Winging It: Fun, Spontaneity and Intuition in Your Primal Life

We’re well into the third week of the Challenge, and I’m thinking these days about fun. Yes, fun – the pure amusement, pleasure, and self-indulgence of it. Did Tuesday’s active entertainment post tip you off? A challenge, of course, implies goals, structure, progress, and the associated measurements of these. While indispensable, I get a little bored with them from time to time. Hands? Why can’t a healthy lifestyle be about fun and spontaneity? Why can’t it be about enjoying life rather than parsing it out in pre-approved steps? Oh, wait. It can.

It’s a simple but vital dimension of the Primal Blueprint – the concept of the journey itself. Yes, many of us have particular “highlights” we’d like to hit, but there’s plenty to savor along the way. Living the PB, after all, is about living “whole,” living fully – or at least relishing the attempt anyway. The heart of the PB of course isn’t the diet itself or the exercise or the sleep. Sure, these are all essential components, but there’s something bigger, more expansive, more ambitious and radical at the core.

The Primal Blueprint is a broader reclaiming of our evolutionary model – as much of it as makes good and useful sense – and molding it to promote better health and contentment in our lives today. While we have a lot to learn from our ancestors’ diet and movement, we can learn something from their overall approach to life. For example, I don’t imagine Grok carrying around an anti-stress checklist or putting a reminder on his smartphone to “play” at 5:30 today. I don’t envision him logging onto his FitDay profile multiple times in an afternoon or counting his lunges and burpees.

Are all of these modern tools great? Can they be immensely helpful and make healthy living (particularly a Primal transition) easier? Absolutely. I’m not out to knock them today. (I use them myself after all.) My thought today is simply this: taking a day to wing it.

In committing to the Primal Blueprint Challenge, most folks are naturally focused on results. They’re out to lose those ten pounds. They hope to improve some ominous lab numbers. They want to lift more, run longer, or push harder. Go for it. I hope you’re well on your way toward that goal, but I wonder if this point in the Challenge opens up another possibility. How about taking a respite from the mechanics of the process? How about releasing our attachment to any goal itself?

What would it mean, for example, if you didn’t keep track of anything today? No lists, no FitDay, no schedule (for Challenge related pursuits), no menu? I’m not talking about chucking the inclination toward healthy, Primally minded choices. I mean putting aside for a day (or more) the self-designed, individually imposed plans. Surrender some of the energy that goes into that structure. Turn your focus from any eventual goal to what Primal living can offer in this moment.

Think about your day today – or tomorrow – or the weekend (or better yet all of the above). What can be thrown out to make room for playing it by ear? What could a day look like in which you took every possible moment (excluding work and basic family care) to just do whatever felt energizing, even life giving in the moment? Accept the irony for a second. Sure, we’re talking about setting a vision for spontaneity, but too many of us forget, I think, what innumerable and incredible possibilities are even available.

I’m talking here about both unstructured activity and inspired diversions. How about skipping your scheduled gym workout and playing instead. Climb trees. Lift every large planter or stone lion you see lining the street. (And be prepared to sprint when the owners see you.) Play sack of potatoes with your kids. Set up an obstacle course for you and your dog. Go out dancing. Run the length of your local football field screaming chants for yourself.

Whatever you’d planned on eating tonight? Make a real, bonafide dining experience of it. (No eating over the kitchen sink.) Maybe it can be a picnic or campfire event. On the other end of things, maybe it could be a candlelit table setting with wine and music or a boisterous meal with friends that runs into the night and earns you a noise ordinance notice from the condo co-op board.

Put aside your stress management routine for a night and forget about managing anything while you soak in the bathtub. Play spa night on yourself (menfolk too). Or forget your own problems by offering hugs to passers-by or by sitting on a random street corner with an “Advice: 5¢” sign displayed.

Forget the strategic sunlight outdoor time allotment, and go for broke. Sleep outside. Eat outside. Wash your dishes outside. Wash yourself outside. Sit outside at eleven at night just because. Heck, bring your furniture outside and set up your living room in the backyard. (Thoreau did it.)

Whatever you do, don’t keep track of anything that doesn’t need your immediate attention for secured livelihood or survival (e.g. small children). Live the day as off the charts, off the grid, and off center as you can. Go big and bold – or not. Lay in the grass and do nothing but watch the trees and nap. Whatever. For the purpose of this experiment, think purposeless and all-consuming. Wherever the moment brings you. Go beyond spontaneous and push the boundaries of your impulsivity.

Why do I say this? A few reasons actually. I’m not trying to throw all the type As and competitive freaks out there into a mental tailspin. (Yes, I am both of those myself.) In a challenge kind of setting particularly, we can become too attached to the goal, too caught up in the outcome. Not only is this kind of limited focus unsustainable for most people, it’s frankly unsatisfying. The Primal Blueprint aims to be gratifying in both its end results and everyday journey – wild in many ways, indulgent at turns, vitalizing in no uncertain terms. If we get too zeroed in on the end result, we run the risk of missing out on some of the deepest rewards of the Primal experience.

Finally, the PB is a scaffolding more than structure, a principle instead of program. Ultimately, each person must make it his/her own. It’s a grounded but loose design that looks and feels different when shaped to each individual’s life. Though we can get a jump start by following a laid out formula, we eventually have to internalize and personalize it. I call it the Primal lens – the ability to judge and select from the choices of our environment with the context of general Primal principles. It’s about letting go of the map and feeling your bearings – best done in a wider scope and wilder state.

How will you go unstructured and unfettered? Let me know your thoughts on winging it Primal style. Have a great end to the week, everyone!

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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58 thoughts on “Winging It: Fun, Spontaneity and Intuition in Your Primal Life”

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  1. I’m recovering from an unfortunately timed fever and am taking a (semi-forced) second day off work. This is a well-timed and inspiration post Mark – now I don’t feel guilty and see my day off as more of an opportunity!

  2. Can’t agree enough with this post. It comes back to the issue that many people in our society seem to have – the inability to be “present” and just BE in the moment. We’re all so caught up in what happened in the past, or what will happen in the future. It’s such good advice to let all of that go for a while. Thanks, Mark for another excellent post!

    1. Exactly. Live in the moment. Why worry about something that happened in the past? Why wish you would have done this or that 10 years ago? Why fret about the future. In general, we have no idea what the future holds. Sure, I am pretty damn certain that my sister will be getting married on October 29.

      But, most things, we have no idea. Not a damn clue.

      Live today folks! You never know when something from space will come crashing down and destroy all of humanity!

      That brings up people who believe the world is going to end… really?! Well, it will at some point. That earthquake in Cali… we have no idea when that will happen! If you want to live there then do it! Don’t worry about an earthquake that may not happen for hundreds of years!


      1. This all is easy said when you’re in your early 20’s and nothing bad whatsoever has ever happened to you or any loved ones.

        The picture looks quite differently when the spouse dies and one of your children has an incurable disease.
        Or those who ruined their lives with credit card debt…and others who accidently got someone else killed and guilt eats their soul.

        1. I am sorry about your spouse…

          But how can you possibly claim that noting bad whatsoever has happened to me?!

          People need to stop assuming. You have no idea… not a clue based on what I just read. I was not given this lifestyle. I struggled for it. I just have the right attitude about life which has given me more opportunities then most. I enjoy capitalizing on these opportunities so I can live the life I want to live.

          To a good life!

  3. I agree with what you say here Mark, 100%. As Robb Wolf said in the AHS podcast, the fact that you have a passion for “play” is going to be huge for this movement. Your Reconnect book will be a #1 NY TImes Bestseller because folks like Robb and I will make it be.

    “What could a day look like in which you took every possible moment (excluding work and basic family care) to just do whatever felt energizing, even life giving in the moment?”

    I feel so blessed. I live like this most days. 2 days ago I did not touch my computer from 11 am to 10 pm. I had zero plans of doing so but was enjoying myself on the beach. I took about 100 pictures of crabs along with paddleboarders and more. It was awesome.

    Are you living or existing?

    That’s the ultimate question.

  4. Funny this blog hits 5 days after I decided to to just that. Chucked the scale, chucked the tabata timer, chucked even counting reps…chucked it all this week completely. don’t get me wrong here, i still maintain 50 grams of carbs per day, avoid grain and sugar but I’ve learned to eyeball my food and know what’s what. Maintaining the “grease the grove” approch to exercize. just do it til i can’t, nice and slow. riding my bike, I even learn where my heart rate stays aroun 75% of max. Having much more fun. Great suggestion, Mark.

    1. I don’t know why but your comment brought to mind something someone said about ballet.

      This is not an exact quote.

      ‘You practice to your best perfection until you are able to set yourself free and just dance from the heart.’

      Maybe what Mark is saying is that we should get to a place in our lives where we can all “dance from the heart.”

      At least some of the time.

  5. “With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

    the best goal is no goal… living random and primal.

    been primal for 29 days… and doing great… looking great… feeling great!

  6. I pretty much live on the fly every day. I make it up as I go along. I have no problem leaving things undone that can be finished later if something more interesting comes along.

    I cook like this, making up a dish from what ever is on hand. I make art like this, sliding from one medium to another. Lately I have been exercising like this.

    I know that I don’t accomplish as much as others but since I am an old person and I have pretty much been like this all along, it probably is not going to change.

    I guess because of being of this nature, I have been dragging my feet big time about starting a new business to sell my art. I have been talking about doing this for about 3 years.

    I have enough experience to have some idea of the time commitment involved so I always seem to come up with some excuse not to jump in. Soon I will run out of excuses. Then what? The downsides of not being goal oriented.

  7. This post hits on the very essence of my understanding and desire for the Primal way of life. Our need to count reps and win the race is obviously rooted in the success of our evolution. However, the pace of our modern lives combined with the number of opportunities we face daily to try and win, create a major imbalance. To have that Yin without the Yang seems a sure road to failure. I started my Primal journey in December of 2010 after a long two-year back surgery recovery. Your concise and thorough approach takes many different thoughts and concepts and delivered them in a unique and fantastic way. Thanks Mark I truly appreciate what you do! I am currently working on being your next Midwest success story!

  8. I see this with geocachers. Geocaching can be a very primal hobby since it encourages us to frequently move slowly. (For details see But, some people get so focused on following their GPSs to the goal that they miss the journey.

    1. I love geocaching!!!
      Can’t wait to have enough money to do this outside the US…gonna be so much fun and it’s a good reason to go places other than just being a ‘tourist’.

  9. how ironic… i had today off work, and no preschool for the kiddo. i have plenty of housework and errands to do, but i figured, let’s just have a day of nothing, just do whatever comes to mind. we have so far ended up staying home all day but we read books all morning until the sun finally poked out. then we played pirates all afternoon, killing sharks and rescuing a monkey (i really have no idea where that came from). afterwards we had a picnic lunch in the pirate ship (swing set fort). i figured i’d just check today’s post as she naps blissfully in the hammock.

  10. Exactly the post I needed today, thanks Mark! After being introduced to some visible muscles this week for the first time in a very long while, I started putting a lot of my energy into thinking and dreaming about a slimmer future. While it’s nice to think about the goal once in a while, it can make “sticking it out” just to see visible physical results difficult.

    Today I’m going to be happy at how great I feel and enjoy myself on the first day of my last week on this six month working vacation in Mexico! Back home to Canada soon….

  11. haha, I did just that this morning in the pool. was counting laps ( talk about boring!), started to feel bad about how slow I was and so forced myself to not count, sort of kept my eye on the clock but just swam until I didn’t want to anymore. nice.

  12. This is what I appreciate about being primal – the focus on the QUALITY of one’s life and changing/tweaking/omitting those things that keep you from living life to the full. Good post!

  13. Any tips on letting go of planning? I have a hard time letting go of planning everything because when I don’t, I get bored and then depressed.

    1. I like to plan too and much of the time it can be alot of fun like planning a trip or a special meal. A tip I suggest is to just try one or two small spontaneous things every once in a while just to see how it feels. In my opinion, it feels fun and puts me in a good mood. One of my last spontaneous actions was that I drove two hours to a hiking trail that I had not been to in ages and spent the day there. The weather was nice that day, and I had planned on mowing the lawn, grocery shopping and the usual weekend chores but, on a spur of the moment, I headed for that trail instead.

    2. I suffer from depression and my therapist and my doctor have told me I absolutely must have structure or I’ll fall apart (true). You can still have spontaneous moments while engaging in loose structure. Last week I planned a hike with my mom and as we came to the end of the trail, she suggested we turn around and go back the way was came! A great idea that wasn’t planned. Also unexpected fun stops on the way home. Plan, be flexible, and keep your eyes and ears open!

  14. Dude, what an AWESOME & timely post! We are heading out tomorrow for a 72-hour Primal camping excursion – sleeping, cooking, cleaning, playing, resting, and pooping outdoors in one of our National Forests. It is our bi-monthly get-in-touch-with-ourselves-and-nature, rejuvenating Wild weekend.

  15. I’m on it Mark! Thanks for the inspiration of the day. I have been working on this concept for months now and its still a work in progress. I have a hard time still working out how to drive without the aggressive “trying to get where i’m going” mentality that has been bred into me since childhood (from california), and just enjoying the trip and slowing it down some. I got all everything else down though! My favorite is walking around (barefoot, naturally) in Eugene and just exploring without a destination at hand and enjoying the world, and playing pickup games where I can find them, or checking out what is happening wherever I end up. Love it! I Encourage everyone to expore this world!!

  16. I think this is one of the best posts you have ever written. A type A myself, I tend to get way too hung up on all my personal goals and lists I create for myself every day. I, perhaps subconsciously, feel that if I have met all those goals by the end of the day then I have really done something. My husband is always telling me to relax. What would happen if I didn’t have any plans in my head and just focused on … whatever … in the moment? Relief, that’s what. Relaxation. The ability to enjoy whatever is going on … just because. Great post, again, and I so needed a reminder today…to relax. Thanks.

  17. “Live in the Present and the future will take care of itself”

  18. I think not having a routine and playing it by ear is one of the key principles of the Primal Blueprint. Grok’s life was different almost every day I bet – the complete opposite of what most people strive for today. Thankfully I agree with Mark in that it is very fun to break routines and social norms. Be healthy while having fun? Yes please! 😀

  19. I am fortunate that I control my own time and at least once a week I go off my to-do list and on to my intuition. Usually Fridays.

    I do whatever pops into my head. I feel a lot less pressured and my brain reminds me what is the most important thing. Somehow, this way, things don’t feel so onerous…

    And some days I don’t feel like doing anything except the essentials. So I don’t.

  20. Oh, the freedom is so wonderful…..I love being in love with food, life, and FUN! Thank you Primal people, you rock my world!

  21. Primal Lens reminds me of the Lens of Arisia, from the classic SF Lensman series (which I have read like 4 times!)

  22. Pretty sure I live just about every waking moment trying to be as spontaneous as possible. Makes life interesting. It’s actually how I ended up in my career.

  23. Words to live by! I have been enjoying a couple of days of hard-earned play with my family at a waterpark hotel. Climbing stairs and adrenaline rushing the day away. Managing to eat grain-free and reasonably well in the hotel restaurant (thank goodness for the build your own omlette bar!). We don’t get enough reminders to PLAY in our modern lives. Thanks for a push in the right direction.

  24. ah the 12-hour shifts of a school teacher in september. i needed this reminder. come saturday I’m going to…do what i want. maybe chase deer around the forest with my new rifle, or maybe stay home and drag a string around for my cat. maybe embark on a big canning/cooking project…or maybe get to that sewing project I’ve been happily planning. maybe ride my mtn bike. maybe swim laps at the gym. or work on my book. it’s gonna be whatever i feel like when I wake up in the morning! (after sleeping in)

  25. Thanks for the reminder, Mark. I really need to do more of this, like I used to once upon a time. Then I think I let myself get caught up in my grownup life…work, kids, and so on. It’s time to refocus on letting myself loose again. Even for just a little bit, to start.

  26. I’ve always winged it, more or less. I don’t look too far ahead and never have. At my last job (recruitment, which I didn’t like much) we had a trainer in. I think I exasperated her because I couldn’t come up with any goals. I was pretty happy with the status quo. I ended up getting fired (I hadn’t made enough placements due to the recession, which was fair enough, but my boss also mentioned the lack of interest in the trainer) and am now working at a school teaching PE part time. The job came along by accident (a friend works there and they needed a PE teacher in a hurry) and I wouldn’t have considered it myself, but I’m really happy there. Life throws all sorts of things at you – plan too much and you can miss all sorts of opportunities.

  27. Ok, well, since becoming a recent empty-nester I am finding loads of free time but I am one of those type-A, planner, fill every moment of the day with something people. I have journaled every bite of food and every exercise I have had and done for the last 5 years (!!!). Living a primal lifestyle is definitely helping me with this aspect of my life (my family thanks you for this…daily!). For the record…I have “planned” a no-plans weekend, no journaling either! Looking forward to it, too!

  28. This is such a good post. I am part of the Autism community (and Down Syndrome…daughter has both,) and we are always planning, always worried about the future, and always taking care of business. It is so important for us to let it go and just BE for a while. We forget that our kids need it too, and we need to model it for them. It IS quite difficult because Autistic kids are not known for being able to let go and go with the flow, so the moments are few and far between, but this post was a good reminder.

  29. What is “sack of potatoes”? Does it involve throwing tubers at my children?

  30. Oddly enough I am actually the unstructured/ unfettered type- only recently have I been more adamant about schedule and structure- with that said I plan on going to a concert with friends this weekend ( sure of the moment- they had an extra ticket), and I am going to surprise my husband with an outdoor activity of some sort ( he usually plays video games and stays glued to tv on weekends while I do other things grr) I may even chase birds… Have you ever chases birds? It is random, and funny especially when people stare at you during…

  31. I LOVE this post, Mark! One thing I really enjoy about the Primal approach is that it IS less structured, because I know myself well enough to know that I tend to overstructure and then get bored or rebellious and wander off.

    Also, I’m finding after nearly a month of doing this that I simple have more energy for fun and friends, and am more relaxed at the same time. Is this win-win, or what?!

  32. I’ve spent the last couple of days doing this and it feels GREAT! Nothing like breaking out of routine for a couple of days over a few weeks to really feel like you’re “cheating” the system! – without cheating the system!

    Thanks for a great post Mark!


  33. Great post! This is just the “goal” I’m working toward by going primal. Yes, the leaner, stronger, healthier body is wonderful, and I do love to see the right numbers dropping. But even better is how primal has taught me to savor life in both big moments and small. I now can get great joy out of serious play, routine tasks made fun, and just sitting still to watch the grass grow. All good!

  34. all the people who think this “unplanned,unstructured,forget-the-errads” idea is so great obviously dont have kids AND housework, AND job AND school….if you dont plan when to do things, and who will drive the carpool, and cook/plan meals in advance, IT DOES NOT WORK my friends! Most peopl dont have this much going on in their lives, but anyone who does KNOWS that each day has to be organized in advance. One day a week is for resting…which means hanging out with the kids (if you call that resting). But I chose this, so its my headache. But anyone who has responsiblities for a family and wants to do other things, cant “let go” and forget the grocery shopping to hike for 2 hours.

    1. It is definitely a challenge to go “off the grid” when one has a young family. There are times when it seems that every moment is scheduled. My husband and I have found that jumping on this Primal Path has been fantastic for both of us AND the kids. He and I forced ourselves to ditch Friday’s list of have-to-do’s and went for broke while the kids were in school…three hours of surf-paddling bliss! We needed it more than we realized, and were far better for it. The list was still there when we got home, but was much more approachable with a free mind. If we can jump off the grid, most anyone can!

  35. In reply to “Arty”…I am sorry you seem to have so much trouble. I do agree however, that younger people, no matter what kind of childhood they had, have their whole life to enjoy, and often dont have the responsibility ad “baggage” that comes with more years. The “if only I did this back then” doesnt help, but it would be nice to have youth and the time and energy that youth implies to do stuff.

  36. Well I decided to be spontaneous and JOIN my daughter on the playground instead of just watching. It was good times, swinging on the monkey bars, the rock climbing wall. About ten minutes in I stood up to fast chasing her up the stairs to the big slide and whacked the top of my head into the roof of the damn thing and totally thought I crushed my neck. So that ended that. And I’m still paying for it 2 days later. I think I’ll play it safe from now on. 🙁

  37. Yes! Laying sans clothing on warm, bare rock, the sun and breeze on bare skin, just communing with Nature, watching the crows circling overhead…just in the moment…like a meditation. Connected to the earth. These are the elemental moments of aliveness!