Balancing Chaos and Routine

Photo by  Linus Nylund  on  Unsplash

A topic that has come up often recently in my life has been the balance between taking a leap of faith, and staying with the predictable.

Some interesting examples:

  • My sister, who wants to take a nomadic approach to her job for a year
  • My friend who wakes up every morning without a plan or routine, and
  • Myself who has sometimes skirted with trying to make my entire life routine and “optimized”

In each day we can choose how much chaos we invite into our life.

Chaos in itself is not bad.

Chaos to me is simply the unpredictable. The things we can’t plan for. The spontaneous dates. The job opportunity you didn’t think would respond to you. The girl you meet at the coffee shop randomly. There are things in our life that we cannot control and for that reason, when we do try to control them, life will smack us down and remind us that we can’t.

We have to make room in our lives for the spontaneous events. We have to be comfortable with the chaos, because that’s just how life is. If we try to resist chaos, we decline the world’s best opportunities because we aren’t willing to take a chance outside of efficiency.

However, too much chaos leads to lack of focus and mental instability. The human brain — when it doesn’t know when it’s going to get its next meal or next sleep — will constantly be on alert. The ability to innovate or create will be stifled because of a worry about other things that don’t matter. We don’t need to focus on the chaotic nature of bills, chores, and errands if we plan ahead. We can focus on the task at hand when we introduce more order into our lives.

I feel that too many college students in particular are swept along the chaos without order at all in their lives. They adjust their lives based on outside forces.

On the other side of the coin, there are others like me who try to make their whole life routine in order to be efficient, and invite no chaos at all. They adjust their lives to predictably effective, but not necessarily exciting. This is also potentially harmful to the human psyche.

Too much order results in resistance to something out of routine, and a generally restrictive response to your curiosity in life. You push down your own mind’s natural desire to take risks and innovate. It means staying in and saving money because you don’t want to accept the chaotic nature of the potential fun of a night out.

Over the years, I’ve swayed away from the highly ordered life.

I suggest now that a truly free life needs a balance of both: chaos and routine.

You need enough routine where you get what you want to get accomplished, but not too much where it restricts your growth.

You need enough chaos where you get to experience the spontaneous nature of life, but not too much where it drags you along a path that you can’t control.

You need both.

I find that having a morning routine with gym, meditation, and breakfast helps you be chaotic in other parts of your life (such as innovating at work, or going out at night guilt-free). Grounding myself in routine habits such as these allows me the freedom and flexibility to partake in chaos, confident that I did what I wanted to do today with complete control. Whatever else happens, happens. I won’t try to control the outcome for those events.

That’s what it all comes down to.

You need to understand what activities whose outcomes you want to control, and willingly abandon control of other activities.

When you understand this principle, you’ll gain the sense of confidence that comes with knowing you are on your path to a better you. And without being restrictive of the burning desire to ensure that everything in your life has a payoff.

With chaos, you don’t know if the result is going to be good or bad — but the good that comes from chaos can be so good, that the bad isn’t even that bad when you think about it.

Take risks. Embrace chaos. Ground yourself in routine.

It’s how you get the best of both worlds.