What if we accepted chaos as natural and beneficial at times? What if we understood order as not always desirable? What if we imparted those ideas to our youth? Might that help their lives.
Science tells us that within the boundaries of any complex system, such as our bodies, there can be random disorder and chaos. In fact, this chaos is essential to the life of that system. In the human body, our heart beats in a steady and orderly fashion. An irregular beat means trouble. We cannot survive without this order. Our brain, however, has a chaotic pattern. Only in dysfunctional brains is the pattern orderly. This is the opposite of how the heart behaves. Within our bodies, chaos and order exist.
We usually try to quell any disruption in our daily routine. If that happened in our brain, the result would be disastrous. Since both chaos and order exist in our bodies, can they coexist in our lives?
Perhaps life requires the balance of riding a bicycle, a dynamic balance of constantly shifting weight and attention from chaos to order and back again. This includes measuring future advancement with current survival. This means viewing the bigger picture of the future while also seeing the smaller concerns of daily life.
Three activities help us do this: Thinking, Deciding and Doing.
Thinking is developing possible solutions before choosing any course of action. Looking at our current environment or our homes, we can observe issues from a bigger picture and longer term perspective. Honoring creativity and chaos, we can view information in a new way.
Deciding is a conscious assessment of all possible options. We can teach kids to understand and accept their role as decision-maker. Refusing to make a decision is a choice, a choice of denial. To make better decisions, they can look at their resources of money, time and people to help. The seemingly quick fix so highly regarded today has convinced us that money, not time, is the answer. Sometimes we have to take as long as possible to make a decision, judging when this is possible and when it is not. Another challenge for kids is to ask the right people for help, people they know they can trust.
Doing is acting on a decision. Choices, once made, must be implemented. Making a decision will not solve anything. Carrying out that decision may. Once kids act, they must be taught to accept the consequences. Too often they wallow in a pool of victimhood, conveniently forgetting the choices that caused their dilemma.
These three activities of Thinking, Deciding and Doing bring us from the chaos in gathering data to the order of enacting decisions. They require continual knowledge or learning.
Our lives and those of our youth are a work in progress. In a rapidly changing environment, we can only be assured of change. As knowledge transforms, so must decisions. The challenge is similar to that of staying on a bicycle, constantly shifting to maintain our balance. Expecting a better tomorrow requires continuous, conscious and creative choices that balance chaos and order in our lives and those of our children.
This material is revised from the Introduction of my book, Don’t Fall Off the Bicycle: Balancing Chaos and Order in our Lives (2002).