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Avoiding The Butterfly Effect, The Supersaurus and Procrastination

Avoiding The Butterfly Effect, The Supersaurus and Procrastination


    In Chaos Theory, “The Butterfly Effect” explains how small changes in conditions can produce results very different from predictions. If good weather is predicted on a day at one side of the world and a butterfly flaps its wings on the other, this could actually cause a storm rather than the good weather as predicted. The flapping of the wings changes the air pressure very slightly causing a weather pattern completely different from the one originally forecast.

    Sometimes one simple action can lead to great results — or avoid catastrophic ones. Have you ever delayed paying a bill, resulting in a fine? The next day you have to leave the office to pay the fine. As a result you miss a meeting, delay handing in your reports and your hair gets wet because you were caught in the rain…and you were supposed to go out for cocktails after work! One simple action could have avoided the storm that followed.

    There may also be a project that you just can’t seem to get started on. You postpone picking it up, make excuses, distract yourself with menial tasks in the hope that it will disappear. Why do we do this?

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    One of the chief reasons we avoid work is fear. We are afraid the task may be too big or too difficult for us.

    Fear – Panic – Dread!

    The task looks enormous. Never mind an elephant — this is a Supersaurus! You see yourself as a tiny dot looking up at the largest dinosaur that ever roamed the earth and think:

    “How in the world am I going to get this done? This is impossible, it scares me so much that I’m now going to pretend that dinosaurs (especially the Supersaurus) never existed and I’m going to start ticking all the nice little tasks that I enjoy off my list. Call Mary, yes I can do that, have a little chat and arrange the social club outing much more pleasant that super lizards…”

    But what happens? The super lizard won’t go away. He plagues your dreams.  You push him back into your subconscious and you pretend there will be no repercussions — but, alas, one day you are reminded.

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    You are called to a meeting. A meeting in which you are reminded that, in fact, the Supersaurus does exist and all of the other people at the meeting know of his existence. You have no choice now but to face him head on…so what do you do?

    Gaining Clarity

    The fear comes from ignorance. Not having defined exactly what that the Supersaurus is, you sit down and open the files, you look at his size, you understand his form and composition, and then you assess its greatness and then break it down.

    What exactly needs to be done? How long is it going to take? When can this be scheduled into the day? Once you are clear about the size of the task then you can begin to break it down into a manageable size — you know, like a cow or a goat rather than a massive dinosaur.

    Taking Action

    The most important part of avoiding procrastination is the “Do Habit”. The planning and the scheduling is important — vital, in fact — for the smooth running of any project. But without actually standing up and doing something about it nothing will ever progress.

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    The Do Habit

    Create a habit of doing. If it’s a project in work or a book you are writing, stop planning and start doing — even if you can only do ten minutes a day. Just do it. After all, ten minutes a day adds up to more than one working day a month. Every little bit helps, so make a plan and create space for the task every day.

    As Bob Marley (and probably someone equally as important person before him) said:

    “Every little action, there’s a Reaction”

    Start the momentum.

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    Don’t allow your wings to flap aimlessly and cause a tornado.

    Start consciously fluttering…and the small little actions may just create amazingly big results.

    (Photo credit: Lesser Gull Butterfly via Shutterstock)

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    Ciara Conlon

    Productivity coach, speaker, blogger and author of Chaos to Control, a Practical Guide to Getting Things Done

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    Last Updated on October 16, 2019

    Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

    Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

    Do you like making mistakes?

    I certainly don’t.

    Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

    Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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    Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

    Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

    • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
    • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
    • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
    • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

    We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

    If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

    Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

    Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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    When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

    Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

    We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

    It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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    Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

    Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

    Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

    1. Point us to something we did not know.
    2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
    3. Deepen our knowledge.
    4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
    5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
    6. Inform us more about our values.
    7. Teach us more about others.
    8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
    9. Show us when someone else has changed.
    10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
    11. Remind us of our humanity.
    12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
    13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
    14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
    15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
    16. Invite us to better choices.
    17. Can teach us how to experiment.
    18. Can reveal a new insight.
    19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
    20. Can serve as a warning.
    21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
    22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
    23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
    24. Remind us how we are like others.
    25. Make us more humble.
    26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
    27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
    28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
    29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
    30. Expose our true feelings.
    31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
    32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
    33. Point us in a more creative direction.
    34. Show us when we are not listening.
    35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
    36. Can create distance with someone else.
    37. Slow us down when we need to.
    38. Can hasten change.
    39. Reveal our blind spots.
    40. Are the invisible made visible.

    Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

    The secret to handling mistakes is to:

    • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
    • Have an experimental mindset.
    • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

    When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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    When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

    It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

    When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

    Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

    Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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    Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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