What is it about chaos that entices so many of us?
We thrive on it. The uncertainty. The tension. The stakes. All of it. It’s like a drug.
But what happens after the chaos? When the tides turn and the seas calm?
I recently finished a lengthy 9-month project for my corporate gig – one that was transformational for the global company – and as the dust settled, I learned something about myself.
That thing I learned? I don’t know how to turn it off.
Something else I learned? I’m not alone in this.
A collection of us went from working long hours, churning out work and making big, strategic decisions one day, to watching those very decisions playout and people experience them the next. And yet, when you’d think we’d revel in the success of our work, we didn’t. We turned our eyes frontward and looked to what comes next.
With barely a breath between planning and execution, we jumped headfirst into the next bit of chaos.
In a brief moment of reflection, I took note of what had occurred and looked at other equally chaotic times of my life.
Joining the military. Deployment. Leaving the military. College.
Universally I identified a similar, and all too comfortable, pattern of seeking out chaos to progress to the next rung of the military ladder, the corporate ladder or the life experience ladder.
Why can we not pause, breathe and enjoy the solitude.
I understand and wholeheartedly agree that we grow through hardship. But why is it nearly impossible to relish a moment of fulfillment before moving onto the next bigger and better thing?
Look, I’m not a psychologist, philosopher, sociologist or any other kind of ‘ist or ‘er, but here’s what I can see looking back on my own experiences.
Plain and simple, we aren’t taught to take a break. From a young age, we’re moved from one class to the next, from one assignment to the next, from subject to subject. In the hustle, we learn to compartmentalize what we just experienced and swiftly move to the next thing without a moment to reflect on what was just internalized.
And it continues into other areas of adolescent and adult life.
Training in the military is conducted in much the same way. You’re moved from one evolution to the next, from bayonet training to marksmanship to marching, often times within the course of a single day. From one fire to the next. Constant movement.
Deployments? Same thing. Training evolutions leading up to deployment are fast and frequent, come deployment it’s go time, and when you get home? To me, it felt like go time extended... moving from station to station and then looking ahead to either deploying again or leaving the military.
We are literally raised in a state of chaos.
Layer in digital connectedness today and our time and brain power is all but consumed during every waking hour.
Perhaps I, and we, should be more purposeful in taking a moment to feel the sunshine or feel the earth around us. Perhaps a day or two after a big project to reflect on what was learned and enjoy the process could do those of us in Corporate America some good to remain energized about our work.
Perhaps being given the gift of quiet reflection could do us good and assist with mental health universally.