How I find a balance between order and chaos

The more order I try and create in my life by building routines, structures and predictability the more I have the propensity to move towards chaos, disorder and dysfunction. Why is that? What is this other side of me that prefers chaos over order? Does this exist in all of us?

I have been struggling with this for a while and it is one of the reasons for falling off course and routine every now and then. I have read every piece of advice under the sun ranging from having more willpower, motivation to having better systems and routines. But I feel there is something else at work here.

*A side note about my willpower

In my personal circles, I only know one person with truly amazing willpower — and that is me *blows own horn*. (Maybe I need better circles). 
Mentally, I am very tough, when it comes to things like abstinence and willpower. Physically, I bruise like a peach. So if my willpower and motivation is questioned for the rest of this article — remember these points:

  • After smoking for nearly 15 years (sometimes, up to 30 cigarettes a day), I quit — cold turkey.
  • In a test of my willpower, I quit all processed sugar for 8 months (lost 12 kgs in the process but that wasn’t the objective — story for another time).
  • I became a pescetarian overnight which lasted nearly 4 years and with my meat-eating ethnic and cultural background — it was socially (and emotionally) very difficult. (Yes, I started eating meat again — also, story for another time).
  • I made waking up at 0400 a norm in my life. (Much to my wife’s dismay — sorry)
  • I made taking cold showers a habit (yes, even in Canberra winter).
  • I completed multiple 10-day silent meditation ‘retreats’. (emotionally, physically and mentally the toughest thing I have had to do — yet)


We all try to move our lives towards order. Creating order in our homes, personal lives, work lives, teaching order to our kids and above all, we try to conduct ourselves in an orderly fashion. Order is defined as the natural state of a civilised society. Anyone without this order is judged as uncivilised and disorderly.

Most of our early life is about teaching us to conduct ourselves and our lives in order. We learn the order of things as well as how to be orderly. But what is order in this context?

What you and I consider as order today may not have been order yesterday and certainly, the order of yesterday is not the order today. Order is whatever we agree to, collectively, as a culture, as a society. Much like laws, money, social status, success and anything else we attach meaning to. Whatever we agree to is the order of the time.

Then what separates order from chaos?

Order is predictability, it is a certainty, it is comfort. It is repeatable and replicable. It is the calmness that we all try to aim for. It is organised, it is structured. Order signifies a linear progression of things — to put things in the correct order. Life is dictated by order — our learnings and stages of life are defined by this linear passage of time, by this order.

But don’t let the calm and composed demeanour of order fool you. It is not as innocent as it appears. The origins of order are far from its current form. Underneath this calm and serene facade brews something far more ominous which can surface at any moment. Yes, you guessed it right — chaos.


Chaos has got a bad reputation. It is thought of as all that is wrong in the world and has been wrong throughout history. Why is chaos negative? Why are we told and taught to avoid chaos at all costs? What exactly is chaos? Why are societies so afraid of chaos? Why do we long to create this order in our lives, when we all have this chaos brewing and burning just underneath the surface?

In Greek mythology Chaos, also spelled Khaos, was the first of the Protogenoi (primeval gods) that precedes the universe. His name means ‘the gap’. He was followed in quick succession by Gaia (Earth), Tartarus (the Underworld) and Eros (Love/Life-bringer).

In the cosmic and ancient sense, chaos is a void. An endless, uncertain, unpredictable, unknown, deep, bottomless abyss. In the modern sense, chaos means disorganised, unruly, sloppy, dysfunctional or broken.

However, Chaos/Khaos also happens to be the first and foremost, preceding the universe itself. The original and natural state of the universe, and if you think back at the time of the big bang — which created this universe, it would not have been a very orderly time and things didn’t come together in an orderly fashion. It was utter chaos — in the true sense of the word. This is the state the universe is naturally returning to thanks to our friend; Entropy — the second law of thermodynamics. The universe has the predisposition to go from a state of higher organisation to a lower one. From order to chaos. Then how did we get the order in the first place? Evolution literally goes again the natural flow of the universe and reverses entropy.

Chaos is the primal force that created everything, chaos gives rise to order and only out of chaos comes order and out of chaos came life. Everything we have today has come from a state of chaos. But is there a balance?

The Balance

Should there be one? Should life exist in the realm of chaos or order? Or should it oscillate between the two? Is chaos the yang to order’s yin?

Order ultimately emerges from chaos. To have order means nothing unless there had been chaos. To know order means to have known chaos before that. Life needs contrast. A point of reference and comparison. Just how, in the seed sleeps a mighty oak, in all of order there is potential for chaos but more importantly, in chaos, not only is there potential for order but there is an underlying order. We may not see it, but often we can feel and sense it. This is the balance. This is the yin and yang. Unlike the dualistic nature of things, that we have grown accustomed to throughout mythology and religiosity — good vs bad, God vs evil, Ra vs Apep and so on — Order and chaos are the two sides of the same coin. One does not exist without the other. It is coexistent, coinciding not dualism.

The dualistic teaching of religions has forced a perspective on our history and our understanding of the world where we always look for a balance between the right side and the wrong side. A balance between good and evil. Between moral and immoral. Between light and dark. Between order and chaos. Whether it is Seth and Horus, Zeus and Typhon, Buddha and Mara. Always looking for the triumph of good over bad.

Personal lives and habits

Hidden deep within every disciplined human is the seed of chaos. Which sprouts every now and then. I have both of these forces at work within me almost all the time. Beneath the facade of what I show to the world, I have a sense of chaos within — each and every one of us does. Some are better at hiding and suppressing it than others. Chaos is our true nature but we are forced to tame it by the world, by civilisation in pursuit of order. Look at any child under 3 years of age and you will see it. This deeper chaotic self is the reason why people become ‘bad’ over time and after some milestone or a liminal event in their lives — they stop caring and become completely ‘irrational’ and we call it a midlife crisis.

In my personal life, I try very hard to create order but there have been times when chaos has taken over. It is not a question of willpower or motivation, as mentioned at the beginning, I have plenty of both, it is the propensity of the primal force of chaos to manifest and take root.

I try to keep the chaos contained by doing something I call The Week of Balance.

The Week of Balance

This is a rather recent practice I have started but I am already seeing the fruits. It is a simple practice where I divide my week into two; 4 days of chaos followed by 3 days of order.

I spend the first half of the week doing everything that I have been suppressing, to go loose and not follow my routines, diets, obligations and responsibilities — where I can just binge eat, drink, watch and do whatever to my heart’s content. Stay up till 0500 watching Netflix? Sure. Eating a pack of TimTams in one sitting? Sure. Sleeping till noon? Sure. Not seeing anyone and not writing, producing any work? Absolutely. You get the idea. Once I get this chaos out of my system I can then focus on coming back to my orderly self, where I will start meditating, journaling, taking long walks to shake it all off and slowly reintegrate back into my life over the next 3 days.

Having learnt from my past episodes of destruction and chaotic sprees, chaos is a part of my personality that lives inside me and I keep it in control by winning some and losing some. By feeding it a little bit without letting it completely take over my life and destroy it. I have the disposition to gravitate towards self-destruction, self-sabotage and suffering. So I need to walk a fine line.

I know some people who have repressed this force for years on end have had their entire lives completely destroyed, over and over. They deny its existence and its power over them. Don’t repress it. It is a part of you, mysterious but certainly stronger than your willpower and motivations. It is in fact the primal force of the universe. Give some and take some.

Organised chaos

In the end, life is just organised chaos but chaos nevertheless. There is so much unpredictability and uncertainty in life that on a long enough horizon it is all random and chaotic. We try and create all sorts of order, predictability, certainty, explanations, meanings and purpose for our life and the world around us. We use science and theories to explain the natural world around us and when one theory stops being relevant or accurate we come up with a new one to explain the phenomena and course correct. There is so much we don’t know about the world, universe and our own self. Sheer chaos. No matter how much we try to define our lives and how much control we try to put in place there will always be things we cannot foresee and control.

Let us not try too hard. Let us enjoy the ride and position ourselves for the optimum results. And let us find the balance between our order and our chaos.

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