By I. Doherty
In 1961 a professor of meteorology at MIT Edward Lorenz entered some data into a computer program simulating weather patterns. Later that day, he ran the same simulation again, this time rounding one variable down to 0.506127 instead of 0.506. Then, as the computer performed the simulation, he stepped outside his office to grab a cup of coffee. When he came back he was surprised to see that the outcome had changed significantly from the initial simulation. Over two months of simulated weather, the seemingly insignificant change had undergone a significant shift. How did the weather forecast alter so dramatically for just a difference of only 0.000127?
According to Lorenz, as everything in life is a component of bigger systems, even minor occurrences can have a big effect on other things. According to a paper he produced in 1963 “one flap of a seagull’s wings may shift the path of weather forever”. This metaphor was late changed to the ‘butterfly effect’. The butterfly effect is often defined more dramatically by claiming that a butterfly’s flap in one country can create or avoid a tornado in another.
This doesn’t mean that the butterfly directly drives the tornado; rather, it just means that the butterfly wings symbolize a small number of atmospheric effects that sets off a domino reaction that results in a far larger change in the situation hundreds of kilometers away. Think of a tiny snowball sitting atop a mountain. In addition to gaining momentum and speed as it falls down the mountain, it also enlarges and become a potentially fatal threat to something in its way.
What is the significance of this butterfly effect on us? We humans are a component of the greater systems in the world, much like the butterfly is a part of the larger system in nature, where different parts interact and have an impact on one another. So, no matter how tiny or large our actions they could have a significant impact on our lives as well as that of others.
The butterfly effect can have a positive or negative outcome. The butterfly effect has two important lessons: tiny things matter, and we are all part of a larger system. Our current action today would have been the outcome of a previous action which in turn will result in a future action. Someone’s life can be changed by a simple gesture. Remembering this will help us to realize that everything we do, no matter how insignificant we may believe it is, has an impact.
Never underestimate the impact of modest actions. Both your life and the life of others could be changed by that tiny deed. Use the butterfly effect to your advantage. Take little daily actions. Making a little progress every day will quickly lead to notable gains.