The butterfly effect can be described as an insect flapping its wings in one part of the world and due to the associated minute alteration in air pressure, eventually causing a monumental weather event in a location across the globe. A choice made now, an action taken, words spoken – all will alter, in unforeseen ways, outcomes that are far beyond immediate circumstances. According to this phenomenon, we can never truly know which specific actions actually have consequences. (Deaton, 2020). Some will and some won’t and we have to accept this uncertainty.
The pandemic, and how it has drastically altered our work and personal landscapes, have me thinking about this theory. Many of us feel as though our wings have been clipped. We have had to work in solitary situations and keep away from personal connections. In essence, how can we think about our own butterfly effect when we have not been allowed to “fly” freely and how can we continue to be motivated when we don’t know which actions if any, are making a difference? Separation from others is making this more difficult to gauge than would have been possible in our typical landscape.
My own feelings of frustration and disconnection provided the opportunity to think about this differently by revisiting my early school education regarding the butterfly itself. The only way for a butterfly to actually form is to go through various stages, including being a pupa. During this phase, the butterfly is cocooning and developing. It is reinventing itself. What eventually emerges, through time and development, is something in a completely different form.
With this in mind let’s use our own form of pupa stage, mandated upon us due to COVID-19, to transform so that we can emerge changed for the better. How are you using the time away from the usual hustle and bustle of continuously being around people to engage in focused thinking to improve your organization’s policies and procedures? How are you using alone time to reframe and enhance your approach to work? How are you using this time of sequestering to discover more about yourself and honor and develop parts of you that matter the most?
We need not think that only a butterfly flapping its wings, or noticeable and busywork, has consequences. Pursuits during times of separation and work done within quieter spaces and places (both inside and outside of us) also have the opportunity to cause phenomenal change. And, just like the butterfly effect, we don’t know for certain what, if any, the result will be. Therefore, our efforts must be grounded within hope and faith in better outcomes, confident in the belief that enough of what we do even in times of development really does matter and has a meaningful effect.
Continuing to use this time of isolation or separation to grow and advance, and serve others, is critical. Some outcomes will indeed make life better for people, in ways we cannot even begin to envision and appreciate. This enables us to thrive within the cocooning or pupa stage we are experiencing, allowing us to modify our work and ourselves, striving to ultimately emerge better and evolved from the experience. All this can happen within this period of time while we flourish in the possibility of impacting those near and far. The pupa effect can itself lead to ongoing transformations well beyond our immediate time and place. In fact, well beyond what we could ever dare to imagine.