The American mathematician and meteorologist Edward Norton Lorenz discovered in the 1960s that a single flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil could set off a Tornado in Texas.
When Lorenz changed the baseline value of his models to calculate the weather by a 1/10000 the outcomes had dramatically changed to a degree that can be compared with the impact a butterfly could produce – even when it was on the other side of the world.
So what does this have to do with my desk? Let me explain.
My friend Andrea’s house was sparkling clean, decorated with a lot of taste and lush blossoming flowers by the windows. She showed me the large impressive downstairs living/dining/lounge area; so big in fact that my own apartment could have easily fit in several times over. Each one of the enormous rooms had been adorned beautifully. There was one for each member of the family as well as a spare one for the guests that visited frequently – all except Andrea space that is. While her husband took his afternoon nap on the canapé in his private study Andrea’s desk, however, was crammed into a dark corner of the couple’s bedroom.
“I don’t actually need the space since there are plenty of places I can work from, like the kitchen table or in the downstairs lounge” was Andrea’s usual response to my question about her lack of office space. Only I wasn’t entirely convinced. She had been speaking for months about not finding the time or the motivation to edit the manuscript she’d written.
“It’ll come when it’s time” was her usual response while pointing out that she didn’t have the proper space to work in.
Several months later she called 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 – something I’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:
1. There is a physical action that improves the quality of your life – 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 and gives your mind the capacity to deal with unfinished tasks like laundry. Andreas desk was eventually moved to a prominent part of the house and she was much happier to spend more time there working on her novel.
2. Changing our physical environment suddenly shifts our ordinary unmotivated habits into feelings of ease and delicious desire for more improvement.
Have you ever wondered why it’s so hard to change the time you wake up in the morning to an earlier hour? Why we tend to buy the same brand of milk every time we shop? And why do a large number of people never change their hairstyle?
Because we’re creatures of habit. Once we humans figured out a good way to do something we tend to stick to it. Yet when our habitual patterns are altered it becomes significantly easier to create a new – improved habit.
I remember having quite a messy my room until the age of 12 when my parents renovated my bedroom. From the day it was refurnished you would never have found a toy loose on the floor or clothes strewn about the bed.
In Andrea’s case moving her desk downstairs made all the difference in the world. Anytime she passed by her desk she would be reminded that she could spend time writing now. Thus creating a great opportunity to form a new habit.
3. Just like Edward Norton Lorenz discovering 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 gave the manuscript a completely new spin which in turn helped her 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 – something that had seemed totally out of reach for her just a few months earlier.
I’m sure when you think back on your own life you can remember some of those ripple effects taking place. Where a small task and quickly 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. Choose one thing to change today in your house. Don’t think about it too much, just take a quick look around and find one thing that you always wanted to change but never got around to doing. Pick something that is small enough so it can be done today. (Yes, I mean today. Don’t procrastinate - give it a chance.)
I have started this in my own home with both small tasks like clearing my desk of paperwork and reorganizing the shelves in my kitchen to bigger tasks like finishing a piece of artwork to put up in the living room. In fact, it’s one of my favourite tools to use when I don’t know how to start improving things.
That was Step #1 – fining 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, pick something small and do it right now. (Then come back to read the rest of the article).
There is actually a Step #3 to this exercise: Curiously observe anything that changes in your life as a result. It might be that you catch yourself smiling because you’re no longer tripping on your large collection of shoes or that you sorted the pencil collection on your desk and feel drawn to do some artwork.
Using this method – which by the way is a great tool to use on a regular basis – you’ll not only be surprised by the effect on your life but you’ll also enjoy a wonderful new home. It’s the small steps that add up when creating a beautiful home.
Eva Gossenreiter is an interior designer with an architectural background. Through personal experience, Eva realized how much the atmosphere in her home could affect her mood and life. Eva brought this concept into her interior design business and uses techniques such as Feng Shui, Dowsing and Clearings to turn living spaces into retreats that delight the soul and rejuvenate the body. To find out more visit evagossenreiter.com