By Cindy Campbell

I fully admit that I’m a strange one. Example: Two of my favorite things in this world are analogies and people watching at airports. During a recent trip through a metropolitan airport, I discovered a place where these two favorites collide.

Welcome to the Recombobulation Area. Wait, what?

Curiosity (combined with a four-hour layover) prompted me to explore what lay beyond the overhead sign. What the heck is a recombobulation area and who’s using it? Off to the left as I entered the room, a young family looked to be reassembling their toddler’s exploded suitcase. Straight ahead, three other tourists appeared to be packing too many souvenirs into various carry-on bags. My take on the situation was that these travelers recognized their own mini-disasters and decided to take the opportunity to fix things before they continued their travels. It’s likely this action helped reduce their individual travel tension and may have made the rest of their travel day less stressful. And this is where my fondness for analogies comes into play.

In life, it’s inevitable that each of us will encounter some amount of chaos. Frequently, our ability to move forward depends on our capability to stop and regroup before we proceed. To recombobulate means to reorient, to put back in to working order, to think clearly again. The concept seems like an obvious choice, yet we often fail to recognize our own counterproductive behaviors when stress-inducing obstacles appear in our path.

Investing our time and energy in panic can be self-defeating. The next time you find yourself knee-deep in chaos, take a deep breath and recombobulate–with or without an official zone.

Cindy Campbell is IPMI’s senior training and development specialist.