What often prefigures conscious, meaningful change in our lives is a sense of not-knowing and chaos, which can feel unusual and unsettling if you're used to taking charge of your life in well-defined directions. So what's the gift in this place of uncertainty and lack of clarity when you're struggling to make a change you really need and want?
Because chaos has no form, no destination, and no limits, it's actually the ideal inner space for you to explore possibilities you may never have considered before, including ones that have never existed. Here is the creative realm where you can allow your mind free play without trying to focus or force a conclusion before you feel you have the clarity you need.
As Dr. Robert Bilder, psychiatry and psychology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, says, “The truly creative changes and the big shifts occur right at the edge of chaos.” His studies of children in art classes show that "one of the things they found most valuable was the freedom not to have to seek right and wrong answers. It was that freedom to explore that led them to be increasingly engaged and allowed them to forge connections that let them be more creative.”
The co-active coaching I offer people in career and life-balance transitions actively embraces and works with what I call "the chaos zone" as a fertile area of potentiality and transformative change. As a certified life coach, I help my clients navigate the unfamiliar chaos zone, so they have the support they need to walk through fear of the unknown— and freely experience the creative, non-linear ways of intuiting, feeling, and making creative connections with thoughts and imagery.
One of my clients, Reilly, a woman in her mid-30's whom I coached, came to me totally dissatisfied with her career in restaurant management and disheartened with the quality of her life overall. Reilly chose to work with me because she was intrigued with the idea of gaining clarity about what she really wanted to do by allowing herself time to explore what was truly meaningful to her, instead of merely focusing on her past education and work experience.
We talked about her concerns re moving away from her current career without having a sense of where she really wanted to go. Her intense frustration with her position made her willing to explore her "chaos zone," though somewhat anxious about where this process would take her. As a start, she agreed to walk mindfully on a daily basis for two weeks. This would include journaling any thoughts, feelings, and observations that arose for her and intrigued her during the day. She also began to meditate again.
In one of Reilly's emails to me, she wrote— "I realize that I'm rambling, but it's helpful for me to do this, to get my thoughts out and have you there to take a look and and help me sort through them." Later in a coaching session she told me, "I've been thinking more in depth about what makes me feel happy and fulfilled. I get it why I like cooking— it's the total mindfulness, being in the moment. I'm totally focused, yet relaxed, like the other day when I helped the chef at my restaurant by cutting strawberries for an hour. That's not what I want to do for a living, but it got me thinking about the idea of therapies."
This was an exciting new thought for her, which also connected her with her background in dance and art. She wrote in her journal, "When I was in a ballet class growing up, I was completely focused, 'in the moment.' I've been missing this now for years. I took art classes in the past, and it was like an hour of meditation. This is how I feel when I cook, too— relaxed and focused."
When Reilly started coaching, she thought that her career path would have to follow her previous work history in restaurant management. Doing a simple task like cutting strawberries, and recalling her love of dance and art, led to a creative free flowing of her mind that brought forth new openings and associations. Now she was starting to consider a career path that focused on directly helping others.
Reilly then began to explore art therapy and, to her joy, discovered that there was also "Culinary Therapy." Further research showed her that "people use cooking for all sorts of therapeutic reasons." This was the spark that led her eventually to start her own cooking therapy classes geared to helping families learn to find new richness, depth, and enjoyment together in their lives.
Through our coaching together, Reilly moved through her chaos zone and created a fulfilling, creative career path for herself based on the sure awareness of what she truly loved and wanted to share with others.