How you handle chaos

In my coaching business I tend to look at two primary groups of people to understand my clients. The first is busy-aholics, people who seem to be constantly running around, and the second is turtles, people who aren’t running, but oddly still get plenty done.

If you are like me, chances are your first question looking at these groups is what the heck are the turtles doing differently. How do they get stuff done without acting like a chicken with their head cut off? Well a lot of that has to do with how these groups deal with chaos, and that’s what we’re going to explore a little of this week.

So, let’s start with busy-aholics. How do they deal with chaos? Well, if you’ve talked with a lot of busy people, you might notice they tend to be control freaks. Busy-aholics deal with chaos by trying to make it non-existent. They believe that if you create enough schedules, write out enough plans, and micromanage enough people, the chaos will be managed and no longer be a factor.

Chances are you can see the flaw with this thinking. When was the last time you could control a person? How about the weather or road closings? Busy-aholics find themselves frequently trying to control the uncontrollable and becoming a mess because of it. This is one the big contributors to busy-aholics being so busy. They spend huge amounts of time and energy trying to keep control when they really have none.

So, what do turtles do differently? Well, I use the term turtle, because turtles are slow, they take their time, but they somehow still find food and shelter and manage to live quite happy lives. They do this by accepting what is out of their control. They know they don’t have the energy or time to be running around, so instead, they focus on adapting.

Turtles tend to do minimal planning. Their philosophy is not to control results but instead react to them. It’s all about being aligned with your original intention. If a turtle suggests going to the movies but then finds the theatre is closed, they’ll just change their plans. They’ll change their suggestion to a bowling alley or a visit to the mall. They recognize that it’s not about seeing a movie, it’s about getting time with friends and having fun. By being adaptable, turtles can deal with any problem thrown their way and barely have to lift a finger.

So, to give you an idea what this looks like in action, let me share with you how my mom learned to be a turtle:

So, if you don’t know, my mom has cerebral palsy. It’s a condition that heavily affects my mom’s motor skills and ability to walk. As a result, she is unable to drive. In the past, my dad and I had a very tense relationship with my mom. My mom would try to make plans where she would have me or my dad drive her to an event, and if we ever said no, she’d become incredibly stressed, irritable and angry, enough so that saying no became a scary endeavor.

Over time, she started studying Daoism which is basically the art of being a turtle. Surprisingly, her approach became very different. She’d still see if my dad or I could drive, but she’d also see if anybody else could also provide her a ride. If somebody suddenly canceled on her or was not up to doing it, she’d just find somebody else to take her, and if nobody could, she just saw it as an opportunity to relax at home and enjoy her day.

This shift may seem subtle, but the effect is drastic. You go from running around in circles, doing everything you can to make sure your plans don’t get ruined to just waiting and dealing with problems as they come. You no longer need to fuss, worry, and excessively strategize, because you are flexible and adaptable. It relieves a lot that stress busy-aholics experience.

How do you become more a turtle? Probably the easiest way is to pay attention to when you are being a control freak and just let go. If you or your friends notice you are fretting constantly over an outcome, stop trying to control it. Instead, let it unfold however it will unfold. Yes, you could wind up with a big mess, but you’ll be surprised how much time you spend planning trying to control outcomes that may never even happen, not to mention a lot of the time the mess is less work than all the outcomes you were trying to control. It’s funny, I watch my mom practice being a turtle and she is dumbfounded when half of her problems just seem to resolve themselves (like somebody calling her and offering her a ride, or the event she wants to go to gets postponed to a better time).

So, here’s your challenge. Find something you are fretting over , try throwing out your planning, and see what happens. I know this seems scary to try, but just try it. The worst case is that it sucks and you don’t try it again. Letting go is incredibly challenging, but very powerful. You can completely revolutionize your lifestyle.

images provided by Laurens and Jayel Aheram via Flickr


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