Recover from burnout

A Peaceful Life Is Not Worth Living

There are two domains in life: Order and Chaos. 

Every event that is unpredictable or outside of our control is part of the realm of Chaos. You are walking the roads of Chaos when no one hires you after college, relatives get cancer, and muggers stab you while you catch a Pikachu in Pokemon Go.

In contrast, Order is the realm where we consistently achieve the goals we set and where everything is predictable. It's where you gamble your savings on DogeCoin and become a billionaire. It's also where exams ask the questions you studied for and where the friendzone doesn't exist because crushes don't reject you. 

We navigate a world we don't understand when we are children. Sometimes with curiosity, and others with fear. But our desire for certainty grows when we age, making some people detest Chaos.

These people obsess over the realm of Order, where everything is certain and safe. Some dream of becoming children again: an age where life seems less chaotic because we are ignorant of the "future" as a concept.

But Chaos is necessary. It's where drastic and unexpected growth happens. 

Brilliant founders would happily retire after selling their first startup in a world of complete Order. But, they instead start loathing their predictable lives because there's no room to learn, change, or grow. Everything's known. 

A meaningful life is one in the middle of Order and Chaos. One foot ready for unexpected excitement, and another prepared for expected serenity. 

I know this balance is necessary. Yet, on December 22th, while drafting an article on how life is unpredictable, I tested positive for COVID. 

I, the Nicolás attached to Order, planned to move to Mexico City between December 25th and Jan 22th. I'd booked an Airbnb, bought my plane ticket, and made plans with a friend who was going to be in Mexico until New Year's Eve. I also planned to meet coworkers, internet friends, and girls I met on dating apps that promised not to be kidnappers. Chaos uninvited me of these plans.

So there was I, on December 22th, requesting a refund to Airbnb and the airline instead of buying Mexican Pesos as planned. I knew stressing over the situation wouldn't help. Anxiety is like a skilled detective that identifies problems but never solves them.

So once I got my money back, I did what one must when Chaos is intolerable—look inward and search for the situation's silver lining.

My old therapist, a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor, taught me an exercise to challenge my anxious thoughts. Use it to ideate rational alternatives and solutions to stressful events from the realm of Chaos.

First, you have to describe a common situation that triggers your anxiety. You can also—my suggestion—write down the unexpected problem that's frustrating you. In my case, the situation was losing my flight, money, and chance to meet my future wife. No biggie.

Then, write the anxiety-producing (or unexpected) event's worst, best, and likely outcomes. For example, the worst outcome of losing my trip to COVID-19 is that I won't visit Mexico for a month. The likely outcome is that I'll be there around January 10th.

Next, imagine that the worst outcome becomes true and answer three questions: Would it still matter one week, one month, or one year from now? In my case, the answer is no. In fact, I drafted this article on December 23rd, and I'm already at peace with the whole situation.

Finally, we must prove to ourselves how irrationally we might be thinking. When faced with uncertainty, we are often clueless about what to do and let our emotions rule our acts. For example, we might think that we'll fall out of a rollercoaster and die out of fear for this ride. But, in reality, we might just pass out or ruin other people's clothes. So for the last step, describe your rational and irrational thoughts using the worst and likely outcomes you wrote above. 

My irrational thought is that arriving later in Mexico means it would be impossible to meet friends, new places, and dates. But rationally, delaying my trip means waiting a little longer.

The next time Chaos gazes at you, stare back at it. Confront it. Use it as an opportunity to look inward and define the true impact of the situation. More times than not, the actual implications of an unexpected event are insignificant compared to what you imagined.

I write for intellectually curious young adults striving to balance hustle and joy. If you are one, subscribe to my newsletter and learn to make life more fulfilling.