Chaos: a state of utter confusion; the inherent unpredictability in the behavior of a complex natural system
I recently went to a gathering of female entrepreneurs where the guest speaker shared her expertise on how to thrive in chaos. I personally love things that both make sense and are concise making it easy to apply to one's life. This lesson in chaos was such a thing.
Corinne Hancock, speaker, trainer and executive coach defined the perception of chaos as:
“We perceive chaos when our current reality does not match our expectation.”
When it was defined in this way, all I could think of was parenting, mothering, entrepreneurship and every day in my life.
Corinne with her broad life experience and knowledge, discussed that each individual has a default response to experiencing chaos. In her opinion, there are only three pre-programed options:
Yet, none of our default responses to experiencing chaos help to resolve the chaotic situation. In fact, our instinctual response to chaos makes it worse.
Take a moment and let this sink in.
You certainly have already experienced chaos in your life…probably even today. Your default response to avoid, blame or complain made it worse.
For example, my son was getting ready for school by putting his socks and shoes on. As he put one sock on, he realized he didn’t have a full pair (his expectation). Immediately, he began blaming the washer and dryer for making it disappear or the dog for eating it. Me, on the other hand, was ready to avoid this chaotic situation with, “Just grab a different pair of socks since we need to leave for school.” Our different default responses did not change the fact that a sock was missing and actually escalated the situation with more yelling and screaming.
Corinne spoke of how you cannot prevent chaos or be chaos proof, but you can be chaos ready. She has developed a framework which help business and companies become chaos ready. It begins with simply narrowing the focus back on the goal or mission.
In my example of the lost sock, rather than avoid or blame, the remedy to the chaos began with a focus on the mission of finding the sock. Guess what happened when we focused on the mission? We found the sock.
Now, this chaotic situation wasn’t a big deal in the whole scope of life, but it illustrates how being aware of your response is critical so that you can learn to override it to achieve greater things in your life. We all have different situations that feel chaotic, yet we all experience realities that do not match our expectations daily.
Experiencing chaos isn’t a bad thing, in fact, it is an opportunity to grow and learn. Clearly there is unsafe chaos, much like stress, which requires professional help. Often chaotic situations have more benefits than not if we begin to refocus on the mission.
Another lesson shared by Corrine was “Behind every complaint is a commitment to something or someone which will direct action.” If you understand the “why” behind a complaint, it will guide you to an appropriate action to resolve the conflict. Understanding the “why”, however, requires an inquisitive mind. You will never discover “why” if you don’t ask the question “Why?”.
I will share Corrine’s example as it is fore front on my mind. In her hometown neighborhood, there was a woman whom constantly complained about how everyone drove too fast through the streets. Her complaints were such that walking to get the mail became burdensome since you’d end up with an earful about driving too fast. In a later conversation with another neighbor, Corrine learned that this woman had a son whom was deaf. The commitment behind her complaint about cars going too fast through the neighborhood was to keep her deaf son safe. The homeowners rallied together into action to put in speed bumps and signs to help keep her son safe.
Two lessons learned:
If we switch out the word chaos for pain:
Let’s look at the first one. Our default response to pain may be to cover it up with medication or avoid it by a reduction of movement or ignore it. This avoidance may create further injuries or secondary problems related to the medication. If our default response is to complain about pain, then we continue to aggravate our nervous system which in turn begins to make us more sensitive to pain. Similarly, if our default is blaming self or others, the same is true. Each default response aggravates the painful condition.
Number two describes how complaining about a painful condition may have an underlying commitment. For example, complaining about a sprained ankle may actually be a concern about being unable to work. The inability to work threatens one’s ability to support the family. The complaint about pain is really a symptom of the commitment to family. An action to help alleviate this complaint might be rehabilitation to facilitate recovery and therefore continued work to support one’s family.
The process of how to respond to chaos or pain is like learning to drive on icy roads. Your default reaction when losing traction is to over correct which makes you lose control more. Whereas if you understand the default and learn to override it with a bit of acceleration to kick the all-wheel-drive into action to gain traction, then you regain control. Another example is in horseback riding. When the horse is spooked or you lose your balance the tendency is to lean backward and pull your hands up, both of which make the horse go faster. Whereas if you override this default and correct with maintaining center while pulling the reigns to pull the bit backward signals the horse to stop.
Focus on the mission, despite pain or chaos, in order to clear the path for action to achieve the goal or improve the situation.
Remove. Replace. Restore.
Remove fear of chaos and pain.
Replace with an understanding of your default response and how to over-ride with a focus on the mission or message.
Restore growth personally and professionally as you re-direct your path through chaos or pain.
Eat Well. Move Well. Sleep Well. Connect Well.
Dr Carolyn Dolan DPT, Cert MDT, MSHN
Where physical therapy, nutrition and lifestyle meet, because how you live your life determines whether or not you soar. Inspiring action with information so you can reduce pain, optimize healing and improve function naturally during recovery from injury, surgery or painful condition. This is a website for the open-minded; obstinate need not apply.