Chaos taming: An essential life skill

Practical tips for keeping chaos at a manageable level

By Janet G. Hudson

Do you love solving problems? Are you at your best when you’re contributing, creating, and paving the way for something new and exciting? Do you dream big, say yes, and love challenges and new opportunities?

If that’s you:

  • Do you notice that the process of embracing new projects stretches you to play a bigger game?
  • Then, do you find partnering with others becomes essential if you’re going to make these fun projects happen?
  • And then do you realize that collectively your endeavors have a way of generating chaos?

By chaos I mean juggling things like long and scattered to-do lists, competing responsibilities, more opportunities and invitations, never-ending e-mail and app notifications, and hard-to-locate electronic documents filed on your phone, computer, Google Drive, Dropbox, or OneDrive. Chaos creates layers of complexity that can slow your momentum, allow self-doubt to creep in, and fuel anxiety and negative self-talk. It can give entry to distractions and conflicts, causing you to overlook commitments.

All that human messiness adds up to chaos. After all, you live in the 21st century where 24/7 connectivity floods your senses with stuff, which is often intentionally designed to distract you. Humans have a survival-focused brain function that thrives on seeking novelty and pleasure, avoiding pain and arousing fear. So, the deck might feel a bit stacked against you at times.

Take a deep breath and relax. If you experience this chaos it means 1) you’re human, 2) you live in the 21st century, and 3) you’re a Tips for chaos tamingbig-hearted problem solver. All things to embrace!

I’m right there with you. No shame or self-criticism allowed. Know that chaos is all part of the human experience for those stretching and growing. Since slowing down is not an option you’re interested in, and avoiding chaos is impossible when you are living a full and engaging life, the only sane alternative is to tame the chaos. Chaos taming is not about getting organized or becoming more productive. Hidden in those phrases are judgment and resistance — and we want none of that.

Chaos taming is a life skill; it maximizes your potential for finding things, prioritizing intentionally and honoring your commitments. But more importantly, chaos taming keeps you connected with possibility, not problems. It shifts you out of fear and into your resourcefulness. You’re going to get off your game occasionally. You’re going to experience outer and inner chaos. So be prepared: get started building your chaos taming repertoire.

Get started with the life skill of chaos taming

Think of chaos taming as a life skill you build because you’re compassionate, giving and bighearted. You should pursue chaos taming because you frequently find yourself overcommitted. After all, you reason, life is short with too many fun opportunities you don’t want to miss out on.

Chaos taming includes big-picture and nitty-gritty skills, which are all about managing the TAME areas: Tasks, Attention, Mindset, and Energy. To ensure you don’t get lost in the nitty-gritty weeds, which are important, first establish your foundation with these big-picture skills:

  • Accept that things will remain undone! Not just boring things either. Fun, necessary and meaningful things will remain undone and will remain so today, tomorrow and all the other days until you leave this earth. Let go of striving to get it all done, and accept that it’s impossible.
  • Create limits, which is much easier when you accept that constraints foster freedom and complexity thrives on simplicity. While these statements might seem counterintuitive at first, give it some time and you’ll see the truth of them.
  • Choose with intention what matters most to you and your current mission, large or small.

You’ll become masterful at accepting, creating and choosing as you practice these foundational skills; you will become aware of what’s going on around you, inside you and in your mind. As you discover the meaning you’re giving your experiences and others’ actions, you will construct a life skill that can tame just about any chaos that crosses your path.

Yes, there are nitty-gritty skills to add to your chaos taming repertoire. 1.  A simple method that works with your style for collecting, organizing, reviewing, and completing your tasks. 2. A simple method for keeping your attention on your intentions while navigating distractions. 3. A strategy for calming yourself and achieving focus when you find yourself anxious, overwhelmed, and distracted. 4. And a collection of strategies for generating energy healthily that includes some realistic shortcuts you’re going to use in moderation. And as you practice the above big-picture foundational skills, your journey to find your powerful solutions — both short and long-term — will become as rewarding as achieving your mission.

Chao TamingJanet G. Hudson, Ph.D., ACC, is a professional coach at XCEL Quest Coaching & Consulting who supports purpose-driven problem solvers in taming their inner chaos to achieve their mission.