Chaosherd

Sometimes our lives just get a little hectic. Lots of chaotic things happen. They might not even be individually bad things (though even good things can be stressful), but they might be rapid, unconnected, demanding of attention, unpredictable, and uninvited.

You like ice cream cake, right? Someone just dropped one off for you at your office! But your office doesn’t have a freezer. What are you going to do with it? Hurry up, it’s melting! But you can’t figure it out now, because your boss just asked if you have fifteen minutes to talk about a promotion opportunity! But you can’t leave the cake in the break room, it’ll melt everywhere. But you can’t keep the boss waiting, you might miss the opportunity. And the person who works across the hall that you like seems to be flirting with you about the whole thing and this is the first time they’ve shown interest, but you can’t chat now, you’re dealing with an ice cream cake that’s melting…

You see? All individually good things can happen, but they can happen in chaotic ways. The above example was a little sitcom-y, sure, but the same thing can happen on a scale of weeks or even months. Things can just get a little out of control.

Of course, bad things can happen too. But that actually requires a different solution: bad things are problems to be solved. Good things aren’t; you want to keep the good things, you just want to tame the chaos.

How do you do it? How do you herd the chaotic flock?

First, put some umbrella concept over the whole thing. Unite them. They have to be a flock before you can herd them. An “umbrella concept” could be a mindset shift, like: “These aren’t individual things happening to me, this is all part of the ‘Story of the Craziest Year of My Life’ that I’ll tell at the New Year’s party this year.”

An umbrella concept can also be a project that you use as a catch-all. The ‘Story of the Craziest Year of My Life’ can be a mental model, but it can also be an actual book you start collecting notes for, a vlog series you record, etc. Then all of the chaotic pieces have a place. If you just dumped a bunch of cardboard scraps on my clean table, that might stress me out. But if it were a jigsaw puzzle, the same scenario would make me feel very serene and happy. It’s all about what those elements are making.

Once you have everything under an umbrella concept, you can start making decisions for the good of that concept, and for you as a whole. Instead of focusing on each individual piece and trying to make decisions about it in a vacuum (decisions that keep being interrupted by realizations that they’re conflicting with the best decisions about something else, etc.), you’re making big decisions about one big thing. That can cut down on the total number of decisions you have to make, which is often very helpful!

So if your life is feeling a little chaotic but it’s all or mostly good things, don’t fret. It’s not a storm that will destroy you. It’s a flock that you’ll gently herd home. You got this.

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