How to Decode Your Chaos

I think you will relate to the new concept I learned ...

Do you ever sit back after an argument with your partner / ex / friend / family member and wonder, “How the heck did that get to be such a big deal?”, or how about “What were we originally arguing about, anyway?!"  That's a good one...

You probably know the saying, “You’re making a mountain out of a mole hill.”  That’s a classic and we all know it means someone is making a big deal out of something relatively small.  But honestly, I don’t know what size a mole-hill is anyway 🤪

And here’s a similar idea with a little different spin:  This week I heard a very interesting concept that I want to share:  It’s called 'the butterfly effect'.  And for those that know what this is, just hang-in here with me.

The butterfly effect was a metaphor originally used in the meteorological field as a way of describing how the effects of something very small can change the outcome of, or have a much more significant impact on, other seemingly unrelated things.  One definition that's a little easier to grasp is when a very small change in initial conditions creates a significantly different outcome (thanks Wiki).

So, the metaphor goes like this:  A butterfly flaps it's wings and creates a small disturbance in the atmosphere that builds & builds until it becomes a tornado or hurricane, half way around the world, 3 weeks later.

The butterfly effect can apply to any situation where a small change is (supposedly) the cause of a larger outcome.  Considering this, I’m going to apply it to a couple real life scenarios:

Example 1:  Here’s a very simple example using kids:

An older sibling takes out the markers to color, and 2 hours later you go upstairs to find marker all over the walls without knowing how it happened.

So let's decode this situation to see the chaos footprint:

Your oldest child takes out the markers to do some coloring while you're doing housework and doesn't put the cap back on the markers, nor put them away, when he runs off to play Pokemon mid-coloring.  You remind him in passing to clean up his project area, but he fails to do so.  You get busy doing laundry and don't think to followup, and a while later, your younger child toddles around & finds an open marker on the kids play table (at just their height).  Seeing the pretty colors, the child just wants to try them out..... and they choose the wall for that!  ....... and you enter the room and see the damage.  You get upset at both kids and crying ensues.  All three of you!  Thankfully it's washable marker, but..... it leaves shadowing on the paint, and now you have to get the walls repainted.  Sigh.  This means you need to move the furniture out of the way, and the painter (which is you, because you saved some pennies doing it this way) spills paint on the carpet and now you need new flooring, too.  In this whole scenario, you ended up spending more money than if you'd hired a painter, and you also had less time with your kids, partner, for yourself, etc.  You get the idea....

See how the little choices can that seem small can ultimately lead to so much chaos in your life?  How could we change the trajectory of this situation?  One example is if you had merely stopped what you were doing, for even 10 seconds, and made sure the caps were on the markers and the markers were put on a shelf out of reach from little hands, this entire situation could've been avoided.  So then it's best to look at why you were so busy with laundry / housework and felt like you couldn't stop for 10 sec?  Or was your mind so full that you didn't even think of it?  Was there too much other stuff going on in your life causing you to run around like a chicken without a head?  Had you said 'yes' to doing too many things for PTA, AGAIN?  Where had you let your people pleasing and wanting to be included / liked, get in the way of your values and true priorities of loving your children, spending time with them, and creating a life of peace, joy, and serenity?

OK, so here’s another example, and I’ll use my daughter t his time (she's 7 and will forgive me someday):  Last month on the playground, my daughter (whom I'll call Katie) wanted some friends to play a game with her on the monkey bars.  The next evening, her dad noticed 2 big scratches on her back and when he inquired, Katie said that her friend Amy had scratched her.

Alright, so we'll decode this one now:

Katie had annoyed her friends by insisting they play HER game on the monkey bars, and her friend Amy told the other girls not to play with her anymore which hurt her feelings.  The next day, Katie accidentally hurt herself on the playground equipment (the source remains a mystery still today), and when her dad asked what happened, she said that Amy took her fingernails and scratched her by digging them into her back during recess.  Of course, as a mom, I immediately emailed her teacher to let her know about this situation (there had been issues previously), and both girls had to speak with the vice-principle.  Later, Amy’s mom messaged me that she didn’t think it could possibly have been Amy’s fault, which created tension between us moms.  Furthermore, Katie’s dad and I became concerned about her safety at school (it’s first grade, you guys!!), and we too met with the vice principle & her teacher to discuss this situation.  Finally, on Friday evening, after being asked more probing questions by her dad, Katie confessed that Amy didn’t really scratch her back after all, and admitted she blamed Amy to get her in trouble since Amy had hurt her feelings a few times recently.  Mic drop..... 🎤

Are you serious right now?  OUR Katie was lying and kept up the rouse for 4 lllloooonnnnngggg days???  I mean, what are you supposed to think as a parent when your child tells you someone hurt them at school?  You believe them, of course!!

So what did we do after she confessed?  We promptly started unwinding the entire chaotic situation.  I humbly apologized to the teacher and Amy’s mom for accusing Amy of such a vicious act.  Katie apologized directly to Amy and also made her a card, and she apologized to the teacher as well.  I honestly still haven't talked to Amy's mom since the day I said "I'm sending you our sincerest apologies.  Katie admitted that she'd been lying and we were completely blindsided by this."  Although it was completely innocent on our part, I just haven't wanted to reopen that door just yet.

Ahh, the joys of parenthood.  Here you can see how those little seemingly innocuous butterfly wing air disturbances (Katie exerting self will and pushing her friends to play a game on the monkey bars) could build and build into a hurricane in the future (Amy telling other girls not to play with Katie, Katie retaliating to get Amy in trouble, me blaming Amy to her mom & teacher, us having to apologize, and losing some level of trust in our daughter)!  The silver lining is that we definitely learned more about our daughter and our blinders are off.

Now it's your turn! 🎉😁

  • So where in your life have you seen things like this happen?
  • Do you feel like everything somehow becomes a BIG DAMN DEAL all the time?
  • Do the easiest of situations end up being a disaster?
  • Do you shake your head not knowing why these things HAPPEN TO YOU?
  • Do you wonder why other people don't have these same chaotic problems?
  • Why is it always just you?

Let’s decode this, and look at how the butterfly effect can be applied to your life.

Think of one chaotic situation that happened to you in the past 24 hours.  It can be a situation with another person, but it can also just be about you (ie. you got to the airport late and almost missed your flight; you ran out of gas on a busy street; you’re late to pick up the kids from soccer practice; you lose your phone / car keys again).

If you start at the end result and trace the situation backward each step of the way, you’ll be able to see how your little tiny, but very important, CHOICES along the path (ie. butterfly wings flap & alter the atmosphere) ultimately lead up to exactly whatever outcome you experienced (ie. the hurricane).

In order to effectively do this exercise, you need to be BRUTALLY honest with yourself about why each of these things may have happened along the way.  And you need to take 100% responsibility for your part, too.  Hint:  If you’re pointing a finger at someone else for their behavior, remember that there’s 3 fingers pointing back at you.  In other words, look at your choices/behavior/response to a situation if you want to effectively decode the message.

One important thing to remember is that you can't control other people's behavior, so don't blame yourself for what they do.  But look at what part your behavior played in the equation.  In example 2 above, Amy is still responsible for bullying Katie, but Katie is responsible for lying to get Amy in trouble.  And if we step it back even further, Katie needs to see where being bossy on the playground causes social problems.

When you're done analyzing the chosen chaotic situation, think about one thing you could’ve done differently to positively change the outcome, whether the actual outcome was good or bad?  Furthermore, how could an alteration in your choice/behavior changed your entire day?  And what would your day have looked like without the chaos that was created?

Now imagine making good choices on the regular..... How do you think that would change the rest of your life?

If you add up all the choices you make in one day (what socks to wear, what to eat for breakfast, how fast to eat it, which way you drive to work, which task to do first, if you stop working long enough to get lunch, where you decide to eat, and what you eat….), you can see we each have thousands of opportunities to impact our own lives daily!

In summary:  Make wise choices now for a better future later.  Stay present in the moment and fully engage in your day-to-day life.  This is where the true joy lies, so slow down and don't overthink things.  Stop making lists about how you plan to fix your life.  Fixing the outside isn't going to help you because true happiness is an inside job and it comes from the heart.  Focus on making wise / clean choices TODAY, and your future will be INCREDIBLE!

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