselves, etc.

  • Joey Tucker

    I agree with what everyone is saying. As an Introvert, it doesn’t mean you dislike spontaneity. I, like many others have said love spontaneous better than planned, the reason is simple. If it is planned, you have all of that time to think about it, to worry about it, to develop anxiety about it. If it is spontaneous, you cannot think about it and over read it, you just go. Introvert doesn’t mean social anxiety per se, but for many it can develop into it if you have to think about it for an extended period of time. Perfect example, a High School reunion coming up in a year. As each month passes and it gets closer, the worse it will be. If it were a spur of the moment, oh hey were going to that “blank”, no problem!

  • ben

    counterpoint: spontaneity breeds routine, which contributes heavily to neural degeneration as you age. If you want to have a spry brain at 70 that isn’t constantly meandering off or getting lost, you need to step out of your comfort zone 😉

  • Flotsette

    There seems to be a lot of people disagreeing with your thesis, and claiming that introversion and spontaneity are completely separate traits. Especially people that are into Meyers Briggs. But I agree with you, I feel they are very connected (at least in me) because I need to set aside the psychological reserve to do the activity beforehand. When my extroverted friend calls and wants to go out to dinner right now on a weeknight, I just haven’t allotted the energy for it. I find it interesting reading that some introverts dread planned events more and I can see why they feel that way too. There’s no doubt I test out as a —J though when I do Meyers Briggs so they might have something there.

  • Regina Phalange

    I’m as introverted as they come and I think I prefer spontaneity over planned events. If I have an event/social outing planned, I actually tend to dwell on it and obsess about it until it actually happens. I get anxious thinking about how I’m going to feel, if everything will go well, etc. I also have arthritis and never know which days will be high pain days, so that plays into the anxiety about having planned events.

  • Hank Zhong

    I normally don’t bother to comment, but I want to make sure the readers understand something important:

    As a few has mentioned in one form or another below, introversion and spontaneity are 2 completely separate dimensions of personality. One does not cause the other. Being introverted does not mean you dislike spontaneity. Introversion is highly correlated with the ‘extroversion’ dimension within the big 5 personality theory, the most well researched and scientifically tested personality theory in psychology. While spontaneity is highly correlated with the ‘openness’ dimension. For reference, the other dimensions are conscientiousness, neuroticism, and agreeableness.

    Even when you look at less scientifically valid personality paradigms, like MBTI for example, you see that introversion and spontaneity are separate dimensions. Introversion is related to the E-I dichotomy, while spontaneity is tied to the P-J dichotomy.

    TL;DR: don’t attribute your dislike for spontaneity to your introversion

  • The Divine Miss M

    This is an excellent point- I think as an ISTJ, it’s more the J part that causes panic when things happen outside the plan. The “I” is just kind of auxiliary.

  • Charley Birkner

    Now it’s time for someone to write the Extrovert article 🙂

  • Charley Birkner

    It means you are signing on to this opinion also, like “bumping” the comment up 🙂

  • ccddppff

    Duh. Thanks. Brain temporarily off line.

  • Darnell Cate

    Thank you for relating what I have dealt with my whole life. I kind of found the outlined strategy on my own as I’ve gotten older. But your feelings have enlightened me and let me feel someone else is like me. Thank you.

  • Patiently

    Alcohol can make fear and anxiety worse.
    You are doing great. It’s ok to take time to process stuff.
    It’s call reflection and it helps to make us whole.
    The way you are is just fine.
    Peace.

  • robert graden

    I think patience from others isn’t too much to expect. I recall feeling left behind like the “unicorn” while Noah’s ark took off on the flood. I wasn’t like the other animals. I’m still not, and that’s the wonderful part. This unicorn is spared a fate worse than death. No regrets! Thank you for your feedback; very valuable to me.

  • Kelsey Reid

    Soooo me it’s crazy!!

  • Azimut Space

    Hi! Your blog really makes me think. I identify as introverted too. I think it’s better to practice saying “yes” to life with greater and greater competency than try to box in novelty. Life will be patient with you for awhile, but then it’ll wallop you.

    When faced with spontaneous experiences, I noticed that I have often (and actively) tried to imagine, predict, manage or otherwise intercept possible outcomes before they even had a pinky-toe in manifest reality.

    In such an event, my mental and emotional energy would be firing all cylinders. But, I was wasting too much energy! Normally, nothing turned out to be anywhere anything as much as I’d estimated it to be. The anxious mind is always grasping for reference points.

    Working through meditation to do away with that unneeded exertion has freed up more of me to actually look at the possibilities and enjoy “what is” instead of be sunk into judging many figments things that aren’t actual.

    Meditation has been so good for me on this. By watching thoughts, I feel it strengthens my own psychological locus of control. And it reminds me of how little mental exertion is needed to most things in comparison to how much I habitually apply.

    When I’ve been doing meditation on the regular, I feel much less need to do all of the “imagination calculus” and just feel and respond to the world “as is”. I can pick up my comfort zone and take it with me because it was the habit of mind that was eating me, not the event.

    After all, my jam-packed “preemptive strike” scenarios could scarcely hold up to the dynamism of reality.

    They’d detonate in my face — most times happily — to reveal in the present moment holds much more enjoyment and growth than an anxious mind does.

  • June Don Metz

    As an INFJ this totally resonated with me. It also occurred to me that besides the need for mental and emotional preparation, planning activities in advance gives me that delicious sense of Something to Look Forward to. I would not agree to do anything I would dread. But spontaneity for me is akin to being tossed a ball that I am seldom able to catch. 99% of the time when I receive a spur of the moment invitation I’m at a loss for how to deal with it. In the past this made me feel woefully socially inept, but now I realize it’s just the way my system responds to stimuli. So I totally agree with this author, that I have to process the possibility and warm up to an idea before I gain the willingness to participate in something..

  • Paul

    Hmmm so the part about the uncertainty of not knowing when something will end made me realize something about myself. I have a tendency to show up to parties late. Like… hours late sometimes (if it’s a long party and there isn’t something I NEED to be on time for). Maybe this has been my way of subconsciously making sure that I don’t get stuck at a party for longer than I want to be there. There is usually an unwritten end time for parties, like the time when you know your friends are usually ready to call it a night. I feel a little uncomfortable ducking out before the end, having to say goodbye when no one else is, etc. Plus I’m a night owl type so it works out perfectly!

    What’s funny is that in college I was at my most introverted and like the author I turned down a lot of invites. Whenever I had a night where my roommates were all going to be out I was like “yes, I can stay in and watch TV alone!” I didn’t have many friends in college…

    My social life is much better now so maybe I just made subconscious adjustments to how I socialize. I have more friends than ever, and find myself WANTING to go out and do things with friends a lot more than in the past. But at the same time I’m mostly unwilling to break out of my workweek routine of just going to the gym and then relaxing after work (except on Fridays). I guess it’s just a process of figuring out what works best for your own brand of introversion…