What is entropy?

Entropy is a measure of disorder.  Low entropy is highly organized (think crystal solids) and high entropy is highly unorganized (think gas molecules bouncing around or scattered around the universe).  There’s formulas and math and typical science, physics and chemistry lessons about this and that’s way more complicated than I can explain.

The thing that appeals to me about entropy is more abstract.  In almost every case, when you transform something in your life, it needs to go through a phase of being less organized.  Think about the last time you remodeled your house (or observed it happening in someone else’s life).  Step one was tearing things apart and making a huge mess.  Then the work of reorganizing begins… new framing, plaster, paint, carpet, cabinets, finishes, and lastly all the cool new furniture.  It goes from organized through what feels like a painful chaos and then rebuilds into something hopefully better and more organized than where it started.

If you are remodeling yourself (personal development), you will find that it doesn’t happen with a comfortable vector of linear growth. As you start a new job or implement a new process or system in your life or work, you must go through a similar period of mess and discomfort. You are making a change and you find yourself feeling frustrated, hopeless, lost, and possibly lacking the confidence that your new future will be better than your past. It feels the same way when you come home after a long day to an in-process remodel and wonder if it will ever end.

Unfortunately, you can’t get to a new future without going through this phase.  I call this ‘goodentropy.’ 

It’s important to recognize this phase for what it is and not try to retreat back to the past. More often than not, the past isn’t really an option. If change is ‘happening to you,’ then you need to figure out how to embrace the change so you can quickly advance to the future. If YOU instigated the change, but you’re now feeling it’s a bigger effort than you hoped, don’t lose hope. Remember the valuable reasons that drove you to start the process to remodel your life (personal development) and move forward. You can do it. And the temporary discomfort during the mess of the remodel will soon be replaced with fresh paint, and new decorations. You will be awesome!

If you are a science student or professional, please forgive my somewhat improper use of the word. Of course, entropy (high or low) is neither good nor bad.  I just love the word.  I love how it looks. I love how it sounds. And, I love the endless ways that entropy applies to my life.

I’m sure over time, I’ll write more about entropy.  For now, I’ll add one more example.

One of the laws of thermodynamics (think back to physics) is that everything in the universe naturally becomes less organized over time. It takes energy to organize things. Think about the endless energy required to keep your desk, kitchen or closet organized. A good friend of mine (with OCD) told me last week about the very high level of anxiety, stress and energy required to ensure his closet is perfectly organized. I don’t have OCD, and my closet has its own lifecycle. I do a great job organizing it. Then over the next several weeks or months it falls apart into chaos until it’s too crazy. Then I invest the time and effort to reorganize it. The same happens in my garage, my pantry, my car… everywhere. Minus OCD considerations, it’s universal.

That’s entropy. You can try to fight it. But like gravity, it will keep pushing and pushing and pushing. Like gravity, it can crush you if you’re not careful.  But like gravity, understanding how it works is massively important and you can begin to use those same forces to propel you into action.