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How to Find the Gifts in Chaos

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"Chaos does not mean total disorder. Chaos means a multiplicity of possibilities. Chaos is from the ancient Greek words that means a thing that is birthed from the void. And it was about that which is possible, not about disorder." -- Jok Church

I looked up the definition of chaos the other day and here's what I found:

1. A condition or place of great disorder or confusion.

2. A disorderly mass; a jumble

3. Chaos: The disordered state of unformed matter and infinite space supposed in some cosmogonic views to have existed before the ordered universe.

If you pay attention to headlines, it's easy to get caught up in the sense that life is spinning out of control. Global warming is swallowing up islands. People have to flee their homelands to avoid famine or torture. Police officers are getting shot while making regular traffic stops. Financial markets flipping and flopping like a trout just yanked out of water. The train is speeding along but it looks like no one's at the helm!

Chaos can be crazy-making, but it's actually a very healthy part of the cycle of life. It sweeps away the old and makes space for the new. Chaos creates the opening for new possibilities. It all depends on your approach to it.

Compare these two quotes:

"I have great belief in the fact that whenever there is chaos, it creates wonderful thinking. I consider chaos a gift."

Septima Poinsette Clark, educator and civil rights activist

"Living in continual chaos is exhausting, frightening. The catch is that it's also very addictive."

Lorna Luft, actress

Will chaos be a gift, an exhausting addiction or maybe just an unpleasant disruption in your life? Personally, I use chaos as a precious gift. To experience that more fully, ask yourself the following four questions:

Is this my chaos to handle?

It's tragic when a police officer is shot and none of us like seeing the changes global warming has created. But which parts of the chaos around us is truly ours to get involved with? As global citizens, we can care about others and do what we can to assist or support. But personally taking on chaos or problems that are not yours can be a trap, distracting you from the life you are meant to live and the issues you are meant to impact.

This especially applies to chaos created by friends or family members. Does their chaos really belong to you? Should you dive into your sister's messy divorce or shoulder responsibility for your buddy's shaky employment status? Is it even helpful that you get involved? A simple question to ask yourself: Is this really mine to do? If the answer is "yes," dive in! If not, step back.

Do you have control over the chaos?

Not all chaos is equal! You can control or impact some of it, like the mess in your garage or the craziness of your checkbook. But unless your last name is Lagarde or Yellen, you don't have much say over global financial markets -- and nobody controls the weather.

For chaos you cannot control, you've got a couple of options: 1) Accept it as it is and make peace with it. Find a way to enjoy the storm or be comfortable within the unknown of a difficult diagnosis. 2) Do what you can to minimize the impact of the chaos on you personally. Find less volatile places to stash your money or step away from a dysfunctional relationship.

For chaos you can control, ask yourself the next question:

Is it time to float or swim?

Chaos can be messy and sometimes it just has to stay that way for a while. Something new might be trying to emerge and it might take a while. When you've experienced a great loss, like the death of a loved one, a divorce, or losing a job, it's important to sit back and re-group. Our knee-jerk reaction to do something -- anything! -- to avoid the discomfort of chaos often leads to bad decisions. Wait until you feel more grounded and guided before taking major steps.

You'll know it's time to start swimming again when the action you want to take is a positive move toward your next chapter, not just pulling away from the chaos.

How can I be more Pono within this chaos?

"Pono" is a Hawaiian word that basically means to be right with the world, comfortable in your own skin, aligned with who you really are. When you're pono, you become the eye of the storm, calm and steady no matter what is flying around you.

When you're pono, it's easy to see your priorities and stay true to your values. When you're pono, it's easy to feel calm during chaos and to distinguish between chaos you can control and chaos you can't. When you feel pono, you know whether you should take action or whether it's time to chill and let it unfold. When you're pono, you're able to absorb the lessons, the gifts the chaos offers.

I invite you to try these four questions in the midst of chaos. You just might find yourself joining Bob Dylan and singing:

"Chaos is a friend of mine."

To your TOTAL empowerment!
Dr. Matt

Got questions? Please respond here or contact me through my Facebook fan page or my blog.

Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D., is President of The Empowerment Partnership. Author of several books, Dr. Matt has trained thousands of students to be totally empowered using Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), Huna, Mental Emotional Release® (MER®)therapy, and Empowerment Fit, a program that incorporates targeted mind/body/spirit practices to create optimal physical fitness and health. Download his free NLP class. For more about Dr. Matt, visit his blog at

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