Ever heard of the butterfly effect?
In chaos theory, simply put, the butterfly effect says that a small change in one area can create a greater change in another area.
The most common metaphor is the butterfly flapping its wings on one side of the globe creating, weeks later, a large wind system (e.g., tornado) on the other side of the planet.
Though that’s more of a mathematical concept, it is similar to “real life,” as well, because small actions can have a large impact, like a tiny seed blossoming into a mighty tree. Sometimes the impact is caused far away, and other times the impact can increase over time. In this guide, we walk you through some of the simplest actions you can take which can have a large—and positive—impact on your life.
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Here’s a list of the best small things you can do that’ll have a big impact:
1. Show Your Appreciation
If you go to a job interview, you’ll likely say “thank you” as you wrap up the meeting and leave. But, sending a follow-up thank you letter after the interview can go a long way.
First, it shows the employer both professionalism and courtesy, increasing your chances of landing the job. Also, it reminds them that you’re waiting, strengthening their memory of you positively and politely.
In other areas of your life, a simple display of gratitude can go just as far.
When someone does something nice for you, send them a heartfelt thank you letter. Or, write an email to a friend or family member thanking them for a specific thing they did in the past; this will show them it has meant a lot to you, while also making them feel quite happy for the rest of the day!
And, on top of all that, your appreciativeness can help make you more resilient. As COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, says: “Finding gratitude and appreciation is key to resilience. People who take the time to list things they are grateful for are happier and healthier.”
2. Donate Money
You don’t have to be a billionaire philanthropist to have a large impact on the finances of the organizations you care about.
You know Wikipedia, I’m sure. And, over the last few years, you’ve likely seen their donation banner, saying something like that if every Wikipedia user donated $3, they’d be done raising funds. In fact, Wikipedia says they are “sustained by donations averaging $15.”
The good thing is that you can donate as little or as much as you’d like. Even a $5 donation goes a long way, providing several meals to a starving child in a poverty stricken country, for example.
3. Donate Your Time
In many cases, especially for students and young professionals, donating money isn’t an option. So, consider contributing your time, instead.
There are many ways to spend your time to make a difference. If there’s an organization in need, sign up as a volunteer. You don’t even have to leave your house—world-changing institutions such as the UN need your digital help (check out onlinevolunteering.org).
Or, spend your time effectively by helping out a friend, family member, or other person in need. Mentor a young child with subjects they’re struggling with, or help an older human with physical tasks which may be harder for them to accomplish.
4. Smile at a Stranger
Smiling is one of the simplest things you can do, but also one of the most effective.
According to an article in The Journal of Social Psychology titled “The Effect of Smiling on Person Perception,” the author Sing Lau states that people “liked a smiling person more and evaluated him or her more positively than a nonsmiling person. Moreover, a smiling person was perceived to be more intelligent and could create in the perceiver a warm feeling more so than a nonsmiling person.”
When you’re on the way to school or the office, smile at those you make eye contact with. It takes just a second, but really can make someone’s day. And, if and when you receive a smile in return, it just might make your own day, as well!
5. Take a Break
Sometimes the best way to have a positive impact on the world is to get your own self back to peak performance.
Disconnect for a bit.
Allow yourself some time to sort all your thoughts, and give others the chance to support you just as you support them. When you return, you’ll likely have a lot more creativity, energy, and enthusiasm to get the job done!
Those five actions above are some of the most impactful things you can do on a day-to-day basis, but there are plenty other small actions with big impact to consider, of course. And, having a large influence on others doesn’t have to cost you much time, money, or effort, either.
Here are some other small acts that can cause great change:
6. Recycle – How Does Recycling Help the Environment?
7. Pick Up Trash You Pass – Don’t let it sit on the street; beautify your neighborhood and set an example for others to do the same!
8. Cook an Elaborate Meal – Show a friend or significant other how much they mean to you by preparing a nice dinner where you can talk and catch up.
9. Build Resilience – How to Sustain Resilience
10. Compliment Others – Make someone smile by passing along a genuine compliment.
11. Support the SDGs – How to Support the SDGs Without Spending Any Money
12. Take Shorter Showers – Gallons of water are used each minute, so try to limit your showers to under 5 minutes.
13. Fight Climate Change – Earth Day Tips to Support the Environment & Stop Climate Change
14. Donate Unused Items
15. Support the Black Community – 5 Simple But Effective Ways to Support Black Lives Matter
16. Support Those Impacted by COVID-19 – 25+ Organizations to Support
17. Pay for Someone’s Order – Make a stranger’s day by paying for their order, if you can, whether it’s a coffee or a burger.
18. Follow Your Calling – Turn Your Passion Into a Career in 5 Easy Steps
19. Save Money – Try to put even a little money into a savings account each month.
20. Use Names More Often – It adds a personal touch in your emails and Slack messages, and only takes a second more to type.
21. Let Them Talk – Sometimes, people just need to unload. Be that friend they can tell of their problems.
22. Set Personal Goals – How to Set Goals You Can Actually Achieve
23. Be Encouraging
24. Vote – If you are of age in your area, always participate in the voting process to elect the right leaders!
25. Share Your Ideas With the World – How to Pitch Great Ideas on Goodwall: 4 Easy Tips for Success
Well, that just about wraps up our guide on small acts that can have a massive impact on yourself, others, and the world around you. Got any questions, feedback, or other effortless actions to share? Let us know below in the comments, and thanks for reading!