The Physics of the Daily Grind: Self Help Books and Chaos Theory

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Last week, I was sent a book called ‘Women, Motherhood & Independence‘. Anyone that’s read my post ‘Why I Don’t Do Parenting Books‘ can imagine that self-help books have never really been my bag.  I don’t get much time to read, and to be honest when I do, I’d rather read a gruesome murder mystery. Should I be worried that murder takes priority over self-help? Probably… but for me, TV, books and going out on the town are all about escapism. Escaping the day-to-day madness that is life… escaping my own personal chaos. Now, because I’m more of a scientist than a spiritualist, stick with me while we take a look at Chaos Theory. It’s a real thing, with scientific laws derived by people with highly effective brains… now that I can work with.

chaos theory
Original fractal design sourced from

‘Chaos is the science of surprises, of the nonlinear and the unpredictable. It teaches us to expect the unexpected.’ (

What did I tell you… science is the answer to all your problems. Chaos Theory is going to teach us how to expect the unexpected. So when I turn around from the cooker and the Twins have instantly vanished, I’m going to know that they have made it down the corridor to the bathroom, and are happily playing in the toilet bowl – unexpected? Not anymore. 

Principals of Chaos Theory:

One of the main principles of Chaos Theory, is the idea of the butterfly effect. The chaos theorist in Jurassic Park (one of my favorite movies of all time by the way), played by Jeff Goldblum, talks of how the flutter of a butterfly’s wing in Brazil could, through a complex sequence of events, cause a tornado in Kanzas. It’s a idea that has come up again and again in movies – ‘Sliding Doors’ portrays the knock on effect of whether or not Gwyneth Paltrow’s character catches a particular train on a particular day. And then there’s the time traveling disaster of Ashton Kutcher’s character in ‘The Butterfly Effect’. This idea of feedback is important in Chaos Theory – even the smallest interference in a system can have dramatic effects.

What Chaos Theory is Not:

Chaos theory is not a lazy branch of science, just writing everything off as unpredictable, uncontrollable and without order. It looks for underlying patterns, and unifying ideas. It studies the inner workings of non linear systems, and makes predictions about outcomes. And it’s not just for mathematicians; Chaos theory is used to study physiology, biology, economics and pretty much anything that’s real life. Because chaos is the nature of… nature. 

Why Choas Theory is Important to Consider:

It is important to understand that life is a non linear system. Although we may feel like we’re rolling along the conveyor belt of day-to-day life, in reality, small interventions in the system are giving it feedback, resulting in an infinitely larger, more complex system. So when life feels chaotic and unpredictable, blame the butterfly in Brazil. But we can also use Chaos Theory to our advantage… remember, small interventions can, in the long term, have dramatic effects.

This is where I return to my self-help book, the trigger for this post on Chaos Theory. In ‘Women, Motherhood & Independence’, author Penelope Magoulianti talks about how she worked for the same employers for twenty years, and despite wanting to, never pushed for more from her career. ‘Every year the frustration and anger grew greater’ she explains, because she was afraid to do anything about it. In the eyes of Chaos Theory, I would suggest those feeling of frustrations and anger are giving her life system feedback; creating a more complexly unsatisfying work environment as time went on. It was only when the company closed down, she was forced to reflect, consider her passions, and kick start a new confidence and career. 


If Life is Chaos, Is Anything Linear?

Penelope totally burst my ego bubble when she explains to the reader that research has proved:

‘98% of people can’t multitask’

So, either you’re in the lucky 2%, or you’re not getting more done by trying to do it all at the same time. It seems our mental to-do list should be a linear system. We have enough chaos in nature, let’s keep simple task management in linear form, we’re much more effective that way.


What Science Can’t Help Us With

In amongst all this science, there is a place for self-help books. Science will struggle to tell you how to feel more confident, and inspire you to find your passion and achieve personal success. My favorite chapter from ‘Women, Motherhood & Independence’ was ‘Slow Down to Achieve More’, because this is exactly what I promised myself I’d do this year. Penelope talks of creating ‘silent time’, as well as adding relaxing activities and re-charge time to your life. This is exactly what I need to do, and it was great to read some tips on how to achieve it. It has also given me the push I needed to get a few things done that I have been meaning to do for ages.

‘Have you been putting off plans because they didn’t seem perfect enough?’

Yes Penelope, actually I have. I have been meaning to redesign the blog, and this week I actually did it… 

Create a Positive Butterfly

If Chaos Theory is inherently present, lets work with it. Create your own butterfly effect… just make the feedback you give the system positive. Make time everyday to take time out and re-charge. As Chaos Theory states, even a small intervention in the system can have dramatic effects; so if you feel you’re too busy for an hour of meditative yoga, or a long walk on the beach, try spending just 15minutes doing something creative. It can be anything you like, but take Penelope’s advice and turn off the phone/ipad.

If you would like a copy of ‘Women, Motherhood & Independence – A Guide to Financial Freedom, Beauty and Confidence After Childbirth’, you can find the ebook at


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About the author

Katherine is an electrochemist, hiking enthusiast, and family lifestyle blogger. As a mom of three, including twins, she enjoys DIY, travel, and eating good food. British born, Katherine moved to the US in 2014, and now called Las Vegas home.

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