How to change the world: One Butterfly at a Time.

Butterfly Effect

Can a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon create a hurricane in Europe a few weeks later? This is the concept of The Butterfly effect—so named as the computer model that led to its discovery resembles a butterfly—discovered by Edward Lorentz. Lorentz  ran weather models with present atmospheric conditions to arrive at the values for tomorrow, he then put the resulting values back in to obtain the conditions of the next day and so on. After many iterations, he found a large variation in the result from the actual condition. On closer inspection, it was observed that every time the new values were put back into the system there was a seemingly small roundoff error at the sixteenth decimal place. This small change was enough to produce a vast difference in the results.

The butterfly effect refers to the idea that a butterfly’s wings might create tiny changes in the atmospheric pressure which combined with other compounding elements may lead to, dissipate or alter the path of a tornado in another location. The butterfly does not power the tornado, it merely acts as an initial perturbation for the system. Had the butterfly not flapped its wings, the trajectory of the systems might have been vastly different.

Scientific jargon: In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.

How can we apply the Butterfly Effect in our lives?

if we move this concept from the world of science and apply it  in our lives, a new perspective emerges. To put it in simple terms, the seemingly insignificant choices we make every day can have a large impact on our lives. We do not know how far the ripples of our decision reach. We might consider the everyday interaction between people as trivial, but it can change the entire course of the day for someone.

Suppose you didn’t have a good night sleep and wake up in a grumpy mood. You are making the morning coffee and your spouse  tells you about an important meeting today, you pay no interest, maybe even act rash. The other person feels offended and his/her mood also deteriorate. Now he carries with him traces of your bad mood and it spreads to everyone he meets on the way to work, from the taxi driver to the assistant. Who then spread it to other people, and thus a chain reaction is set up. He goes into the meeting disinterested, and makes bad decisions. The companies profits go down, he lost the promotion or worse was let go.

Now consider, on the other hand, you woke up in a good mood and cleared your mind. Your spouse can feel it too. Now he goes happily to work, spreading his cheer all along the way, from the taxi driver to the assistant, everyone can feel the effects of your good mood. He goes into the meeting clear-headed and confident. makes the right decisions, profits soar, the company is happy and he gets a promotion.

see how something as small as our mood can set up a chain reaction affecting a lot of people.

“It used to be thought that the events that changed the world were things like big bombs, maniac politicians, huge earthquakes, or vast population movements, but it has now been realized that this is a very old-fashioned view held by people totally out of touch with modern thought. The things that really change the world, according to Chaos theory, are the tiny things. A butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazonian jungle, and subsequently a storm ravages half of Europe.”
― Neil Gaiman

I understand that it’s not possible to be happy all the time but, the one thing which we can do is to not let our melancholy affect those around us, be it our kids, spouse, co-workers etc. It’s hard to be cheerful when times are tough and some situation warrants otherwise. But in daily life, most of our problem are solvable without overthinking and worry.

Our behaviour is the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. Choose them wisely. There are people who are emotional waste dumps, spreading their eternal mystery among friends and co-workers. Stay away from these people who contribute nothing to your life and are constantly bringing you down.

How can we change the world?

Start with a something simple. One random act of kindness a day. Let these kind butterflies flap their wings and create storms of kindness everywhere around the world. It can be something as simple as helping an old lady cross the street. If an act of kindness is too big a step, then try smiling. Smile at coworkers, strangers on the street, and people  on the subway. It can be hard for many people to smile at strangers, especially for introverts like me. For them, I propose that they execute it in stages, starting with people you know and progressing towards random people on the streets.

Over time these small changes become habits, and there is no better way to change your life than by changing your habits. Charles Duhigg in his book ‘The power of habit’ defines a habit, as the choices that all of us deliberately make at one time and stop thinking about,  but continue doing it , often every day. Our small actions can change the course of history, but we may not know it directly.

“Each smallest act of kindness, reverberates across great distances and spans of time affecting lives unknown to the one who’s generous spirit, was the source of this good echo. Because kindness is passed on and grows each time it’s passed until a simple courtesy becomes an act of selfless courage, years later, and far away. Likewise, each small meanness, each expression of hatred, each act of evil.”
― Dean Koontz



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