The invisible beauty of chaos.

Look at me. I’m 33 years old, got a house, a beautiful partner and four kids. My life is, besides all the #livelaughlove and beautiful things happening, one big sequence of chaotic manifestations. How I linger from changing diapers at 3 o’clock at night to writing an article about CNG at 11 am, or preparing a brand characteristics workshop in the afternoon. Although I work with great focus on these tasks (especially the diaper part), most of the time it is just chaos. But should I put more effort in getting things structured?

written by Tom | January 3rd 2018

 

The impossible promise.

I can’t count the times I made this promise to myself and get more organized. There’s this beautiful planner I bought from Papier Tigre years ago, and it’s still left unused. Now that I think about it, I don’t even know where I’ve put it. The same goes for filling out my time-sheets: I just can’t get it molded in a good, daily, well-designed and organized habit. (In case you wonder, my partner is overly structured, so we’re a match.)

What’s wrong with chaos anyway, I dare to ask. Chaos is one of nature greatest forces, and it brought forth much more than we can imagine. So why should we try to control chaos? Without getting too philosophical about this, let’s focus on why I think we should embrace chaos. How we should let it wash over us from time to time, and focus more on the things we can control.

 
 
By accepting and embracing chaos as our friend or guide, we manage to organize a work life that is conducive to both performance and happiness.Tom Struyf
 
 

Multitasking ≠ ultimate chaos.

Most of the time we’re multitasking. That’s just what it takes to be in a small consultancy like ours. But that doesn’t mean it is ultimate chaos, it is just how our minds work. That is how we work. We do multitask, but when we focus on one specific task, it is with the greatest of our attention. We get in the zone. By accepting and embracing chaos as our friend or guide, we manage to organize a work life that is conducive to both performance and happiness.

Here, we like to refer to the Flow theory of Csíkszentmihályi. In an interview with Wired magazine, Csíkszentmihályi described flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

According to Csikszentmihalyi, the conditions under which Flow can be achieved are:

  1. Clear, ambitious but attainable goals
  2. Sense of Personal Control
  3. Direct and immediate feedback
  4. An activity inherently rewarding
  5. A loss of the feeling of self-consciousness, the merging of action and awareness
 
 
For us, chaos means freedom. It means opening the door for creativity, for change and for learning new things.Tom Struyf
 
 

Chaos = freedom.

If chaos can be analogized to discomfort, then this unavoidable scientific principle is a hack into productivity. Without growing pain, there is no measure of progression. For us, chaos means freedom. It means opening the door for creativity, for change and for learning new things. It also implicates that we don’t pay much attention to chaos. It’s just like accepting that a to-do list will never end.

Without the turmoil of life, there is no life. I like to think about fractal art as an example, or the works of Jackson Pollock. Is it just chaotic? Or is the chaos rather a catalyst for freedom, creativity and innovation? Is he in the zone? Decide for yourself.

The gardener.

To come back to where I started, being a father of four and looking at how they should cope with the chaos of life, I’m not frantic about it. Rather than framing my role as a father like a carpenter -carefully crafting, measuring and constructing happy and successful individuals; I feel more like a gardener: helping to grow thriving and living individuals that know how to grow in chaos. They need grit, character, the ability to fail and get back on their feet.

I also think they need the ability to determine what they will be great at. Because I believe that anyone can be exceptionally talented at something, and that is how they might achieve greatness and happiness. So instead of protecting them from what is dearest to us and keeping them from learning much of what they need to thrive, I choose to help them embrace the chaos.

But first: another diaper change.

 

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