Once upon a time, I taught a very small yoga class, and each week, we would work on performing the pose bakasana, or crane pose, as a way to overcome fear. In trying to find ways to get students to "go for it," the practice ended up being about, on one occasion, having the students purposely just fall over and land on their heads (cushioned by blankets, of course).
One of the magical things that came out of this was a wonderful cartoon by a student in the class. But that wasn't the end of it. Soon after, came a Brazilian yoga blog with a Portuguese translation of the comic (see illustration at left). I began to wonder how many yogis in how many places learned to overcome fears -- not just about arm balances, but about body image, and who knows what else -- from seeing the comic inspired by my teaching the very small yoga class (with sometimes just one person in it).
Have you heard of the butterfly effect? Here's a brief explanation from Wikipedia:
"The idea that one butterfly could eventually have a far-reaching ripple effect on subsequent historic events seems first to have appeared in a 1952 short story by Ray Bradbury about time travel although Lorenz made the term popular. In 1961, Lorenz was using a numerical computer model to rerun a weather prediction, when, as a shortcut on a number in the sequence, he entered the decimal .506 instead of entering the full .506127 the computer would hold. The result was a completely different weather scenario. Lorenz published his findings in a 1963 paper for the New York Academy of Sciences noting that 'One meteorologist remarked that if the theory were correct, one flap of a seagull's wings could change the course of weather forever.' Later speeches and papers by Lorenz used the more poetic butterfly."
What about internal butterfly effects, in which a simple change you make has a broad array of effects in other areas of your life? Or, would that be the domino effect? Here's the point:
About a month ago, I challenged myself to wake up at least an hour earlier each morning. It was really a necessity, since my very long workday still wasn't enough to get everything done. Not only did I find that I began to accomplish my workload with more ease, but I miraculously had more time to spare each day, less stress, and greater sense of control. But it didn't stop there. I became more optimistic, happier, and less irritable. New opportunities began to come my way, unasked for, and I cheerfully was able to accept other opportunities that I may have turned down due to burnout.
Here's another way of looking at the exponential-reward equation, from author and yoga teacher Ricardo das Neves. He offers 20 5% solutions that can equal happiness (and, in his case, freedom from depression). A number of seemingly insignificant, small changes can become much more than the sum of their parts.
What's your equation? Whatever the goal, try the most insignificant way to get there and see what happens.