The consequences of your decisions

In this day and age many people have goals set up for themselves and if you’re reading this you most likely got some goals set up for yourself. The key to reaching your goal is to pick the right decision in every encounter of your daily life. If you’re a modern day man or woman you’re most likely taking hundreds or even thousands of decisions every day. The tricky part with reaching goals is to pick the right decision. Here’s something to guide you into picking the right decision no matter what the situation is or what your goal is.

(Note: for this to work you need to have a clear view of what your goal is.)

First order consequences is what your brain instantly wants to do without thinking about the consequences of it. Examples of this might be eating that bag of chips, watching Netflix instead of doing something productive like your homework, masturbating so you lose your energy and drive and tons of other possible scenarios which gets you fat or spikes your dopamine levels to unnecessary and unnatural levels.

Second order consequences is what comes next. Let’s take the example of watching Netflix instead of doing your homework. You took the decision to binge on the new season of your favorite show (one of many) and now you got this homework left to do but after watching a show for 8 hours straight you won’t get up and start your homework because that’s just not how it works — it never ends that way, it ends in watching some more Netflix. In the end of the day, nothing got done — not a single math equation was solved.

Third order consequences. This is the part where you could really get crushed by your decision if you took the easy route, getting your reward from the first order consequence. Your homework didn’t get done the day that it had to or should have been done so now it’s there on the desk. Getting into to the habit of just thinking about your first order consequences that pile on the desk will just keep on growing with homework, and maybe you’ll flunk algebra. But you know what, you would have seen many movies and tv-shows (which you in the long run really don’t care about).

To make the right decision is to think about not the first order consequences of your decisions but to only think about the second- and third order consequence. For the next scenario I’ll use one of my own goals and situations that I battle in my every day life. One of my goals is to be in the best shape that is physically possible for myself.

Sunday. Grocery store. I got my shopping list set up for myself, it’s chicken, broccoli and some soy sauce (the rice I already got ready at home). Walking down the aisle I spot that the ice-cream that I usually indulged in on sundays is for sale, half-price. What now is going through my mind is ”You’re worth it man, you’ve worked out a lot this week”, ”Just this one time” and tons and tons of other excuses to buy this ice-cream, it really is tempting. Now this is the brain focusing on the first order consequences, the instant gratification, it’s craving that sugar rush, the dopamine rush. But me, and hopefully you after reading this, will come to realize that this is not what’s gonna help me reach my goals.

The second order consequence of eating half a litre of ice-cream in one sitting will be that it will completely wreck a whole week worth of eating well and exercising. I will also feel really full in a bad way which I always get from a lot of sugar, then comes the bad mood ”why did I do that”, ”alright, reminder to myself, ice-cream is not worth it” and that talk goes on and on.

Third order consequences of this is that this will become a habit. Every sunday (or every day for that matter, your brain doesn’t know what day it is) you are going to crave that sugar rush and dopamine rush, despite you feeling like shit after devouring it in 5 minutes. When something is a habit we’re doing it on auto-pilot and now you’ll get that ice-cream every single sunday and you will stray farther from your goals slowly but surely.

How to combat the way of thinking with just wanting to get the instant gratification is to always have your goals in the back of your mind and to think a second (or third) time about your decisions in your life. If you start thinking about the second order consequence already when you see the discount on the ice-cream in the grocery store you will start to realize that it won’t be worth it. Taking the decision of doing your homework or watching Netflix you could use this visualization of two paths. Doing homework — first off, it’s flashing red (no instant gratification and you might have to fight your way through it), after a while it’s gonna start flashing green and green and green (this is the second and third order consequences) and this feels nice. Watching Netflix — first off, this path is flashing green and oh it feels nice just thinking about it, and then all you see is red, you have messed up and not acted in the line of your goals.

This is the background wallpaper on my phone.

In conclusion:

Always have your goals in the back of your head.

Think about what first order consequence your decision is going to have on your goal, is the path red at the start of it but then ends in green? Congratulations, you picked the right decision. Is the path green at the start and ends in a crossing full of red lights? Congratulations, you fucked yourself.