by Dr. Ryan B. Jackson
STOP beating yourself up. Seriously, starting today stop this longstanding, toxic practice of tearing yourself down when something does not go right, especially when you have built incredible systems matched only by your intense discipline, and things still-fall-apart. Read the rest of this blog to learn why I want you to stop being so hard on yourself and instead remain in a constant state of reflection (not rejection).
Older I get the more fascinated—obsessed, possibly—I get with entropy. At a base-level, entropy’s simplicity is admiring: Things Change. However, this Thermodynamic Law, when analyzed and applied to all aspects of life, is anything but simple. While I am certainly no expert in physics or calculus nor I am here to give a lesson in Quantum Mechanics, entropy and its impact on our lives and organizations cannot be overlooked or foot noted as “that’s life.”
Our lives, and by extension, our organizations are filled with uncertainty, randomness, and chaos. Those of us who resist the Anarchist or Laisse-faire spirit build systems in our lives and organizations to safeguard against entropy—life’s eventual, inevitable trend toward disorder. A simple example would be the Fit-Leaders’ “pound-a-pint” challenge. To condition our brain and bodies to consume more water, we instilled an ongoing challenge, starting each day with a pint of water. This simple system serves as a catalyst for our water in-take optimization, as well as waking up the brain up, combating dehydration, etc. However, as simple as this pound-a-pint system is, far too many of us know how easy it is to wake up one morning and not drink that pint of water, and before you know it, one day has become two months and then a year and before long your kidneys are suffering from all the coffee, energy drinks and sweet teas you have been pounding.
That is entropy. Life’s natural trend towards disorder.
Entropy and time have a strong correlation. No matter how secure, well-managed, or good-intentioned your systems are, as time goes on these systems inevitably breakdown. Like heat escapes a scalding cup of coffee or a desk once clean becomes unrecognizably cluttered, entropy does not discriminate, and life’s chaos mechanism is entirely natural. That last bit is what I really want to drive home. Entropy, life’s imminent trend towards disorder and death, is completely natural. Your system breaking down is natural. Your organization’s well-oiled machine breaking down is, you guessed it, completely natural. Whether it is skipping your water in the morning, binging on ice cream over the weekend or falling completely off your exercise regiment, a simple fact remains: chaos and disorder are natural.
This is why the willpower/discipline narrative is both misleading and untrue. Entropy, and its countless applicable examples across all areas of life, will eventually and naturally take its course and wreak havoc on your iron-clad discipline. Our ability to “gut-things-out” works great in the short term, but like the steaming hot coffee you use to warm your hands on a freezing winter morning, our own discipline—an energy fueled by dopamine raging in us—eventually transfers to the world and chaos around us. Our fire, our discipline, like the intense heat from the coffee, dissipates as it spreads out across an ever-demanding universe. Therefore, it is safe and honest to say, our discipline can and will fail us—eventually. It is because of this natural law and our inability to escape its trending clutches that we must not be so hard on ourselves all the time. We will fail. Systems will fail. High-functioning, top-performing people, teams, and organizations all fail. Because life, in the form of entropy, finds a way.
This better understanding of entropy and its impact on our lives and organizations is not an excuse clause or a welcome mat for the jaded. Instead, as we better understand entropy and nature’s penchant for chaos, we can begin forgiving ourselves for inevitable failures and system breakdowns. We can also let entropy’s reality and outcomes serve as our perpetual reminder that no matter how high we are flying, how fast we are going, how successful we have become, chaos lies waiting. Thus, we accelerate during seasons of success and optimization, yet we do it with a humble, cautious approach because we also know that things can and will change…