Butterfly Effect

Jim:    Good evening and welcome to our continuing mindfulness experience, Fishing Without Bait, where we ask people to live a life without definitive expectations.  Welcome to the present moment.  Welcome to the present moment, Mike.  Welcome to right here and right now.

Mike:    Hey, Jim.  I’m glad to be here, right here, right now.

Jim:    Right here and right now.  So, Mike, could you share with me a little bit about your reminiscence of the last 25 podcasts?  We’ve reached a century mark.

Mike:    Yes.  Yes, we have.  This is, I believe, Episode 26.  It’s been a ride.  You know, I just celebrated a 100th episode anniversary, I guess, of a show.  And, I can’t wait for this to reach that point as well.

Jim:    Well, congratulations.

Mike:    In review, I’ve learned about – really the choice thing has been a really heavy thing especially in our last couple of episodes.  You know what, just being around this.  It really seeps into your life as you’re making decisions from day to day.

Jim:    Indeed it does.  So, again and again, Mike, we continue to reflect on two topics that, at first glance, seem very different such as an apple as an orange.  Again, Mike, what we’re talking about is time and choice.  However, if we are mindful, we can see how they’re intertwined.  We live in time.  We constantly manage it and be flexible and massage.  However, a lot we are controlled by time, are we not?  We allow ourselves to be controlled by time.  Tell me Mike, have you ever heard of the butterfly effect?

Mike:    I have.  I have.  It was an interesting movie with Ashton Kutcher last I knew.

Jim:    So, tell me a little bit about that.

Mike:    In that it was talking about, I think he was somehow travelling in time, kind of Quantum Leap style in his own body and able to change things in his past.  It would change a lot of other things, and usually not with a great effect.  And, the more you try to mess with it, the more it would butterfly out – you know, the wind from a butterfly’s wings is enough to change something when they talk about this.

Jim:    Indeed.  This was first postulated by an individual by the name of Edward Lorenz.  He worked for MIT, and this was back in the early 60s.  And, it was a presumption that a small change in an initial condition could lead to drastic changes within the end result.  So, the most often quoted version is that a butterfly flapping its wings in South America can cause an earthquake and can cause a hurricane in China.  So, what we’re looking at is small changes having large effects.  If you really want to get into it it also involves chaos theory and different things like that.  In keeping with the examining results, are we not a product of our choices?  Are we not a product of our choices, Mike?

Mike:    Right.  Because those experiences from those choices and the reactions from those choices affect our decision the next time.  

Jim:    Not only do they affect you, they affect everyone in your circle and everyone surrounding you.  So, let’s talk a little bit about some impactful choices in your life.  Some of the impactful choices, what are some impactful choices in your life, Mike?

Mike:    For me, deciding to go to college.  Deciding what school I went to.  More minutely, deciding to leave a job at a certain point.  Deciding to leave a relationship at a certain point – seems a very big effect.  Or, in sometimes starting certain relationships.

Jim:    So, let’s imagine the relationship, the committed relationship you’re into now – the marriage.  How different would your life have been should you have not gone that way?

Mike:    You know, it’s something I think about from time to time.  Like, what if I didn’t run into her at that one point on that friend’s porch 15 years ago?  What would I have ended up into?

Jim:    Much different.

Mike:    Much different.  Much different.  Who knows what I would have gotten into, who I would have ended up with, and where that would have led me.

Jim:    So, you made a choice?

Mike:    Mm-hmm.

Jim:    How different would her life have been?

Mike:    Oh, very different.  Who knows where she would end up, because she’s already a fish out of water far from home – in college for her.  And, I don’t know where she would end up.

Jim:    So, that’s an impactful choice.

Mike:    Mm-hmm.  I don’t think she’d be in Pittsburgh without me.  I don’t think there’d be any desire for that necessarily.

Jim:    So what you’re talking about is drastic, drastically altering the final result.  

Mike:    Right.  What could have happened, you know?  And, what influences those would be.

Jim:    Now that we understand how choice can affect the final results of life and creates the ripple effect – so now that we’ve established the importance of choice, what we want to introduce into this conversation is the topic of conscious choice.  What does the term conscious mean to you?

Mike:    Making a choice more proactively than letting the choice and how you react just happen.

Jim:    So, let’s talk about the difference between being conscious and unconscious.

Mike:    Right.  Like, I decided.  No, I’m going to do something this way.  I’m not going to let – did we talk about the lizard brain on here?  Did we have that conversation?

Jim:    We did.

Mike:    That’s something – that’s a concept I’m very fascinated with with Seth Godin’s Linchpin book.  I think the passive choice that we’re discussing is that lizard brain – it’s like that’s the reaction that’s built into us.  

Jim:    Yes.  That’s your unconscious choices.

Mike:    Exactly.  Be it through experiences you’ve had or just your animal mind taking it that way.  And then the conscious choice is saying no, I’m not going to listen to that.  For me in my business, if I’m afraid of something, instead of recoiling and not doing that thing I run toward it because, for me, that’s the exciting thing and there’s a lot of possibilities there.

Jim:    And, when we talk about possibilities we talk about being empowered.  And, we talk about – we’re going to be diving into, in this and future episodes, Mike, the unbelievable awesome power that choice gives you – how much it empowers you and how much it entitles you.  So, conscious choice is a lot about being congruent with reality, Mike.  It’s about living in reality then divorcing yourself from wishes and hopes and waiting for things to happen, okay?  So, we haven’t told the lottery story for a long time, have we?

Mike:    It’s been a few episodes, I believe.

Jim:    It’s been quite a while.  I’m going to repeat the lottery story for people, and it has a lot to do with conscious choice and action and effort and participating in your life.  So, there was an individual who prayed to win the lottery – prayed very, very hard, sweat blood.  And nothing ever happened.  So, naturally, they got more aggravated and upset.  So, one day they ran outside of the house and they screamed up at the sky, and they said, “God, why won’t you let me win the lottery?”  And, after a pause, after a moment, God called down and said, “Could you meet me halfway and at least buy a ticket?”  The idea is that most of us do not buy the ticket in our lives – do not put forth the conscious action and effort.  Quite often, Mike, what we do is we make our choices based on delusions.  Is a delusion reality?

Mike:    No.  Absolutely not.

Jim:    A delusion is a belief or an impression that’s maintained despite contradictory evidence of reality or rational argument.  There are many times that we believe that we are something or can do something despite what is real and what is out there.  Sometimes we want something so badly, Mike, to happen that we divorce ourselves from reality and actually we make delusional choices.  Let’s say that I wanted to become a nuclear physicist.  And, that was in my own mind.  That’s delusional thinking because I’m really and truly not – or have you ever imagined that someone was in love with you, or that someone liked you, or that you were a good fit for a job?

Mike:    High school was very rough for me, Jim.  No.  That’s what I think about is that high school puppy love kind of thing, and unrequited and everything, and figuring that out.  

Jim:    So what one of the most powerful things about the choices is – I like a quote by an individual by the name of Dennis Merritt Jones.  What he says is as you begin to make conscious choices your life will follow the trajectory of these choices even as your shadow faithfully follows wherever you go.  What we’re talking about is as we begin to make conscious choices, these conscious choices will be like a shadow and will follow you wherever you go.  Let’s look at some of the words that defeat choice.  Some of the words that defeat choice are I need to, I have to, I must, I should.  Is there any choice involved there, Mike?

Mike:    No.  You don’t feel like it.  It feels like that’s been taken away from you.

Jim:    And, again, you put definitive expectations on yourself.  So, simply by replacing the word should with could what we’re talking about is possibilities.  

Mike:    Right.  And, I think it may be partially related to this.  I think we’ve had the discussion recently.  I once did a blog post.  I talked about motivation on there, career and passion and making creativity, and one of those was one day is poison and it was, I say, one day I’m going to do this.  One day I’m going to get a bigger house.  One day I’m going to get a better job.  And, every time you say that, that satisfies.  I think it’s in the same vein you’re talking about with these words.  It satisfies a part of your brain that just says one day this will happen.  And, then you don’t use that space in your brain to do the thing to make that happen.

Jim:    Absolutely.  And, again, we’re talking about power.  So, when we’re in those types of states we’re really experiencing a power shortage, a power blackout.  In the 12-step world they talk about lack of power.  That was our dilemma.  So, when we’re talking about these words, we’re taking the power away from ourselves.  And, we’re actually having delusional thinking.  And again, we refer back to those two terms: consonance and dissonance.  In consonance, remember, our brain seeks to be level.  Our brain seeks harmony in consonance, which means that – let’s say you drink Red Bull.  And, obviously, Red Bull has a whole lot of things in it that aren’t good for you, and you know that, because you’re familiar with the information and people tell you that.  However, that makes your brain a little bit upset, doesn’t it?  That’s because you’re drinking it and you shouldn’t.  That creates some disharmony.  So, what do we do?  Our brain seeks harmony – seeks consonance by telling ourselves that it tastes really good.  And, it helps give me focus.  It helps me stay awake.  I only drink one a day.  So, that’s the way our brain talks.  And, we have to outsmart – remember we often talk about outsmarting our brain, right?  We’ve often talked about how our brain is like a helpful neighbor that wants to help us mow our grass and mows over our flowerbed.  Okay, so when we’re talking about this conscious choice we’re talking about stepping back, Mike, and getting away from these automatic thoughts, which is what you referred to as the lizard brain and making unconscious choices.  What we’re doing today is setting the foundation.  We’re getting people a little thirsty for how to make conscious choices.  How do we do that, Mike?  How do we step back and become the observer behind this thinker?  Remember, it’s this thinker that is the issue.  And, it’s becoming the observer behind that thinker – taking that step back, making a choice to become that thinker.  And, Mike, I can’t even begin to tell you the type of power when you can make choices.  What I’m going to leave you with today, our good friends out there, is think of how many obligations you believe you have.  I want you to really think of how many times you say I have to in a day.  What we’re going to be doing is we’re going to be stepping back, stopping – literally stopping, taking those deep breaths, centering ourselves: I am right here and it is right now.  Accurately describe a situation and then we use our wise mind – use our conscious choice, to make a decision.  Not an automatic thought.  So how do we do that?  We begin by practicing it.  My suggestion out there to everyone is begin by, when you go in the grocery store – stop for a moment.  Center yourself.  Take that deep breath.  I’m right here and it’s right now.  And, describe what you’re going to be doing – even though it may seem silly.  Well, I’m going to go into the store and I’m going to buy milk.  Then, that’s what you say – I’m going into the store, and I’m going to buy milk.  And, then begin by asking yourself, well is that a wise-mind choice?  Am I making a conscious choice to buy milk?  Do I believe that I have to buy milk?  Or is it a choice of mine to buy milk?  I know it’s a little bit introspective, but it only takes moments.  It takes moments to do that.  The more that we begin to practice in those type of ordinary situations, then the uncommon sense becomes common sense, Mike.

Mike:    And, that seemingly mundane thought that you have like that plants a small seed that, again, that butterfly effect – in your own mind.  And, you start thinking, well, if that works, I have to do this other thing, and this other thing, and the bigger thing, and the bigger thing.  In the end, magically – as in you don’t know when it started.  You don’t know how long it took.  You’re taking stock of your whole life in a whole new way.

Jim:    Absolutely.  So, what we’re talking about here – that’s a wonderful correlation with the butterfly effect.  Because, really and truly, it does seem like a butterfly flapping its wings doesn’t it?  I mean, it doesn’t seem – you’re going in to buy milk.

Mike:    It’s a tiny little thing.  It’s the baby steps that we’ve been talking about.  Little choice.  The small choice.  The easy choice to begin with.

Jim:    And, we work on those.  We gain power over those, which is when we face difficult times in our life or when we’re feeling overwhelmed by situations – whether they be financial, relationships, health wise.  We’ve already begun to develop a choice over that final result, over that end result.  By starting off by flapping our butterfly wings.  So, I would suggest that everyone out there begin by flapping their butterfly wings.  So, until then, Mike, we’re going on a wonderful journey on conscious choice.  Until then, thank you so much.

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