One of the characteristics of my Myers-Briggs type (ENFP) is that I thrive on possibilities. While this is exciting and often leads to glorious bursts of creativity, it also means that I frequently find myself awash with multiple interests and too many uncompleted projects. This is also characteristic of “Scanners,” as described in Barbara Sher’s book, Refuse to Choose.
In his post this morning, Jonathan Fields asked, “are you building a body of work or a cornucopia of chaos?” My natural tendency toward pondering the possible rather than concentrating on the concrete leads me toward the chaotic side of the equation. In explaining the difference between the two, Jonathan listed several dichotomies, here are a couple that hit home for me:
• One is about progressive, conscious building within a well defined area of interest, the other is about bouncing to wherever the next perceived opportunity lies without regard to growth and consistency.
• One is about being mindful, present and proactive, the other is about being disconnected, frenetic and reactive.
I often find myself “bouncing to perceived opportunities” and “being disconnected, frenetic and reactive.” These tendencies inhibit productive work and lead to greater confusion. Here’s my take on how to handle it:
1) Recognize what is happening. When we run around trying to keep too many balls in the air at once, we may think we are being productive when we are really just being way too busy. When you find yourself being forgetful, running late, or struggling to keep track of everything, you’re doing too much.
2) Stop, look, and listen. When you notice you are in the midst of frenetic activity, stop whatever you are doing, look at your surroundings, and listen to your breathing. You will naturally shift into a moment of mindfulness. From that place of centered awareness, you can regain your perspective and chose a less chaotic path going forward.
As Jonathan reminds us, “powerful legacies rarely if ever occur in the form of scattershot, piecemeal efforts…cornucopias of chaos… no matter how fun, windswept or purposeful they seem when we’re adrift with them.”
When you find yourself moving into chaos, what do you do to shift out of it?