What is it about chaos?

What is it about chaos?

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? 

Then what? 

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. 

But why? 

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. 


6 comments

  • AJ

    Chaos is something being out of order and we, as people, preferring order either seek to order chaos or run from it. Either way the body’s response is the same – adrenaline. Regardless if it is on an actual battlefield or the battle of the mind, and when we are unable to bring order to the chaos through the skills we have available our mind does one of two things: Seek knowledge or Remind us of our faults and start the negative spiral.

    That is when we need to have and anchoring force whether it is a tattoo, a mantra, or a person/organization. Don’t stop reaching out until you find the help you need.

  • Dan - Combat Flags

    @ Andrew – We’ll have to agree to disagree here. Chaos is subjective, and shouldn’t be taken literally in this sense. I’ve heard that phrase a few times and it always strikes me as odd that it doesn’t specify having the job done “right.” Busy people knock out work all day every day, but that doesn’t mean they’re doing everything correctly OR to the best of their ability. Busy doesn’t always equal productive.

  • Dan - Combat Flags

    @ Dan R – All I can speak to is what I’ve seen in my own experiences. While I don’t think it can be “given” to us or served to us in a literal sense, I do think it can be given to us by way of education or training. Sure, people have the ability to reflect, but we aren’t wired to innately stop and think or reflect. It takes practice and requires some form of guidance upfront to become aware of the need to do so and how to do it in a way that doesn’t foster negative self think.

  • Dan R

    But is quiet reflection “given” to us? I think we all have the power to reflect, but, unfortunately, we tend to reflect on negative experiences. True reflection should release us from our suffering, not to submerge us in it and hold us there. Perhaps the hardest part of reflection is finding some quiet in all the chaos.

  • Andrew

    I am not sure I would call it chaos, I think that most people want to be seen as achieving or to recognized for things that they have accomplished. I would say that is the drug, the recognition from your peers that you have done something that is worthwhile. Success in the military, meeting the objectives and developing friendships that will last the rest of your life that is what people want and need. No matter what the goal- university graduation, a good job, a fulfilling job, a job that has you seeing the world, I guess each to his own. It might be chaotic but it is not chaos- remember the saying “if you want a job done ask a busy person”. By all means smell the roses, but don’t get stuck in the thorns!


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