Understanding the butterfly effect: Small actions big change

“You could not remove a single grain of sand from its place without thereby … changing something throughout all parts of the immeasurable whole.”

Fichte, The Vocation of Man (1800)


Have you heard of the ‘butterfly effect’? If you haven’t then it’s a commonly used phrase or metaphor to suggest that tiny actions, such as the flapping of a butterfly’s wings, could have remarkable influence on events in the future. When I first read about it in Tracy Verdugo’s newsletter, I thought I just had to dig more into it. For an artist whose work is guided by intuition and serendipity, it sounded like my kind of ‘effect’!

So, where does the idea come from?

The butterfly effect theory was proposed by MIT scientist meteorologist Edward Lorenz. It suggests that everything is connected, to the extent that the fluttering of a butterfly’s wings in one part of the world may ultimately contribute to a tornado occurring in another part of the world. Blogger and Author Donna F. explains that the theory became so famous that it has it is used as metaphor to suggest that a small change in our actions can influence big changes in our lives and lives of those around us.

Of course, a single act like the butterfly flapping its wings cannot cause a tornado but the idea is that small events or actions can serve as catalysts triggering events to bigger changes.

“It sounds far-fetched, but strange sequences of cause and effect can (and do) happen!

Danielle M.

We are like the ‘butterfly’ and hold the power to influence change in our lives and the world around us starting with just a small thing or action done today.



Actionable tips for tiny actions to big change

  • Start with ‘you’

Words we use are powerful tools to initiate change. Be mindful of what you say to yourself. Research suggests that if we hear something as less as five times, we’ll begin to believe that it might be true. This can be applicable even if it is someone telling us something repeatedly; we start considering doing/believing it just due to repetition.

Dr. Christian Conte suggests tips to initiate positive change simply by tapping into the power of ‘positive self-talk’,

“…Be mindful of the negative things you repeatedly say to yourself. Try your best to stop filling your mind with what you cannot do, and consider instead filling it with what you can do. Repeat over and over to yourself positive thoughts about you, because you are worth everything positive you have to say. At the very least, be mindful that whatever you say to yourself repeatedly is sinking in – whether you mean for it to or not.”

So next time, you catch yourself saying negative self-talk, stop and repeat the positive version instead. Practice mindfulness in self-talk.

  • Spread the love

As above, we don’t know what’s going on in the lives of people we meet every day. A smile or a kind word can brighten someone’s day…you never know it may continue to spread as tiny doses of positivity throughout the community.

Isn’t that beautiful? I’ll leave you here today with these words by author, Cori Orlando,

“…Be conscious of what you say and do. It matters. What may seem tiny in your eyes may just mean the whole world to another. So what do you want your mark to be? What do you want your flutter to create?”



As an artist and art educator, I find many students give up before even starting. I’ve written this post for those who desperately seek to paint like someone they admire or perhaps find their unique creative voice. To the frustrated newbie artist, I’ll say start small, paint regularly and enjoy the painting process. Let the butterflies take care of the rest.

Have a look at some of our courses to get started on your path to creativity and well-being:

Online Art Courses


Warm regards
Soma M Datta
Founder of


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