Reframe Chaos and Enrich Your Life

Water is as destructive as it is life-giving. It takes different forms based on its environment (think of a river versus a pond) and there are so many possibilities for its movement that replicating it in animation is notoriously difficult.

The further you wade into the ocean, the more powerful the waves that crash over your head get. Likewise, when you take on bigger and better challenges, your life gets more chaotic. Promotions, new relationships and ambitious goals are all signs of growth, and growth means that your life will move in directions that you can’t fully control. For some people, the busyness and scale of their lives can become overwhelming to the point that they stop taking risks or micromanage others in an attempt to stay on top of everything. But when life becomes a series of controlled events rather than challenges or questions, we’re not growing.

When we try to combat chaos with control, we lose sight of big opportunities and make it difficult for other people to feel like we trust them. Instead of dreading or fearing chaos, try reframing its role in your life to make it a complement, rather than a hindrance, to your productivity and well-being.

Make Your Habits a Buffer Against Chaos

Sometimes we fear chaos from other sources because we, ourselves, are chaotic. If you constantly move from meeting to meeting, are impossible to book for a five-minute conversation, or you’re always taking on new responsibilities at the cost of your time with loved ones, you probably create a portion of your own chaos and inflict it on others.

One way to make sure that you’re not adding to unpredictability is to build and maintain consistent habits. Set a time block every day to address the most important messages in your inbox. Go on a short walk at lunch to clear your head. Make dinner with friends or family a non-negotiable part of your schedule. We all have off days when a crisis or unexpected event throws everything off schedule, but most of the time we can balance the uncertainties of life by being consistent for ourselves and for others.

Let Chaos Be Your Muse

Sometimes chaos is a game-changer. A leader at your company leaves without warning. Rain cancels an important event. You and your partner have a baby. The chaos of a new situation can be scary until you begin to see it as an opportunity to grow and change into an even stronger, better version of yourself. A study at the University of Minnesota found evidence that, while ordered environments can encourage people to do traditional, by-the-book “good” things like donate to charity or eat healthy foods, messiness and chaos can inspire people to develop new insights and take healthy risks that challenge the status quo. Chaos can be a chance to set yourself free from rules or assumptions that keep you from being your best.

The next time you feel like you’re in over your head, take a breath and think about the ONE Thing that’s most important in your work, your personal life, or both. Pursuing it may mean setting aside goals that you thought were important or changing the rhythm of your life, but it can also signal a new, exciting kind of growth that you hadn’t previously imagined.

Reflect on the Big Picture, Not the Small Uncertainties 

Even the most powerful rivers can appear calm on the surface. When you set aside time to reflect on how far you’ve come from the person you used to be, you can see that overwhelming chaos is often temporary while the story of your growth stays consistent. The challenges that arise from chaos and uncertainty impact our stories, but our reactions, the way we prioritize ourselves and the people we care about, are what define us.

At The ONE Thing we’re proponents of weekly 411 check-ins for shorter-term goals as well as a yearly Goal Setting Retreat to reflect on where you’ve been and envision where you’re going. Make time to reflect on the journey of your life, chaos included.

Like water, chaos is a part of life that can create huge setbacks or nurture growth. When you learn to live alongside it or even use it to your advantage, you can stay productive and keep growing in the face of new challenges.