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Alchemy: How Chaos Can Turn Into Magic

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2020 looked nothing like I thought it would, or like any of us could have imagined. At first, I was resistant to this new way of life, desperately trying to control and manage everything. I craved a sense of control as it felt like everything was spiraling out of control. But I soon realized that I was only fooling myself, and my resistance was making everything even harder.

It wasn’t until I let go of the need to force normalcy and accepted reality that I began to regain presence and cope with the chaos happening around me. Instead of fighting against it, I started embracing it.

I found joy in the midst of uncertainty. I helped my kids with their schoolwork outdoors, had breakfast for dinner multiple times in one week, and embarked on neighborhood walks where our whole family dressed up in various costumes, from Game of Thrones to Batgirl. The more we embraced the unknown, the more we gained from it. A year later, we had created our new normal, which was anything but normal. And surprisingly, we discovered that’s exactly how we like it.

Here’s to the beauty of creative chaos.

The Alchemy of Chaos

The word “alchemy” represents a seemingly magical process of transformation and creation. It’s about taking what may seem like coal in your hands and turning it into gold. It’s about transforming poison into an elixir and a virus into global health. In the face of challenges, both on an individual and global level, leaders have the opportunity to alchemize chaos into something better.

This alchemical process begins with internal work. One example is working with your shadow, which involves turning coal into gold within yourself. Each of us has unclaimed parts—elements of ourselves that we deny, reject, and disown. At some point, we were taught that these parts were not allowed and didn’t serve us. However, when we view these aspects negatively, they become reactive, out of control, and exist in our subconscious, working against us and our true potential. By excavating our shadows and acknowledging the gifts they hold, we can see the jewels within us.

Alchemizing chaos means finding the gift within the chaos without denying its reality. Instead of viewing challenges as purely negative and destructive, we can shift our perspective and see the opportunities they present. Even during times like the pandemic era, we can use challenging circumstances for good, as long as we’re not in denial of reality.

The role of a conscious leader in times of chaos is threefold:

Face reality: It’s essential to confront and embrace reality, both within ourselves and in the world around us. By accepting what is, we can move forward and create positive change.

Hold multiple, infinite realities: Recognize that reality can be multifaceted, and different perspectives exist simultaneously. It’s important to consider diverse viewpoints to make informed decisions.

Create reality: With a solid foundation in reality, conscious leaders have the power to create new possibilities and shape the future. By accepting the truth of our current circumstances, we can effectively lead change within our companies, society, and the world at large.

Conscious Leadership: The Practice of Inquiry

The practice of inquiry involves sitting with a question rather than desperately seeking immediate answers. When we become consumed with finding solutions, we lose presence and fail to fully explore the depths of the question at hand. This doesn’t mean that answers don’t exist or that important questions should go unanswered. However, when faced with unanswerable questions, acknowledging their existence and sitting within the question itself, rather than trying to make it disappear, allows us to be present. Resistance to what’s happening will only increase our suffering.

So, how do we help our organizations alchemize chaos?

There are various forms of chaos occurring within our organizations. Layoffs, drastic operational changes, and increasing uncertainty place tremendous demands on leaders and individuals. Navigating this complexity requires presence as the foundation for potential solutions.

Resisting what is will prevent us from accessing what is possible. The more we try to control everything, the more out of control we will feel. It’s crucial not to over-strategize or plan too far into the future because none of us truly know what lies ahead. There’s no playbook for the current situation. Pretending to have all the answers will only keep us out of presence.

The perfect mantra for everyone right now is: “What is the next step?” 

Instead of fixating on the uncertain future, let’s focus on what’s in front of us. Even in the midst of layoffs, business closures, and disrupted supply chains, there is always something beneficial happening. 

It may be challenging to see it that way, but by cultivating curiosity and gratitude, we can alchemize chaos into something beautiful.

This article is related to my interview with Christine Owenell – Listen here. 

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Dr. Caneel Joyce is a CEO Coach and social scientist who helps people break out of the invisible traps and make whole-life changes easily and naturally.

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