The busyness of our lives can be overwhelming. We’re almost all trying to find time for our faith, family, work, community, and personal development, let alone rest or leisure. There is so much chaos bombarding us, it can be easier to bounce from task to task than to try to create more structure. Even if this is our experience, most of us recognize it’s counterproductive, and that instilling more structure and order in our lives will give us greater peace.
St. Irenaeus once said, “Where there is order, there is harmony; where there is harmony, everything happens in due time; where everything happens in due time, there will be benefit.” As the Doctor of Unity notes, order gives us a sense of harmony and security. With order, we can encounter difficulty and stress with a sense of calm.
Restoring structure in our lives is not only good for our physical wellbeing, but it contributes to our emotional and spiritual health, as well. NYU psychologist Rachel Goldman describes the emotional implications saying, “If people don’t have structure and are sitting around with less to focus on, then they also probably will find themselves thinking about the stressful situation more, which can also lead to additional stress and anxiety.” This is not a new understanding of the human person either, but something that’s been understood in the history of the Church.
In 516 AD, St. Benedict established a ‘rule of life’ for his monks to live by. The purpose of the rule, which would later influence all religious orders and communities, was to encourage a way of life conducive to virtue and both personal and spiritual thriving. In it, St. Benedict discusses the importance of daily structure saying, “Idleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore, the brethren should be occupied at certain times in manual labor, and again at fixed hours in sacred reading.” When we develop an external order for our lives, we find in it a sense of interior calm.
Deciding where to begin can seem overwhelming. A good way to start is to look at your overarching goal and considering how you can work to achieve it. Questions to ask may be, “What is your highest priority?” and then, “What is a good first step?” Breaking up goals into smaller, structured chunks is key for growth. We do not need to fix everything immediately, but working at a manageable pace helps facilitate change.
The beauty of the human person is that we are integrated. When we begin to focus on one area, whether that be physical (daily schedule, sleep habits, tidiness) or spiritual (daily prayer routine, spiritual reading), it effects our overall wellbeing and aids our peace. As St. Gregory of Nyssa relays, “When our life is guided by Christ in respect for order and justice, then harmony will be established between the exterior man and the interior man.”