The Butterfly Effect. One Small Change Can Have an Impact. The Ripple of a Wing

In case you are not familiar, the Butterfly Effect was coined by Edward Lorenz when he found that while trying to predict a hurricane’s path; he inadvertently rounded the decimal on a weather model and the outcome was vastly different than it would have been otherwise. This became termed chaos theory and equates with outcomes being influenced by minor fluctuations such as the flapping of wings of a distant butterfly at an earlier time, affecting current occurrences. This eventually turned into “if a butterfly flaps it’s wings in Brazil it could set off a tornado in Texas.” I prefer to think that the flip side of this is that if a small change is made by one person, the impact could potentially change a community and be like a wave gathering strength. Butterfly Effect

I have a client who is training for an ultra-marathon (any distance over 26.2 miles). For the last year he has been running and biking in his neighborhood, sometimes by himself and at other times with his young daughter. In the last month or so he’s begun to notice that there are a lot more folks who are either running, walking or riding bikes. In addition, people he doesn’t even know have been coming up to him and saying, “Oh you are that guy that runs”. Small change. Big impact. There’s no way to know if he’s the cause of the increase in exercise in his neighborhood but it seems like it might be and it sure didn’t hurt.

So how can you have an resounding impact? What butterfly are you? Here are some ideas:

  1. More. Always, always, always phrase whatever change you want to make as doing “more” of something.   It’s just easier to measure doing more of something rather than less of something. So if you want to lose weight, say to yourself that you want to be more physically fit. If you want to be less shy, say to yourself that you want to be more self-assured. It’s the same thing when you are reprimanding an employee or writing a performance evaluation, phrase it in a way where it’s more. Like, “Suzy could be more accurate (instead of less sloppy)”. Suzy can then measure her effectiveness by being 99% accurate (instead of less than 5 errors). Always phrase it in terms of being/doing more.
  1. The 20 Second Rule. Have whatever change you want to make be just 20 seconds away (or less). Shawn Achor wrote about this in “The Happiness Advantage”. All my running garb is in the same location and is twenty seconds away from my sink where I brush my teeth. I know I’m going to brush my teeth when I wake up, so it’s easy for me to put on my running stuff first thing in the morning and start running; no excuses. Make a path of least resistance. If you need to get that expense report done, put it on your chair so it’s the first thing you see when you come into work. Leave the document you are working on open on your desk top so that it is visually the first thing before you start any other project. Follow the 20 second rule.
  1. Small. Start small. I recently started doing Yoga again. I knew if I did more than ten minutes the first time out, I would be way to sore and dejected to want to go back and do it a second time. This is true with anything. When I first started writing this blog, I would write for maybe 10 or 15 minutes at a time. I would never finish it in that time but if I spread it over several days, it was wasn’t a drag and, more importantly, it didn’t seem to be as overwhelming as “I want to write a blog post once a week for ten years”. When I start a new training, I just put an outline together for 15 minutes and then move on to something else. Easy peasy.   Take a very, very small step; incremental steps will get you to the same place.
  1. Confederate. Find yourself a confederate. In the book “Change Anything”, they talk about having a source of social motivation. If you want to run a 5k find someone else who wants to run one as well. If you want to save more money, find an accountability partner who wants to save as well.   If you want to start your business, join a group of like-minded folks who will support you (especially when things get tough). This is the point of having an accomplice, they lift you up when there are bumps in the road and there will be bumps (if not potholes) in the road. A confederate will keep you on track.
  1. Plan. Make a plan. When I ran my half marathon last year, I had my runs planned out for the entire 4 months leading up to the race. I know I need to have my blog post written before Saturday so that I can get it to my “Brain Trust” for feedback and edits. It’s a habit. It didn’t start off as one. This can be phrased anyway you like. “The day starts at 4:30 AM”. “Exercise 3 times a week (at least once in the morning)”. “Study for 30 minutes a night”. “Spend 15 minutes cleaning the top shelf”. These are all actual action items from different clients.   They all phrased it in a way that meant something to them. But they all had a plan.

I spend maybe an hour a week on this blog and most of the time it’s completely out of my mind. But then I run into someone at a party and they say, “I love your blog”.   I may not see the end result but it’s having an impact somewhere for someone. In fact, I know someone who signed up for a half marathon and ran it, after my post on crossing the finish line. There is an impact.   You may not see it. So just like that butterfly in Brazil, you just need to start flapping your wings.

7 Steps to Letting Go. Lessons From Having Surgery.

 Nothing to do. No where to go. Just be here now” – Stephen Cope

I had surgery on December 19th.  I did not anticipate the struggle that would ensue.  It turns out that I have a really hard time letting go.  I am an obsessive pillow straightener (and I have a dog who loves to push them off every chair), I cannot have dirty dishes in the sink and I have been making dinner for my family since…well…I gave birth to my first child some 20 plus years ago.  I am compelled to “be doing”.   So imagine my surprise, when being released from the hospital, that the instructions from the doctor were, no housework for 4 weeks.  I smirked.  Sure.  I can do that.  Piece of cake.  Eat bon bons and sit on the coach for 4 weeks.  This is my dream.  I’ve been waiting 20 years for this.letting-go-300x2561

It has not been easy.  In fact, I’ve over done…several times.  I know that I have over done because I start to get dizzy, I feel weak, my incisions start to ache.  So why?  This is the dream of a lifetime to “let go”;let my children and husband wait on me.  But flicking the switch to be the pampered is not easy.  I hate to ask for another glass of water or for my husband to put my socks on.  Like Sampson cutting his hair, I have had to let go of my strength. But, the magical thing is, that others have shined beyond my imagination.

So here are the lessons I’ve learned from letting go:

1. Agenda.  I’ve had to let go of my agenda.  I am now at the whim of everyone else’s schedule.  If I wake up at 5 AM, well, so be it.  I am stuck.  If there is no one in the house awake at that hour, perhaps I need to roll over (if possible) and get another hour or two of sleep.  Letting go means not having an agenda.

2. Hands off.  So I guess I am more of a control freak than I realized.  If my son is making dinner, I need him to fail or succeed on his own.  I cannot step in and take over;because I physically can’t.  I must say that some of the food that has been coming out my kitchen has been fabulous.  Keeping my hands off has let my family’s culinary talents shine!

3. Small steps.  I’ve learned that the smallest steps, are now, some of the greatest rewards.  My daughter was in the hospital room the morning after the surgery.  Walking to the bathroom was an enormous, if not insurmountable, task.  She cheered me on.  Unabashedly, literally, cheered me on.  “You can do it, Mommy”.  Her enthusiasm was infectious.  The small steps count.

4. Patience.  I am so patient with others but fail miserably with myself.  I want to be doing, but after testing my limits by actually going to the grocery store 10 days after surgery (note to self, REALLY bad idea) I have learned that I need to be patient with my recovery.  I am not the only one who can push a cart through a store and get out a debit card.  Really.  I am not the only one in a household of six who can do this.    And, there is a point, in the not so distant future, where I will have the privilege (sarcasm) of grocery shopping again.  Patience.

5. Accept.  I learned to be accepting of other’s help.  I’m not sure why this is so hard.  I am surrounded by a loving household.  Everyone has made me breakfast or lunch.  Every over easy egg has been different (some seasoned, some not, some stiff, some runny) but they have all been prepared with love.  I just needed to accept it.  With love.

6. Perfection.  I need to give up on the constant striving for perfection.  So what if the dog barks to get in for 10 minutes because I’m the only one hearing her.  So what if there are crumbs on the table from last night’s dinner.  Who cares if you haven’t worked on your book for the last two weeks.  I live with imperfection, no harm done. No harm, no foul.

7. Vulnerable.  I’m learning that being vulnerable can enhance my relationships.  My husband has had to do countless personal things for me, including drying me off from a shower and helping me dress.  My daughter helped me in those first few trips to the bathroom in the hospital.  These are the things I have been doing for myself since I was a toddler.  I’ve learned to be vulnerable and found deeper connections with my family.  They are there for me.  No matter what.  And that is wondrous.

So many folks have risen to the occasion to help me in my recuperation.  Letting go has been difficult but the rewards have been incalculable.  There are so many people in my life that were there for me, I just needed to let go to finally discover it.