The Coach's Corner

Don’t run from disorder, go through it

The Coach’s Corner Newsletter #33

Sometimes it takes a sense of disorder to bring me back to my senses. Growing up the oldest of six kids, our home had its share of chaos. My sister and I, along with four brothers, competed for bathroom space, best seats in the station wagon and who could hide the longest on those summer nights when we could play outside with our neighbors.

Going over to a friend’s house, I would marvel at glass figurines, fresh cut flowers in vases on the coffee table and crystal perched on shelves. I’m fairly sure none of those things would have survived intact in our house with one to six of us running around.

And yet the disorder we experienced most always led to reorder. By the time we headed for bed, we had all worked together to put things away and I don’t recall a single morning when I didn’t have what was necessary to make sure I got off to school on time and with all my belongings. It’s as if we needed to be part of the disorder to arrive at a place of order once again.



Don’t run from disorder, go through it

Frank arrived to our session with a very cheshire catlike grin on his face waiting for me to ask him, “what do you want to focus on today that will bring you value?”

As expected, I did – and he burst into the most enthusiastic description of how he’d made his way through the pandemonium he’d been experiencing for weeks at work.

“What changed?” I wondered.

“I stopped avoiding the mess. I kept thinking I could just wish my way through the issues that were bugging me with my colleagues. Instead I had to learn what was causing this lack of connection, and see if there was a way for us to work together. When I started asking more questions, and could hear how hard it was for a few of them to figure out how to solve a key problem, I realized there was a way we could do this together.”

“So how did you discover a path you could all agree on?

Frank paused, choosing his words carefully.

“Ah, I had to actually admit I didn’t have the answer.”

This was clearly a shift.

“What prompted you to share that insight?”

“I kept thinking I could just use temporary fixes to deal with the problem. When I admitted I really didn’t know how to resolve this dilemma, one of my colleagues offered a suggestion. And then another, and then even I was able to join in. Within 15 minutes, we were on our path to figure out the problem together.”

When I wondered where that leaves Frank now, he smiled again.

“On the other side of the pandemonium.”



Moving through disorder to reorder

Frank’s insight struck me. He knew that to get to a place of discovery he had to go through the struggle with his colleagues.

A few years ago I had the pleasure to meet Franciscan friar and ecumenical teacher Father Richard Rohr. In a daily meditation on the Center for Action and Contemplation site this month, he writes about the importance of the ‘disorder’ stage of life so that one can experience real growth. Here’s an excerpt,

There is no nonstop flight to reorder…Reorder is life on the other side of death, the victory on the other side of failure, the joy on the other side of the pains of childbirth. It is an insistence on going throughnot under, over, or around. To arrive there, we must endure, learn from, and include disorder, transcending the first naïve order—but also still including it!

Yet…we seem insistent on not recognizing the universal pattern of growth and change. Trees grow strong by reason of winds and storms. Boats are not meant to stay in permanent dry dock or harbor. Baby animals must be educated by their mothers in the hard ways of survival, or they almost always die young. It seems that each of us has to learn on our own what is well hidden but also in plain sight.

My takeaway

I will be the first to admit: I like order. But I’m learning that when I get too stuck in my routine I am unwilling to bend. That order becomes constricting. And that’s when I learn the hard lesson of disorder.

Disorder doesn’t feel good – it’s uncertain, unpredictable, uncomfortable. I used to run away quickly and do everything possible to ‘fix’ anything that even had a hint of disorder.

But, as Fr. Rohr reminds me, that disorder I resist can actually bring me to that place of reorder on the other side. And to get there, I must go through the disorder.

Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again. – Nelson Mandela

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