I am in the business of evolving people. I help people to get what they want by helping them to experience strategic personal changes in almost real time. The people in my inner circle (Exellence Installation Specialists), a focussed group of about 100 people who track how I do what I do, fondly refer to me as a story teller. They see me as the Parable Man, who comes up with metaphors that change lives. And the ONE question I am most asked is ‘How do you come up with these stories at the right moment for the right person?’
The truth is, most times, I don’t know, myself, what is the end to the narration I start. I know the facts. I know what happened in that story, I initiate. But when I start by sharing a story, at that moment I haven’t yet decided which elements to skip and which to include. Depending on the facts I cover, and the delivery, the same facts can become very different stories. However, in all that mix, there is one thing I do know – I always know what to say ‘next’. And as I say what I say, I pay close attention to the changes in breathing, the skin color, the tension in the muscles, the change in the internal rhythm, the blink in the eyes, the dilation of pupils and the subtle hums and sounds. All these clues lead me to what I say next. And I would continue until I see a response that indicates to me ‘the job done’
The art of being in this flow is ‘Spontaneity’
In this article I want to discuss the importance of knowing just ‘what next’ and being spontaneous as against to the desire of knowing the entire path or all the steps in the sequence. Consider this article for instance. I had the title ‘What Next?’. I had a direction, and I knew I wanted to write on the topic ‘Spontaneity’. I was lying on bed lazing around and thinking about the content. Then I went to my desk and even jotted down some points. And here is where the magic happened. I opened my laptop and started writing the article. After I typed in the heading, my fingers moved by themselves to type the opening line of the article. It is way different from what I had imagined this article to be, lying down in my bed. I read what I had written and I liked it. And I immediately knew what to type next. Then I quickly gathered some ideas and filled the page with several headings. And before I knew, I had more content than I had planned for! This is how it has worked for when I tell the stories, write blogs or publish podcasts. In the beginning there is just an idea calling to take the first step. And as you do, you unfold the path.
Once I was training a bunch of people on public speaking, and we had this young lady who was trying hard to decide what to speak when on the stage. And I told her, just get onto the stage, the rest will follow. And if you are an experienced speaker, you may as well have had this experience in an impromptu speaking invitation. You know your subject well enough. And as you walk onto the stage, you know the next thing to do is ‘smile’ and say ‘hello’. From there you just have an opener and as you deliver that opener you discover what to say next, and so on. It’s quite a roller coaster ride to be spontaneous in that manner. But a ride well worth it. It helps you to do what you do based on an ongoing continuous feedback, as well as it helps you to be more creative.
This does not mean you don’t prepare. On the contrary, the more you prepare yourself and equip yourself as an expert in whatever you do, the more you will find yourself being spontaneous. I didn’t just start telling stories. I practiced. I approached by learning it in a very structured manner. And now that I am fully ready, I have the luxury of winging it effectively.
Another important thing when ‘going with the flow’ is to know where you want to land. Elaborating on the opening illustration, before I start with a story, I know exactly what ‘category’ of change or response I am heading for. In an Installation context, I do know what mind-shifts I want to make to the intrinsic nature of a person. Being spontaneous in this sense only means you have deliberately not charted the exact steps but you definitely know where you are going with it. In fact, when people just do what they do, without knowing where they are heading towards – we call them ‘direction less’ or ‘aimless’. In that sense, there is a very thin line between being aimless (lacking strategy) and being spontaneous. And sometimes, it may happen that you connect the dots looking backward and you instantly know where to go forward. That is also another way to be spontaneous.
This way of being spontaneous is helpful not only in content creation, art and change work but it also in getting breakthroughs in bottleneck situations and personal productivity. If you feel like you have been stuck in any area of your life, do this. Just take the ‘next’ step forward and keep going even if you don’t know yet what to do after your next step. And you may well discover the joy of being spontaneous in getting unstuck!
In the chart below, I have illustrated the cycles people may go through in situations that demand spontaneity from them:
1. Lost – Waiting to have the entire plan and not knowing where you are heading towards;
2. Stuck – Waiting to have the entire plan fully knowing where you want to go;
3. Aimless – Doing what feels as the best thing to do without knowing where you finally want to be;
4. Spontaneous – Acting on the best choice at the moment fully knowing where you are heading towards.