Five Minutes to Thrive - Entropy & Resilience

  • Published
  • By Major Matthew Clouse
  • 363d ISRW

I first learned about the concept of entropy in my high school physics class. Embarrassingly, my understanding of the concept and the other laws of thermodynamics have not matured over the years. I understand entropy as a process of gradual decline in energy over time to the point where it cannot be converted into meaningful work. As we approach Groundhog’s Day, I am reminded of times during the previous year when I felt a loss of steam, or motivation to get things done. Below are some of the resilience tools that I found myself going back to time and again to pull myself together and achieve a modicum of order and productivity.

Create rituals. By rituals, I just mean routines, but the word “ritual” sounds more impressive. Rituals have been especially important to my well-being because they help me to manage and conserve precious physical, mental, and emotional energy to apply against problems that I need or want to solve. Incrementally subduing chaos in our lives through the practice of rituals not only increases order and reduces inefficiency, but the practice of rituals lends to feelings of calm, selfmastery, and energy to try new things.

Reduce clutter. I love getting rid of things, you could say I excel at it. A drawback to this skill is that I have probably reinforced hoarding behavior in my children who hate to get rid of things. I hope a better psychologist than I will be able to fix that later. Joking aside, whether entropy has mercilessly ravaged your closet, or if your relationships have nearly disintegrated – rather than waste precious energy on stepping awkwardly and repeatedly around the problem, expend some energy putting things right in your home or your life so that it can flow more easily. Donate or throw away stuff you do not use or want; plan to repair a damaged relationship, then act with vulnerability and courage to see your plan through.

“Do not sweat the small stuff”. If we want to have energy left over to give to things that are important to us, we must learn to let go of things that sap our energy and provide little or no value. We can start by refusing to be lured into useless arguments. The energy we willingly waste on seeking out and responding to antagonism is lost forever and cannot be used toward something of greater value. Likewise, we can learn to stop wasting our energy on outcomes we cannot control – like how people drive in traffic. For people with chronic health conditions, “not sweating the small stuff” may sound easier said than done. If I have learned anything from people in various stages of recovery, learning to not sweat the small stuff is key to maintaining resilience and staying on track with goals. I like to use a handful of phrases to help me remember to protect my precious energy (e.g. “I’m responsible for the effort, not the outcome”, “One day at a time”, “This too shall pass”)

While practicing rituals, reducing clutter, and learning to let go of trivial things will certainly require energy from you up front, these costs are more than made up for in energy saved that can be used on pursuits that add greater meaning and purpose to your life.

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