Saturday 16th March 2013
Apologies for no post last week. I naively planned a short simple blog about chaos theory, and how we can use it in our daily lives for more health, wealth, and happiness. I soon realised that this subject would require at least a week more of pondering… Please be patient and read on to the end, because there is a serious and possibly extremely valuable point to this blog. First a bit of background information to set the scene.
Let’s start with a tricky question posed by Edward Lorenz in 1972 – Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil set off a Tornado in Texas? My guess is ‘Possibly.’ This answer probably qualifies me to run the Hadron Collider Project.
Chaos theory explains that if we start with only a finite amount of information about the system (as is usually the case in practice), then beyond a certain time the system will no longer be predictable. This is most familiar in the case of weather, which is generally predictable only about a week ahead.
Other examples are the unpredictable behaviour of all manner of other physical phenomena, from swinging pendulums and fluid flow, to the stock market. Is it possible that human behaviour can be similarly chaotic, and if so how can we use this information?
The idea for this blog started when I read a historical report about the development of radar. In January 1938 the British Government sent a memorandum to the London Mathematical Society appealing to pure mathematicians to help them solve a problem related to top-secret developments in radar.
The Government scientists were confused, because as the wavelength of radio waves shortens, their performance ceases to be regular and periodic (which is good), and becomes unstable and unpredictable (which at best is useless, if not downright dangerous).
This is the bit that amused me. On a practical level the Government engineers working on radar systems decided they could not wait for precise mathematical results. Instead, they worked around the problem, by keeping the equipment within predictable ranges.
Now who would have thought of that? How can we use this simple pragmatism in our life for benefit?
As a personal development coach my clients are looking for change in their life. Common examples are to exceed in sport, stop smoking, lose weight, be more confident, build closer personal relationships, and gain greater health, wealth, and happiness.
There is nothing wrong with these goals. The problem is in their execution, as clients logically believe that they need to make great changes in their life to achieve great success. Chaos theory would predict unexpected results for big changes. They might be good, but they could also be disastrous. Fitness centres are full in January, and empty in February, because people want to make a sudden and large change in their life, their mind and body rebels, and their initial enthusiasm withers.
Fortunately, life does not work like this. Just like in radar, little changes produce more predictable results, with a lot less danger attached. Nature likes balance and small changes. All we usually need is a gentle push in the right place at the right time, and then everything else happens with only a little extra effort from ourselves.
Small and sustained changes are the foundation of successful coaching and personal development. This makes life much easier for both coach and client. Focus on process, and the results will take care of themselves.
My blogs and books are full of simple processes we can use. If you are struggling with a specific goal write to me firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll suggest a simple starting point for your consideration.
Thank you for your patience, and feel free to post your comments, and share the small steps that have brought you success and opened doors.
Have a great week, Steve