The term “Butterfly Effect” means different things to different people – or many things to each individual. Two movies come to mind when I read or hear “the butterfly effect.”  First is the Ashton Kutcher movie of the same title that came out in 2004. The second is Jurassic Park (the first one) where in Jeff Goldblum’s character, a doctor of chaos theory, makes a statement about how a butterfly can flap its wings in Taipei and we get a hurricane in the United States. That second one is closer to what I’m referring to when I talk about YOUR personal butterfly effect… and yes, we all have one.

For the purposes of this piece, the term “butterfly effect” will be applied from two perspectives: the individual perspective and how the individual affects their surroundings (or the world). Let’s talk about the individual effect first. And to properly define “butterfly effect,” I made sure to look it up:

The phenomenon whereby a minute localized change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere.

In this case the “localized” part refers to the individual and the “complex system” is the individual’s life and surroundings including the surroundings beyond our immediate awareness.

Lately I’ve written several pieces that discuss how our decisions and actions today can better prepare us (or not) for tomorrow… and all the tomorrows after that. That basically describes the personal butterfly effect but I’ve previously only focused on positive and intentional actions that can make an individual better. By taking action to improve ourselves today, we can potentially make tomorrow better… in general. What I’ve not discussed before is more specific circumstances and examples of how our actions today can radically change things tomorrow and for the unforeseen future to come.

Consider… if you exercise today with the motivation of being in better health and physically in better condition, then if an accident happens tomorrow, you could stand a better chance of reduced injury (or no injury) and a faster recovery from any injury suffered. That faster recovery can mean less missed work, less of a potential negative income impact and more. In other words, that act of exercising today, especially if it’s a habit and part of a routine, can change the long term outcome of a single event tomorrow.

That is one example of the individual butterfly effect and how one thing today can change many things tomorrow and for several days or weeks after that. But what else does that one thing today change that goes beyond the individual? Think about the statement above referencing limited missed work days but also the reality of doctor’s visits, etc.

Your act of exercising today that might reduce your injury tomorrow may mean not having to go to the doctor’s office for injuries at all. It might mean having to go to the emergency room but for less injuries then you could have experienced if you were in lower levels of fitness. But if you don’t go to the doctor’s then there is no impact on the people in that office. If you do, then there is. There is making room for you in the schedule, the interaction with you upon your arrival and how your presence changes everything that happens. Your presence and “squeezed in” appointment creates minor challenges in the office and may mean reduced breaks or missed meals, etc. So your action today can be demonstrated, in this instance, to potentially impact the lives of however many people are involved in your doctor’s office… and every other patient that is seen there around the same time frame as well.

What about the emergency room? In that setting, if you have to go, what you do (or don’t do) today, using the same example, can impact the entire ER staff as well as all the other patients being treated. It can impact the people who staff and service the ambulance that transports you and more. Again, with some simple extrapolation it’s easy to see how an individual’s behavior on any given day can have long term and widespread impact on the days of many others.

One last observation about this particular instance: If you have to miss work days, the work still has to get done and your coworkers end up having to pick up your slack. That is another venue wherein your action today can have an impact beyond your individual life tomorrow. And that doesn’t even touch how the added work or time demands will impact the families of your coworkers or their friends.

Keeping this outlook / understanding of the far reaching potential implications in mind, it’s easier to understand how important our individual actions are beyond their importance or value in our own lives. This isn’t meant to demonstrate an increase in responsibility or any added weight. In fact, the focus should be on how much positive impact you can have in the lives of others simply be increasing the positive conditions in your own life. By realizing how we can touch the world around us, positively or negatively dependent on our own outlook, motivation, intention and actions, it should become clear that be being better people we contribute to a better world.

Therefore, it follows that doing something to improve ourselves is doing something to improve the world. So… what have you done to improve the world today?


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