Embrace the Chaos

Sometimes things don’t go our way.

Even though we plan, even though we take steps to avoid obstacles, even though we try to do everything right, sometimes things don’t go our way.  

And that is super frustrating.  That frustration is a result of one simple, misguided belief that we carry around with us every day even though we know it’s wrong. We believe we’re in control.

Spoiler alert – we’re not. No matter how much we plan, no matter how much discipline we have, much of our day is out of our control.  And that’s because we don’t live in a bubble by ourselves.  We share our lives, whether we want to or not, with people.  And people are unpredictable.

Think about it.  How often have you had your plans for the day waylaid because something else suddenly needed to be done, or someone didn’t do what they needed to do on time,  or somebody didn’t do something right, or suddenly you have an unexpected 2 hour meeting on the day you were going to finish that report? Or someone catches you at the proverbial water cooler and engages you in a conversation that you could not extricate yourself from if the building were on fire?

Have you, your spouse or children ever gotten sick in anything that can be described as a predictable manner?  Can you schedule those illnesses into your calendar?  No, you cannot.

And if it’s not the people in your life, it’s the things.  Ever have something go haywire unexpectedly in your house or have your car breakdown in some way?  Ever get a flat tire? Has the bus ever arrived late?

We can set up systems, and muster up willpower and self-discipline until the cows come home (where were the cows before, I ask), but it’s not going to make the rest of our lives anymore predictable.

And what happens when our plans get waylaid?  We get negative about it, and we often blame ourselves for not giving ourselves more time, for not starting sooner, for not predicting that some unpredictable thing was going to happen and veer us off course.

You can be negative about it, or you can decide to reframe it in a more realistic way.

Yes, it may be true that you did not make the progress that you wanted.  It may even be true that you made de-progress. It may be true that you lost everything on your computer, that your colleagues are unreasonable and annoying, that you have too many things to do and not enough time to do them in, that your boss is a self-aggrandizing idiot. All potentially true.  But in the end, this is what we all signed up for, willingly, not drugged or intoxicated or otherwise coerced.   Of course, some of the people, and most of the pressure, we could do without.  But it was a package deal.  

Since we’ve signed on the dotted line, we should make the best of it and embrace the chaos that comes with living our lives.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make plans and projections, but we should be a little nicer to ourselves when those plans and projections get disrupted.  

As Leo Babauta, from ZenHabits.net points out:

“We are saying: this is what I’m going to do today. This is how things will go. If I get these things done, life will be good. This is my idea of what this day will hold.

Now consider this: we have absolutely no idea if any of this is true. We cannot predict the future with any kind of certainty, and the idea that we can plan based on these shaky predictions is a nice fiction, but a fiction nonetheless. We do not know what will happen today, much less the rest of the week or month. Knowing what will happen this year? What a crock!”

Leo goes on to say that we need to let go of our expectations and see where the day leads us.  Just throw out those plans.  I think that is taking it a bit too far.  On the other hand, we do need to be flexible and expect that our plans may become disrupted, that our day may not unfold exactly as we expect it to when we get up in the morning, and adjust course as needed.  And guess what?  If things don’t go as planned, it’s not your fault.  It’s just the way the universe rolls.

We don’t always get to do the things we want to do, but we often get to do the things we choose to do, and that in and of itself is something to be grateful for. Embrace the chaos, expect disruption, be nice to yourself through it all.  You are all you’ve got.



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