Every Change Changes Everything
Several weeks ago, I heard the words, “every change changes everything,” and that four-word phrase moved me so profoundly that I posted it on my computer, so that I encounter it constantly. We know about change; so much is spoken and written about it, including the observation that “change is the only constant.” Ongoing change is a reality not only in our human lives, but in the very fabric of the universe. We see within us and around us energy and matter constantly trading forms; stars and planets in motion, seasons cycling and weather patterns moving across the sky; the very cells of our bodies being replaced, renewed, revitalized in every moment.
So what might it mean that all change is somehow interconnected, that every change changes everything else? In the theories of system dynamics we learn that the world is woven as an organic system, and just as touching one part of a mobile, or one thread of a spider web, creates motion in the entire structure, so also the natural world and all its creatures feel the effects of any activity in the system. It is said that the motion of a butterfly wing in one location can affect the velocity and path of a tornado weeks later in another part of the planet. In family systems theory, the behavior of any one individual in a family or community has an impact on every other member of that human group. Our knowledge of systems teaches us that my actions, my decisions, my changes can benefit or harm everyone else in my interconnected system, simply because we are interconnected.
If every change changes everything, what does that mean for our lives? For me, that means there is the potential that every decision I make, every action, every conversation, every change in my life in some way affects not only everything else within me, but also affects all those around me, even if they are not aware. That is a helpful reminder to pay attention, and to choose my changes carefully!
I have been reading Love 2.0 by Barbara Frederickson, and her theory is that love is not just a romantic emotion, but an underlying dynamic that we can bring to every encounter in our lives. Her research has found that the experience of love supports our own mental, physical and emotional health, as well as the wellbeing of everyone around us. And we have the power to bring the spark of love into every interaction, no matter how brief or casual – a warm smile, a kind word, a helpful response are all enactments of love.
If I put those ideas together – that love generates well-being within and around me; that I can enact love in all the connections I make; and that every change changes everything, not only within me but also all around me — then I choose to change in the direction of love. In this month of deepening darkness, as we continue to move through the pandemic, as I support those around me who struggle with isolation, fear and loss, I choose love. I choose to pay closer attention to assuring that my words and actions are kind and supportive; to smile more and judge less, to change myself inch by inch toward enacting love in everything I do. Every change changes everything, and when we change ourselves toward love we can truly transform the world. Choose love.