For better or for worse, every single decision that you make, every tiny little thing that you do will have an effect on your life. No matter how insignificant an action might seem at the time, it can start a chain reaction that leads to outcomes that you had no idea of predicting. And you’ll have to live with those consequences for a long, long time.
Redditor u/nevermeant2bethisway wanted to find out about the choices that internet users made that changed their lives forever and sparked an intriguing discussion about the butterfly effect on the r/ask subreddit. We’ve collected the most interesting stories. Read on to check them out and to see just how fickle fate can be.
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To go into McDonald’s when I was 7.
I was having a final farewell week with my dad as I was moving away to Scotland with my mum the week after. As a treat he took me to McDonald’s but on the way I changed my mind to Burger King and then I changed my mind AGAIN and we went back to McDonald’s.
Thank goodness I did because the total strangers standing in the queue in front of us was a mum and her 6 year old daughter, it was her birthday as she had a 6 badge on. Me and the daughter immediately became friends and her mum and my dad decided we should all go to the park together. They swapped numbers and stayed in touch. Every time I visited my dad from Scotland I would ask to see the girl from McDonald’s. A few years later my dad and her mum moved in together. Then when I was 14 they got married and my best friend got to be my sister. This year it will be 25 years since that day I walked into McDonald’s. So very very grateful.
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I chose to buy a dog. That little chihuahua and my mom saved my life. I was in deep depression with plans for suicide. My mom convinced me to get a dog. She gave me comfort and companionship. There are two awesome kids that wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t followed my mom’s advice.
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25 years old, working as a waitress/bartender for 5 years, went down to the local community college one late August day to just get some information about how to become a nurse. Sat down and talked with the professor, who before I could even think about it or change my mind, signed me up on the spot and a year later boom, I was an LPN. Fast forward 6 years later I was an RN, now it’s 30 years later and I’m still at it!! But it gave me a good life, and the ability to save for retirement (hopefully in 18 months!!).
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The butterfly effect, a part of chaos theory, means that small changes can lead to larger and larger differences as time goes on. Even the tiniest shift in the environment or a single action can alter the course of history. And you can never tell with any certainty what consequences lie further down the line.
On the one hand, deciding to wear a pair of garish red pants instead of conservative blue shorts can be the trigger that lets you meet the love of your life. On the other hand, it might have happened due to a combination of hundreds (if not thousands or more) of little actions you’ve done that week… or due to the interconnection of millions of separate events in the city that day.
Trying to unravel every tiny cause and effect can give you a real headache. If you start obsessing over these details and all the possible ways that something mundane (e.g. eating a sandwich instead of making yourself fried eggs that morning) might backfire you in a day, year, or even a decade.
Last year, the best choice I made was to quit my dead-end job and pursue my CDL. Throughout my entire adulthood, I had been making no more than 34k a year. However, this decision led to a significant change, as I now earn 65k. While it may not appear substantial to some, this increase has truly been life-changing for me. Additionally, I am proud to be part of one of the best unions in my area, which provides excellent benefits for both me and my family.
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I had just broken up with my gf, realized I had no reason to stay in my city anymore. All my friends moved away, so I said “F**k it, I’m traveling Europe”
I got my passport, had all my plans set up. Then on Fathers day, I got a text from my ex. “Happy Fathers day” it was a picture of her ultrasound.
For about an hour, I had a dark thought. “I could run…I could go to England and just disappear, kid be damned”
But that went against everything I was raised to be. So I decided to stay, got back with my ex and had a son.
I’m a single dad now with a 4yo and a 3yo. I’m glad I stayed, I could not imagine what life would be like without them. Can’t imagine what she would be like as a single mother, cause she became a raging alcoholic after our daughter was born.
Image credits: The_Shadow_Watches
I was in high school, was going to sit next to this one girl, X, I had a crush on. Then I heard another girl, Y, just a casual friend at the time go, “hey, sit next to me here.” X was kind of ignoring me at the time, so I moved. I’m glad I did, cause I ended up marrying Y and we’re still very happy.
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It’s best to embrace the innate unpredictability of life and to admit that some good and bad things will happen to you regardless of what you do. The best that we humble Pandas can do is control the things that we actually can control (e.g. what we eat, how much we move, the people we spend time with, the jobs we apply to, etc.) and change how we react to unfavorable outcomes (like being more stoic or relying on your sense of humor when things don’t go our way).
Though it’s important to recognize the impact that luck (or randomness) has on your life, it shouldn’t mean that you ought to feel powerless. Believing in good luck can give us hope for the future. Meanwhile, believing in bad luck gives us something to blame when our plants turn sour. And being either optimistic or pessimistic primes us either for success or failure.
But one way or the other, it’s essential to take ownership of our choices, not just put everything down to luck. We have to recognize that our decisions, actions, and hard work do play important roles in how our lives turn out—even if favorable circumstances (read: luck) may give us a boost from time to time.
At one of the lowest points in my life, I decided to start journaling and do one small drawing every day.
Two years later, I’m still doing those drawings.
I’ve never been very good at sticking to things, but I managed to stick to this.
This small achievement gave me confidence, and I was able to use that confidence to affect change in my life, for the better.
I’m now starting a new job this month and my life is looking much brighter than it did back then.
It seems silly, but I really do feel like that small step towards discipline and daily productivity really helped change my perspective and outlook.
Image credits: PunchingCobra
Applying to a coding bootcamp. I went from being a broke stripper to an upper class salary working white collar jobs in months.
Image credits: xain_the_idiot
My then boyfriend, who was my childhood sweetheart looked at me and said “want to go to the courthouse next week and get married? We can tell our families later”. I said yes.
Then I invited his parents and siblings and best friend and I invited my favorite sibling and my best friend.
Had the best less than 15 people in attendance wedding.
We celebrated 10 years in April. We have a baby due in August.
It was the best “f**k it, yolo” decision I’ve ever made.
Image credits: anon
By taking ownership of our decisions, you can learn from our successes and failures. However, if you refuse to admit that you control (at least some of) the things happening in your life, you’re only setting yourself up as a victim of luck, whether good or bad.
Content creator Haythamj previously explained to Bored Panda that people are incredibly curious about the butterfly effect. “I think it resonates with people because we’re always obsessed with why things happen. It’s the backbone of all education. so naturally, when this can relate to people’s personal interests, such as pop culture or history, it will grip people,” he told us earlier.
According to him, people really enjoy creating theories about how seemingly unrelated things can have direct correlations once you do a bit of digging (and perhaps add a dash of outside-the-box thinking).
Breaking up contact with toxic people. Including a father and a sister. Should have done it 20 years ago.
You don’t owe your family anything. You can leave whenever you want. Just because you are related, does not mean those are good people. It’s your life, please act accordingly.
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I had my MSG (Marine Security Guard) packet ready to go when I was a Lcpl in the Marine Corps. MSG are the Marines that work in embassies. It’s one of the reasons I joined up. Well I had a girlfriend and she pleaded with me not to go. She begged me to stay with her. So I chose her. Threw the packet away and we got married that week
She would later cheat on me with about every first responder back home (absolute badge bunny) and we have been divorced for the last 7 years.
But that’s not the part that changed everything (although it changed a lot lol). She gave me my first son. That boy changed everything in my life. My perspective on life and how I go about living that life. He’s the reason I left the military and became a teacher. Most of my life choices since his birth revolves around him. I was super lucky I received full custody of the little man. He continues to improve my life to this day.
There are days I look back to that day and wonder how life would be if I sent in that packet, but I quickly dismiss those thoughts. I wouldn’t change s**t.
Image credits: Yardbird753
Choosing to participate in martial arts was a decision that forever changed my life. It had a profound impact on various aspects, including the way I talk, walk, and perceive myself. Martial arts gave me more confidence and transformed my mindset.
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I decided to ignore blood in my stool. Two years later I was diagnosed with stage 4 terminal colon cancer.
Get checked ASAP ask you doctor for a fit test.
Image credits: Big-End-9824
Hands down best decision I’ve ever made.
I was engaged at 24 we called it off a mutual decision. She went on to eventually marry and have 2 kids and raised a beautiful family.
I moved out of state, worked for three beverage companies that all ended up getting bought. Not retirement money but allowed me to travel, live in full amenity lofts in downtowns and go to every concert festival I wanted. I realized I wasn’t the family person and glad we didn’t get in a situation that would have been detrimental to everyone especially if we got married and had kids.
Image credits: ItsKindaIffy
Left the fundamentalist Christian church. I was in a leader training meeting listening to a pastor talk about encouraging others in the gift of prophecy. I realized that I couldn’t in good conscience encourage people because I didn’t believe it.
After the meeting, I asked the pastor to talk. I told him that I wasn’t doing the program. I spent about a week sorting out what I believed, what I disagreed with, and what I didn’t agree with but accepted as a benign cultural part of Christianity.
A week later, I told the pastor that I was leaving the church. It’s been 17 years and I have never regretted this.
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I quit sugar. Anything that wasn’t fruit. I was the unhappiest I had ever been in my life and I told myself, “just 1 month”. Every hard day I just said, “one more day”. Then I kept going, eating healthy, no processed foods, working out, day-by-day I gained momentum. I lost over 100lbs (probably 150lbs, but I never weighed my starting weight. I imagine it was close to, if not over 300lbs).
This completely changed my mind, body, and spirit. My friends asked “How did you do it?”, I said, “I stopped lying to myself”. I was wishing and hoping to be “skinny” but was eating and treating myself like c**p. Sugar did not make me happy. Processed foods did not make me happy. When I finally took control of my life, I lost the weight, and my mindset shifted to: “I want to be healthy” not “skinny”.
I gained a little bit of weight during covid, but now back on track. I have never felt better in my life. I grew up fat, I was always “fat”, and I now have a lil more chub than I would like, but I am happy and healthy and not too hard on myself. It just takes one day, day-by-day, but you have to do it for yourself. Only you can do it for yourself. The hardest thing is facing the reality of your choices and habits.
ETA (It’s a long one!): Thank you for the award and the positive responses! Truly, our society (in the US) makes it difficult to eat healthy. It’s an active choice we have to make, and everything surrounding us wants us to quit and crave. What helps me most is cooking for myself and being in control of my ingredients.
In the US we do not teach proper nutrition, cooking, or meal planning, which is a foundation of health. I had to educate myself and started with a “clean-eating” path, which included animal products but no processed foods or added sugars (I did eat Lily’s Dark Chocolate Chips, no added sugar, which really helped my chocolate cravings in that first month!); I had lost 100+lbs. But I admit, it was more restrictive. At the time that’s what I needed.
Then covid happened and I was depressed and had to eat frozen pizza and ice cream! I had to! So I did! But then that’s all I was eating, and I wasn’t happy again, and I gained maybe 40lbs.
I reflected and shifted my mindset again and found something that works best for me: a Whole Food Plant Based lifestyle (check out the r/PlantBasedDiet sub!). I feel no restriction with this lifestyle, and have lost weight without working out. I only walk and do yoga and pilates. And I love to eat! We should enjoy eating and life! My mind, body, and spirit have never been more positive than living a plant-based life. There is so much variety and freedom. Plants are medicine!
I advocate for a plant-based diet, especially if you’re like me who loves to eat! We need to eat! Food is fuel! Plants have a lower calorie density, so you eat and feel full! Greens and Beans baby! Get that fiber! Get those micronutrients! It’s all about longevity and nutrition. But it’s not like years ago on that first month of my journey I was craving vegetables, it took time and I evolved to this point. It’s a journey, day-by-day, and I am still on my journey.
But years ago, after that first month, then months of no added sugar, I could actually taste food again. I could taste the sweetness of blueberries and broccoli, but it took time. I remember eating some candy when I felt more in control of my eating and thought, “I can taste the artificial chemicals”, and I didn’t want it. Because my gut shifted. They say your gut is your second brain!
I could talk about this stuff all day, I know this edit was long. But truly this choice is what changed my life forever. Honestly, I open my messages for anyone struggling and needs some encouragement to message me. I truly love to help people, and know how intimate this is (food and our bodies). Thanks for reading friends!
Image credits: goodcappuccino
11 years ago I decided to stop buying cigarettes. I was a pack a day smoker for 17 years. I said I’m not quitting, I’m just not going to buy any today and if it lasts a week, a month, a year, then great. But didn’t want the pressure of quitting, and hey, it worked. I don’t miss it at all.
Not having a baby when I was 17. Would have ended up with a raging idiot (my ex) in my life forever. Today I couldn’t even tell you what province he lives in….if he lives at all. Pro choice all the way!!!
Applying to a coding bootcamp. Best decision I made as well. I don’t absolutely loathe what I do for 40 hours a week anymore and I have enough money to only have to check my bank account to make sure I still have the financial cushion I managed to get into place.
I can’t speak to what the job market is nowadays, and I personally wouldn’t recommend a bootcamp when everything you need is available for free online, but if anyone has ever been interested in giving coding a shot I’d strongly recommend it.
Image credits: DEEEPFREEZE
Back when The Onion was only in print, there was an ad in one issue that said _The Onion Personals: You could do worse. Hell, you always have_. Met the love of my life a few days in.
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Cut contact with my abusive mom.
Coming out, saved my life.
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started lifting weights, left mormonism
Messaging a complete stranger to tell her she genuinely made me laugh in one of the darkest periods of my life. Been together almost 9 years, married 5 and have a 5 year old. Life has it’s gifts..
There were several things along the way that changed my trajectory.
1. Left my hometown and my best friend who decided to become a drug addict
2. Quit smoking and hanging around low motivation people
3. Got a science degree that allowed me to earn a comfortable living
4. Cut my mom out of my life, who had put me down constantly since I was old enough to remember
5. Married my very normal stable husband and had children with him
Having my son. I love that little f****r with everything I am, but damn life used to be so much simpler.
Swung into an Outback Steakhouse after surfing at Tybee Island outside Savannah with a buddy while in the army. Saw a young lady at the bar and told my boy that’s the girl I’m going to marry.
25 years (21 of it married) later still going strong!
Decided when I started college to start saying yes to opportunities and to interact with people more often instead of being paralyzingly shy. My reasoning was that in college, no one would know who or what I had been, so being someone knew would not look fake or phony. Life immediately became less stressful and more fun. That has remained the case ever since.
Seeing a therapist about my anxiety.
Image credits: RoughInstruction1253
Made a spur of the moment decision when I was 18 not to go to school for what I had planned to my entire teen life and applied to work in the UK for a few months
It completely changed the trajectory of my life and led to a series of other gut instinct decisions that gave me the life I have now that I absolutely would not have if not for that first choice
On my 40th birthday, I quit my job to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. After I finished the hike, I sold my house in the city and bought a small wilderness cabin and never made it back to work.
Walking across campus after finding out my scholarship was revoked due to a drunk driver shredding my foot. (Long story. No one did anything wrong except the driver. Just is what it is). Saw a sign for Disney World internship program recruiting that day. Said f**k it and wandered in. Applied. Got it. Met my future wife on the first day. 17 years later she’s still my Disney Princess.
To dedicate my life to studying folklore and the unknown.
Before my husband and I were dating, we talked a lot and hung out as friends. The night before I was supposed to go to Vegas for a friends birthday he kissed me. Needless to say the whole trip I was antsy thinking about him and how crazy I felt for already being in love. I went to see him the day I got back, and never came home. Now we are married with a perfect baby just under 2 years later
Signing up for school as soon as the pandemic hit, I now have a completely new career and life because I immediately took action after loosing my income during the pandemic.
practice delayed gratification instead of instant cheap gratification
Leave my cheater 1st wife after 20yrs.
Start meditating at 50yrs
Going to get my masters degree. I was on a path of poverty even with my bachelors degree. Now I’m on a very comfortable trajectory and can afford a decent life for myself and my family
Deciding to divorce my self-centered, disrespectful, sexless, toxic ex.
I’m now in a truly great relationship with a woman I love who respects me, supports me and with whom I share an amazing connection.
When I was 13 years old, 25 years ago, me and some friends were shark fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. My buddy caught a shark and gutted it and put it on the side of the boat. He was older than me so he was an authoritative figure of some sorts.
For whatever reason I wanted to jump in the water and swim after these events and I asked my older buddy if I could. He hesitated for a second and said no.
A few seconds later he shines the light on the area I was about to jump and there’s a massive hammerhead shark right there. His decision to say “no” perhaps saved my life.