bringing order to chaos

chaos to order

Someone I spoke to today, said they see their role as bringing order to chaos.  Now I don’t wish to dismiss this skill. I could probably do with an injection of this ability myself at times, but I do wonder …

… what’s wrong with chaos?

When did we decide chaos was a bad thing, something to be controlled, managed, ordered?

Chaos theory expounds that complex systems, whose behaviour is highly sensitive to slight change in conditions, can generate strikingly great consequences from very small alterations.

That could be a good thing, couldn’t it?  Given we are all uniquely complex, given all our human interactions are complex, given our world is complex, maybe we are denying ourselves unimaginable possibilities, inconceivable freedoms, great achievements by setting out to order the chaos?

Maybe instead we should allow more chaos in the order?  Let it be?

a new anxiety…


I’ve been noticing how modern technology reminds us.

Some of this is helpful, but generally technology reminds us to catch up. Reminds us of what we’ve missed or not done. In this way it unconsciously builds a sense within us of being behind. It gives us an always on reminder; a visual or auditory ‘shove’ to encourage us to catch up.

My inbox tells me how many ‘unread emails’ I have.  It doesn’t tell me how many I’ve read today or how many I’ve responded to, or the hours of effort I have invested in my endless communication with those I interact with. No. Instead it reminds me what I still have to do.

My phone alerts me to ‘missed calls’.  Raising in me a sense that I’ve let someone down or maybe missed an important person or message. It nudges me towards a message, a voicemail the person has left, and then sends me a text in case I ignore the other signals I have been sent. It is like my phone is constantly whispering ‘Come on, come on, keep up’.

Meanwhile all my technology reminds me I have ‘updates’ – even my TV.  I’m always out of date it seems. Missing some vital feature or fix to make me ever more capable, or ever more efficient. Now, my i-phone and i-pad, not only tell me I have updates, but if I say I’m not ready to install them they say ‘shall I remind you later today?’  Nooooo!

The failure. The pressure. The anxiety.

What has happened here?


get out of my shoes now



Empathy is the new black.

Schools are teaching empathy to children. Leaders are encouraged to display EQ as much as IQ. Many books explore building empathy. It’s a core coaching skill. Developmental psychiatrists and psychologists are exploring the roots of empathy in animals and the deep nature of its place in our humanity. True empathy is good. Deeply human.

To be clear empathy, as opposed to sympathy, could be described as feeling with someone, rather than feeling for someone. “I feel your anguish” as opposed to “I am sorry you’re hurting”.

It is standing in their shoes to experience their emotions.

But empathy requires thoughts as well as feelings. It is also a two person activity. So to be truly empathetic we need to balance thought and emotion as well as balance self and other. Recognising and sharing in someone else’s complex emotional state is in itself a complex inner experience, and it requires considerable self awareness and control to walk that line, be useful, be safe, keep them safe.

Otherwise empathy becomes a trap.

We can feel we are being held hostage by the other person’s feelings. Imprisoned in our own thought / feeling response. Balance requires us to have the self awareness and the dexterity and subtlety to pay attention to another’s needs whilst not sacrificing our own needs. We need to be able to recognise what is our stuff and what belongs to the person we are empathising with. Also what emerges in the soup of the empathetic interaction. What needs to stay in the soup, neither theirs nor ours.

Putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes is something the receiver can find deeply rewarding. Addictive even. That puts the onus on us to know when to extract ourselves from their shoes. And how.

Equally, overly empathic people may lose the ability to know what they want or need. They may have a diminished ability to make decisions in their own best interest, experience physical and psychological exhaustion from deflecting their own feelings.

We need to be able to stand in our own shoes too.


time, choice and freedom

time choice freedom
Our lives are complicated.

Work has changed for many of us. The ‘always on’ technology-driven communication possibilities mean that many of us are slaves to our email, our social media connections, electronic meetings and diaries. They have become all pervasive. The global world means many of us are in meetings, conversing or delivering to deadlines spanning a full twenty four hours; with an increasing expectation to be available whenever required. Technology has become more complex, not least because it changes constantly. Upgrade, upgrade, upgrade. Many commercial activities have become more complex, driven in part by the opportunity technology affords us. Consequently many business processes have become more complicated, not less.

And how do we respond? We blur boundaries, we work ‘more flexibly’, from home or away from interruption; we work evenings, weekends, so we can catch up with our email, sort out our admin, stay on top of things.

There is a knock on effect on our families, our non-work life. An impact on our wellbeing. On our health.

Of course these same globalisation, always on, technology driven changes work in our favour too. As consumers. The ability to access knowledge, products, services instantly, at the touch of a button on one of our many devices, anywhere, any time, is highly desirable. It buys us time, a precious commodity. It gives us choice, freedom.

Yet we are ceding control. Irony of ironies. The time, choice and freedom we have won is eaten up by the work demands on our time, choice and freedom.

Time to simplify?
Time to recreate boundaries?
Time to take control back?
Time to makes choices?
Time to win freedom?