What is the butterfly effect and chaos theory?

The butterfly effect reminds us that small things can generate big changes, however, since neither nature nor the world is predictable, we must manage uncertainty.

The butterfly effect was coined by the meteorologist Edward Lorenz in the 1960s. It is the essence of chaos theory, described by the scientist James Yorke in 1975, and it reminds us of something very important that we must always keep in mind: everything has a consequence. But the world doesn’t always follow a predictable pattern and some events are impossible to anticipate.

Although Yorke coined this theory relating it fundamentally to mathematics, the truth is that it has a great impact on human behavior. What’s more, this scientist has already stated that the people who tend to be more successful are those who always have a plan b. And it is that not everything can go as we thought and it is essential to have tolerance for frustration and uncertainty.

The butterfly effect and chaos theory

This theory indicates that all things are connected and that the smallest things can have big impacts. It is illustrated with the image of a butterfly fluttering in Brazil that could cause a tornado in Texas. Obviously, this can’t happen, but it’s a good approximation of the idea that small events can act as catalysts for something bigger.

And this is precisely its application in psychology. The butterfly effect and the chaos theory come to say that anything we do, no matter how insignificant, may have consequences in the future. However, that future is uncertain, so we should not act thinking about the rewards or fatalities that our actions could bring, but rather focus on the present with the greatest attention and try to do things well.

How to apply these theories in our daily life

We live surrounded by chaos. It affects biology, meteorology, even medicine, psychiatry and psychology. Therefore, we must be prepared for anything that may happen, without being obsessed with the changes that may happen in our lives.

These theories also teach us that the little things matter. And we must keep in mind that, whatever we do, no matter how trivial it is, it will always have some answer and it will affect something or someone.

Just like the current moment we are living is the result of a previous action. Therefore, you have to do little things every day. That homework you don’t like, starting the book you always say you want to read, doing someone a favor or meditating well what you’re going to say.

The butterfly effect and chaos theory also teach us to be constant and persistent. Take Ovid’s phrase for example: ‘Dripping water hollows out stone, not by its strength, but by its persistence.’

Therefore, every day we have to make a little more effort to achieve what we have set out to do. Although it is a goal that we can hardly touch, with perseverance and daily work we can achieve it.

We also have to keep in mind that because life is so unpredictable, we can never, as we said, know what will happen in the future. But we can do good deeds so that they have a long-term positive effect.

The same thing happens with thoughts. If little by little we change the negatives for positives, finally, we will achieve a change in our way of seeing life. And it will help us overcome the restlessness that can be caused by facing adversity.