The American mathematician and meteorologist Edward Norton Lorenz discovered in the 1960s that the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil can set off a Tornado in Texas.
When Lorenz changed the baseline value of his models to calculate the weather by 1/10000, the outcomes had dramatically changed to a degree compared with the impact a butterfly could produce—evenwhen it was on the other side of the world.
What does this have to do with my desk?
Andrea’s house was sparkling clean, decorated with a lot of taste and lush blossoming flowers by the windows. She showed me the impressive downstairs living/dining/lounge area my own apartment could easily have fit in several times and then proceeded to the bedrooms on the upper level. Each one of the enormous rooms had been adorned beautifully.There was one for each person of the family, as well as a spare one for the guests that visited frequently—exceptfor Andrea herself. While her husband could have his afternoon nap on the canapé in his private study, Andrea’s desk was crammed into a dark corner of the couple’s bedroom.
“I don’t actually need it since there are plenty of places I can work from, like the kitchen table or in the downstairs lounge,” was Andrea’s response to my question about it. Only I wasn’t entirely convinced because she had been speaking for months about not finding time and motivation to edit the manuscript of a book she had written.
“It’ll come when it’s time,” was her response to me pointing out she didn’t have the proper space to work in.
Several months later she called me to tell me the good news. “You won’t believe what happened. I moved my desk into the living room and sorted all my paperwork. Ever since that day I actually have the drive to sit down every day to write. I even asked my mother, who visited for a week, to leave the room so I could sit down to work—somethingI’ve never done before.”
So what actually happens when we move something in our home?
Changing even small things in our environment works on several levels:
- There is a physical action that will improve the quality of your live, an effect you will be able to enjoy immediately.Think of tidying and cleaning your house. After you finish, your now orderly home is instantly better organized, which saves both the capacity of the mind to deal with unfinished tasks like laundry, dishes and dust bunnies. You will alsofind what you are looking for quicker after you put the clothes back into their place in the wardrobe.After Andrea’s desk had been placed in a prominent part of the house she was much happier spending time there.
- Our ordinary habits are disrupted, which makes it easier to change something to the better.Have you ever wondered why it’s just so hard to change the time you wake up in the morning to an hour earlier? Why we tend to buy the same brand of milk every time we shop?Why most people rarely change their hairstyle? Because we’re creatures of habit. Once we humans figured out a good way to do something a lot of us stick with the one way of doing things for quite some time. When our habitual patterns are changed, however, it becomes significantly easier to create a new—improved—habit.I remember having quite a mess in my room until age 12 when my parents renovated my room. From the day it was refurnished onwards there was never again a toy loose on the floor and I even sorted my clothes back into the place they belonged.In Andrea’s case, having the desk downstairs so it caught her eye whenever she passed it made it present in her mind and it was easier for her to create a new habit of regularly spending time there to write.
- Just like Edward Norton Lorenz discovered minimal changes in the base of his calculations can lead to a drastic ripple effect, small changes in our environment can lead to big changes in our life.This is why the small task of changing the location of the desk in the house started to change something in my friend Andreas life. She went on to not only work on her book, but actually giving the manuscript a completely new spin, which helped her to heal some old wounds that led her to write out her story in the first place. Now that the first step was done, she is moving on to sharing her gifts with the world—somethingthat had seemed totally out of reach for her just a few months back.I bet there are situations in your life that, when you think back now, seem to have a ripple effect.
I’m sure that when you think back you’ll remember some of those ripple effects in your own life where a small task turned into something much bigger (and probably unexpected).
Take action now
The good thing about the butterfly effect is that you can create one right now. So, choose one thing to change today in your house. Don’t think about what it is too much, just take a quick look around and find one thing you either kind of always wanted to change anyways but never got around to doing it, or something that worked for you in the past but you’d like to see it changed. Pick something small so it can be done today. (Yes, I mean this. Don’t procrastinate but give it actually a chance.)
I have started this in my own house with both small tasks like clearing my desk of paperwork and reorganizing the shelves in my kitchen cabinet, as well as bigger tasks like finishing a piece of artwork to put up in the living room or moving the bed. In fact,it’s one of my favorite tools to use when I don’t know where to start improving things.
That was step #1: finding something you’d like to improve in your house.
Step #2 is obvious: actually getting around to doing it.
If you know this is going to be hard with you, pick something small and do it right now. (Then come back to read the rest of the article of course.)
There is actually a step #3 to this exercise:
Curiously observe anything that changes in your life. It might be that you catch yourself smiling at the new centerpiece on your table you just created, that you don’t have to step over your son’s bike anymore when you walk in from the garage, or that you sorted the pencil collection on your desk and feel drawn to do some artwork.
Using this method–which is, by the way, a great tool to use on a regular basis–you’llnot only be surprised by the effects, but also enjoy a wonderful home. It’s the small steps that add up when creating a beautiful home, which then nurture you and your family.
And now I’m off to reorganize my bedside table.