When I was in 6th grade, I knew a kid who came back from Singapore where his family had been missionaries. His name was Steven, but everyone called him Stevie. He had tons of really cool electronics that he had picked up during his time in Asia, and he was willing to sell me a Walkman knock off for $50. It was made by Aiwa. One of those brands like Thule that's so cool, only insiders know how to pronounce it right. It was all black with some red and white details and it had two super cool features: Autoreverse and a three channel equalizer. Hello! It had an equalizer on a hand held tape player! It was sooooo cool. But there was one problem I experienced constantly ... tangled headphone wires.
Tangled head phones, tangled electrical cords, tangles hoses, tangled christmas lights, tangled blinds pulls. You name it. If it could get tangled it did get tangled, and it all started with shoe laces. Why were my shoe laces always getting tangled, and why was everything always getting tangled? Or here's another question... why don't I have that problem now?
It's weird. I practically never have that problem anymore. Either things don't get tangled in the first place, or if they are a little bit, I can easily undo it. Why? What's the difference?
The answer is probably a bit obvious, but it's worth looking at it and thinking about how it relates to the other parts of our lives that are still getting tangled. The way I see it, it's a two part answer. First, I am more careful about how I put things away. Second, I am more patient about getting things untangled.
When I was a kid, I just grabbed the thing and jammed it into a drawer or pocket or closet without thinking about what it would be like when I got it back out. An interesting side note is that I also didn't think about whether that would be easy or hard for someone else to pull out. It's no surprise then that when I tried to retrieve the item, that it would be a mess. And of course, when I did pull it out, I was in a hurry to fix the mess and just started pulling on whatever end seemed to stick out the furthest.
Now, when I put away an electrical cord, I plug the two ends together and wrap it up the way I learned to flake climbing rope when I was in college. When I put away christmas lights, I wrap them around a paper towel core or at least put them in separate bags. Basically, I've learned that if I put it away right, it's easier to get it out without getting too tangled.
But, you know, some things just get tangled anyway, no matter what you do...especially those christmas lights. So, now when I pull something out that is already tangled, I take a moment to look at it. Usually, the easiest way to untangle it is to just let it fall apart. Rather than pulling the one end you can find, go to the middle and just start opening up the knot, slowly pulling all the parts apart from each other. In my experience, it will usually find its way open from there.
I've found that applying these same principles to the rest of my life helps me get other things untangled too. First of all, take the time to do things right the first time. Then, when things still get tangled, take a breath, and go straight to the heart of the matter rather than pulling on whatever end is sticking out.
What about you? Is there some part of your life that's a tangled mess? Would it be helpful to go straight to the heart of that matter rather than pulling on loose ends?