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. 


  • Allen

    Don’t know if I would refer to “it” as chaos. For myself it is drive and ambition. Some times it can be chaotic. Yesterday I took my Great Dane for a walk and thought about leaving my phone so I could have some solitude. Could not do it. What if someone tried to get a hold of me? I have time now so I am remodeling my home and I when I cross one thing off my to do list five more pop up. It is the drive within myself that keeps me going to complete any tasks. I do admit in the military a lot is chaotic which is why some folks have a hard time adjusting to civilian life. In the military your were appreciated more and had more of a purpose. In civilian life a lot of folks seem to not give a damn. The VA, who I absolutely hate, is a good example. I had blood poisoning when I was between jobs a few years ago with no health insurance and they turned me away. I would never go back to the VA for anything. My new dentist discovered the tooth that caused this episode never healed and was affecting my immune system. I am still paying the price monetarily and with pain. A lot of folks at the VA have no clue what it is like to be in the military and treat veterans poorly. I hear it is better since we have Trump as President. I do not care and will not go back.

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