Christmas, New Year, holidays, presents, over eating, crowded houses…..often with the celebrations comes chaos during the festive season. What is that, you say? It has been referred to as the butterfly effect, i.e. when a butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazon basin, the effects on weather can be felt everywhere. But technically, chaos theory is a mathematical construct to show how even a small change at the beginning of a process can produce huge, and maybe unexpected, effects on the outcome.
But we all know this intuitively. We understand that if you train a child well, the outcome is a well-behaved teenager and a mature adult. We also know that if you ‘spare the rod, you spoil the child’. I’m not an advocate for spanking a child daily, but a sensible approach to control in the early years will make the outcome much improved. An excessive amount of control in the early years can have the opposite and unwelcome effect of anti-establishment behaviour as an adult.
Why is this important? Because we need to weigh up the risks and benefits of our decisions. Some act on impulse as if that is the only option. There is impulse, impulse control and compulsion. Fat people feel compelled to eat. Anxious people feel compelled to worry. We all feel the impulse to shop-and-buy but we control it or we go bust! Compulsions are harder to resist but can be controlled and ultimately, resisted. It all depends on our mind training.
Most adults value their freedom, a lot. Freedom to choose, to speak out, to go and come whenever and wherever we wish. But these are not unrestricted freedoms. We act within limits, considering what the outcomes will be. If we can program ourselves to produce better outcomes, small changes in behaviour at the outset will greatly change the outcome. It is not necessary to look at the totality of a problem, only to look at the bit we can manage better. Thus that famous Chinese saying: the longest journey starts with a single step.
I am impatient by nature. It has served me well, and, I admit, not so well some of the time. But when I do take time (and I don’t mean procrastinate) I accomplish more, to my amazement! There are times when I have been able to make a small change and the butterfly has had its effect on the outcome to the welcome surprise of all concerned! My normal bull-at-a-gate approach has impressed many by my preparedness to act and deal with emergency situations, but the considered approach usually has better endings.
Making a difference in the world around you is a matter of finding a small decision and acting on it. Try to see if you are just reacting and if so, give yourself a different script for next time. But don’t shut out the joy. Joy does not have to be Maximum Joy to refresh your soul. Small joys will do it too. Accumulating small joys is an art form and a pleasurable one. Makes one glad to be alive, without being the highest orgasmic point of one’s life. And who can live at the highest orgasmic point of life every day? Would that not pale into mediocrity if too sustained? Better to have some small joys every day and some high points here and there to look forward to. Making small changes in expectation and action can have benefits in results and joy later.