“Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated    agent of human change.” – Bob Kerrey

“Every single time you help somebody stand up you are helping                                    humanity rise.” – Steve Maraboli

Have you ever heard of Edward Lorenz? He coined the theory “the butterfly effect.” Some of you may be familiar with it, but for those who are not, you might ask, “What exactly is that?” Well, many sources explain this theory, but Wikipedia does a nice job synthesizing it: The Butterfly Effect pertains to the idea that minor movements such as the flapping of butterfly wings could change an initial condition and eventually give rise to a major shift in another area. Although the controversial theory originally pertained to a meteorological phenomenon, people understand it can be applied to human behavior. One small movement or alteration can effect the course of life and history for an individual or an entire society. Wars have been won and lost. People’s lives have been changed forever. Now, many of you might say “of course” so what about it? I am bringing it to your attention because I believe so many of us take this for granted, and we frequently forget or do not even realize the difference we might make in another human being’s life. Although we know there can be negative consequences, I am going to focus, of course, on positive effects.

On Saturday, I celebrated my birthday and acknowledged it with appreciation and thoughtfulness. I shared with some of my close friends the activities of this past year and new connections I made. Some of these appeared to be coincidental, but think about it, there are truly no coincidences. The series of events which occurred because of minor shifts have brought me great satisfaction. It also spurred me to reflect on the impact of positive messaging, teaching or demonstrating to another human being. I began to think about all of those people who have a strong influence on others but are not always sure how powerful it is. Frequently, parents are uncertain their children are listening but find out in years to come they heard every word and applied it wisely. Dedicated teachers hear from mothers and fathers a few years later the impact they had on their students unbeknownst to them. Seasoned therapists such as myself often work under ambiguous conditions, and may not know for months even years of a client’s positive transformation until a thank you note or message arrives. All of these are examples of “the butterfly effect,” small shifts creating a major change at a later date. This can be relevant to any relationship including those which involve mentors, superiors, employers and leaders. Words and actions are like the flapping of butterfly wings. Their effect is far more forceful than you realize. Choose carefully!

Maybe on your birthday or as we go into this holiday season of giving thanks, you might think about the difference you make or want to make. It can be a simple act of kindness, holding the door for someone or stopping your car for a pedestrian or another auto. Possibly, you smile and thank someone touching them in a way you may never know. Perhaps, as a manager or leader, you offer your subordinate more enthusiasm about their strengths. Whomever you are or whatever you are doing, your messaging, teaching or demonstrating as minor as the particular act may seem can alter the course of life for another individual and as a result all of those around them. You could even change the course of history in ways you may never have thought possible!

References and Suggested Readings:

“The Butterfly Effect.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.