Snow Globes

Nov 11, 2010   //   by Steve Wooding   //   A Slice of Lemon, Articles  //  No Comments

IN SHORT: Sometimes the only way to manage chaos and find clarity is to stop trying to manage the chaos and let clarity find you.

[932 words, approx 5-8 minutes to read]

Some of the following tale is true, some is fiction, but could be true.
None is intended to deceive, all is food for thought.

Most of us have seen a snow-globe at some point. Some of you might even have one or two at home. There are even a few people who collect them – perhaps you know one of them..?

Most of the usual ones are more like a dome than a globe, particularly ones that you might buy as a cheap souvenir – they have a plastic shell and a flat base and usually a little model of a local tourist attraction or point of interest inside. However, the most beautiful ones are true globes, glass spheres resting on a stand, and they also have a model or small scene inside as well.

As you know though, the whole point of snow-globes is what happens when you shake them.

It’s interesting watching how different people do it. Some just pick it up and turn it over carefully, waiting for the flakes inside to fall to the top, before placing it back the right way up and watching it all float gently down through the liquid, flowing gracefully around the small sculpture inside, or settling on it, until all is clear and still again.

Others, especially children I’ve noticed, like to grab it and shake it vigorously up and down, from side to side, seemingly until their arms get tired. Then they watch as the flakes tumble round and round in the eddying fluid until gravity’s effect wins out and they swirl in eventual downward spirals to finally come to rest once more.

A friend recalled this experience:

“We have a snow globe at home that makes an annual appearance at Christmas. It’s a glass sphere about 4 inches across atop a clockwork musical stand. Inside is a snowman – you know the usual traditional sort, with a carrot nose, pebble smile, battered top hat and striped scarf.

I remember one Christmas – I can’t remember exactly when – several of my nieces and nephews had been playing with it for quite a while, picking it up, shaking it violently, watching it then each grabbing for it, even before the last flakes had settled, to unsettle it all over again.

This hadn’t been going on for more than a few minutes when my youngest niece noticed what was happening and started to get upset. She tried to get them to stop, but unfortunately as children often do, they just did it all the more, thinking it funny to shake it up in front of her. Someone intervened pretty quickly when the taunting started in earnest, and enquired of my youngest niece what the problem was.

She said she was worried about the snowman.

They looked a little confused and asked what she meant, to which she replied, “Well he might’ve had fun the first few times, but it’s not fun if it’s always shaking and the snow never stops swirling, is it?”

And she was right.

It’s fine for things to get swirly, topsy-turvy and up-in-the-air from time to time, but it’s soon stops being fun if it’s happening all the time. Imagine getting on a roller-coaster at the fair and instead of the ride lasting a minute or two, it lasted several hours..?

Or how about spending every waking hour from jentacular light to pillow at night working furiously seven days a week for months..? Oh wait… some of you may not have to imagine that one at all…

You may feel that your current reality is far too like these situations. And in these situations, things only end one of two ways.

The first of those ways involves a similar fate to the snow-globe in the hands of an over-excited child – sooner or later, usually sooner than you hope, your grip slips and something cracks.

You see, you can’t see through a flurry, never mind try to make your way though one even if you think you absolutely have to. I know – I tried driving through one once, albeit very slowly. Needless to say, the driver of the car I hit as mine slid gracefully into theirs on the snow-slick road wasn’t too impressed…

At those times, when everything seems up in the air or there’s too much to manage, when all seems to be twirling chaos and endless movement, at those times particularly, things have to end the second way before they end the first. It’s the only thing you can choose to do, in fact the only thing it’s really sensible to do:


Yes, stop. Stop everything.

Stopping is sometimes the only way you’ll find clarity in the chaos. Letting things settle so, like the snowman, you can see clearly again. Or, even if things aren’t settling yet, when they’re still swirling around, you can stop in the eye of the storm. Then you can see what’s important and really needs your attention and effort, and what’s just been caught up and pulled along in the turbulent wake of your situation that you can let settle to the metaphorical floor.

After all, athletes would be mad to train intensely day in, day out without giving their bodies space and time in-between to recuperate, repair and adapt. The woodsman who never stops to sharpen his axe regularly will soon find himself increasingly unable to persuade even the slightest of trees to fall over. And plenty of managers will know that busy-ness isn’t always productive business.

Perhaps it’s time for you to start stopping more often, because sometimes the only way to manage chaos and find clarity is to stop trying to manage the chaos and let clarity find you.

Until next time,

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