Small Joys of Spontaneity: The Case for Being an Impulsive Person


Small Joys of Spontaneity: The Case for Being an Impulsive Person

Illustration: Arati Gujar

A little about me: My bank account is permanently empty, my hair is as short as I could possibly have it without looking like a prepubescent boy, and if I had my way, there’d be at least three more tattoos dotting my body. I end up spending a chunk of my salary the day I receive it, cut off eight inches of my hair whenever I’m bored, and head out at 2 am to satisfy my shawarma cravings. As you can probably tell, I’m an extremely impulsive person who sees no point in wasting 15 hours overthinking something.  Naturally, I’ve also been told by countless people that I should seek a “cure”.

But what exactly is “dangerous” about my personality and why is everyone so hell-bent on treating it? Sure, being impulsive isn’t going to win me the Nobel Prize and sometimes it gets me in trouble. But it’s also the reason why I’ve done very few things I regret.

The way I see it, each one of us is impulsive. But half of the population mercilessly suppresses those impulses, because you know “log kya kahenge?” Take it from someone who doesn’t like making herself miserable: It’s pretty lovely (and convenient for my wallet) to not need drugs or alcohol to get high. Or do something completely spontaneous, irrational, and unpredictable that no one could have seen coming.

Most of us don’t think too highly of momentary happiness. Our eyes are set on larger goals like getting a promotion, taking a luxury vacation, or getting hitched. It’s only in these big moments that we unleash some doses of our impulsiveness. But what we don’t realise is that in this needless act of rationalising, we chip away a part of ourselves. A part of us that could’ve lived in the moment.

Being impulsive has given me a different kind of joy, one that ensures that there’s not much that I’m afraid to do.

An essay titled “Overthinking is the Root of All Your Problems” posits, “When you’re constantly thinking, worrying and analysing, you aren’t in the moment. You are taken out of the moment and instead put in a place of suffering. What good does staying in the past do? Where can you go from these thoughts?”

Being impulsive has given me a different kind of joy, one that ensures that there’s not much that I’m afraid to do. Take me for instance; I like you? I’ll tell you. I hate you? I’ll tell you that too. I want to buy something? You’ll see me with it tomorrow. I don’t like a job? I quit. I want to bungee-jump? Okay, maybe that one will take some thinking, but I definitely won’t chicken out. I’m not saying that thinking things through is the worst thing to do, but tell me one thing: How can you do everything you actually wanted to, if you spent so much time thinking about it?

Allow me to give you an example. A few years ago, egged on by my flat tummy, I decided to secretly rush out and get a belly piercing. I loved it and kept staring at it for the rest of the day. But after a few days, I began to panic: What if my parents find out? What if it gets infected? What if I develop a paunch? Eventually I had it removed. Did I waste a lot of money on this secret mission? Of course. Did I understand that I should think a little more about the consequences of my actions? Without a doubt. But does it mean that I regret it? Hell no. If I hadn’t gotten the piercing on an impulse, I don’t think I would have ever known how much I’d actually like it. And what I learnt from this experience was that putting a lot of thought into something would only limit the things I’m actually willing to try. Because what can you trust if you’re not willing to trust your own impulse?

That said I do have a few regrets though I’d rather not ponder over them. I’ve ended a few friendships and relationships impulsively. I remember this nice boy I dated in college and it was all going right. He had a great sense of humour, we liked the same authors and movies, plus he gave me the space I needed. But I began to get restless after two months, and after a few days of struggling to find excuses to break up with him, I woke up one morning and made up my mind that the relationship wasn’t working. I sent him a text and never responded to any of his messages or emails. It was only after meeting my fair share of not-so-nice boys that I realised he was probably a keeper.

Maybe being impulsive is terrible. There are probably loads of scientific studies to suggest that. I mean, I’m probably going to be bald or broke, and/or probably both in the next 10 years. But the way I see it, at least I’ll have stories to tell. Stories I’ll be proud of telling, about the strangest things I’ve been brave enough to try.