From Chaos to Purpose

Do you have a fifty-cent word tucked away in your vocabulary that you like to use in the perfect situation?  One of mine is “plethora” which, I’m slightly embarrassed to say, my sons and I picked up by repeatedly watching the movie “The 3 Amigos”.  Over the years, our family has had a plethora of opportunities to flaunt the word, and it always brings a laugh.

A few years ago, my wife and I started to play “The 50 Cent Word Game” with our grandchildren.  If we catch them using an impressive word in conversation, we immediately pay them fifty cents in cold, hard cash.  As the administrators of this game, it is critical to have quarters on hand, or to have a good line of credit!  They are now children with widening vocabularies!

When schools closed in March due to the pandemic, our grown children were scrambling to prepare lessons and new ways to develop and deliver curriculum.  We were asked to submit a list of 50 cent words for spelling and vocabulary.  Appropriately, the first word we chose for this new season was one we were hearing on the news hourly… chaos.

Chaos.  What does it mean?  The dictionary defines it as a state of complete disorder and confusion.  Chaos can have many faces, most of which you have either seen in others or are experiencing yourself.  It may be characterized by uncertainty, anxiety, insecurity, or fear.  Disorder and confusion can lead to “paralysis of analysis”, an inability to make decisions or to take action, usually triggered by a significantly disruptive life event or by a steady stream of increasing pressures in your life.

Upon presenting their new spelling list, my wife and I reassured our grandchildren they were not living in chaos.  The reality of their situation was they were at home in a safe place, still being cared for by their parents, and their schedules were still rotating around their schoolwork.  Life had changed, but it was not chaotic for them.

Their parents, on the other hand, felt differently!  Perhaps like you, they have spent the months since March learning how to be flexible, creative, more patient, sacrificial, and more technologically adept.  Life has changed for everyone.  At times it has been chaotic with many of us overly stressed from disorder and confusion.  How do you effectively respond and bring order to such chaos? I suggest three steps that may sound familiar to you in a different context:

Be still. Breathe.  Yes, you may feel your life is in a state of chaos, but you can choose to bring order to it.  Slow down to restart.

Be honest and describe the current state of your life.  Set aside the negativity around you and begin to clearly define what is currently happening in your life.  There is an adage, “A well-defined problem is half-solved”; meaning if you can clearly define the cause of a problem, you can determine how to overcome it.  Capture both what is working and what is not working.  Physically write it down, so you can see it in black and white and allow it to sink in.  Writing down what is working generates momentum and motivation, while writing down what is not working identifies blockers in your life to be addressed.

Once you’ve given yourself an honest assessment of the current situation it’s now time to choose not be a victim to any of life’s negative circumstances.  Rather, choose to roll with what’s happening around you and take the reins to put your life on a path where you capture and embrace what is important to you.  Start by looking at your life in different areas such as personal, professional, financial, and spiritual.  Once you identify what is important, you will have a North Star to help navigate you through chaotic times in your life.

There is power in embracing your ability to choose.  When you choose, you are in control. You no longer are being a victim.  You are taking responsibility and making things happen, as opposed to allowing things to happen to you.

“I have come to realize that I am the indispensable person only until the moment I say no.” 

 This quote by Charles Hummel illustrates the power to choose.  It is OK to say “No” or “Not now”, so you can focus on what is important to you.  The result is a life of purpose and intention, and chaos becomes a thing of the past.

When disruptions occur, you will be able to put them aside (STOP), deal with them constructively (DROP), and remain on your path of pursuing and achieving your life objectives (ROLL).

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a sense of chaos in almost everyone’s life.  Disorder and confusion seem to dominate the news cycle and may continue to do so until a vaccine or a cure is developed.  Just as with other major life disruptions, you have the ability to choose how you will allow the pandemic to affect your outlook on life.  Acknowledging it for what it is – and what it is not – and choosing to remain in control versus succumbing to a life of fear will enable you to navigate through life without losing site of your objectives.

Dealing with chaos constructively may not be easy, but if you don’t figure out how to bring order to your chaos, you could very well wake up one day and wonder, “What happened to my life?” Chaos became a 50-cent word for our grandchildren.  Defining it for them helped them realize they still had order in their lives.

By Tom Riley, LifeMethod Coach