This is a great concept from one of the richest men in the world. He built arguably one of the best and most successful hedge funds by leveraging a challenging yet freeing philosophy.
In his book, Principles, Ray Dalio introduces the idea of first-, second-, and third-order consequences by claiming people who regularly overweigh the first-order consequences of their decisions without considering the effects of the second- and subsequent-order consequences rarely reach their goals. “This is because first-order consequences often have opposite desirabilities from second-order consequences, resulting in big mistakes in decision making.” (Principles, 155)
Although I personally love every bit of working out, the first-order consequences – time, work, waking up, and short lived discomfort – are commonly considered undesirable (booooo), while the second-order consequences offer countless benefits to your health, self-esteem, and mood. These second and third order consequences are typically the ones that provide the most benefit and value. Unfortunately, the first-order consequences are often the temptations that keep us away from achieving our most desired goals.
You make choices all day - we make somewhere around 35,000 decisions a day. To me, that sounds like 35,000 opportunities to be better. Think about the progress we can make if we make different choices on a handful of those opportunities.
For example, here’s a choice:
You are at work and there are doughnuts sitting in the conference room. Nobody is watching.
The first-order consequence of eating that double chocolate glazed doughnut is that it will feel amazing for the five seconds that it takes to scarf it down. But then what? You will have failed to reject the temptation by simply ignoring the - far more valuable -second-order consequences of sticking to that no sugar diet that you have been following for two months. That doughnut broke you and now you are sad… and who wants to be sad?
“It’s almost as though nature sorts us by throwing us trick choices that have both types of consequences and penalizing those who make their decisions on the basis of the first-order consequences alone.” (Principles, 156)
The best thing you can do is determine your goal(s) and align your actions with those goals. If you do that, you will begin to understand that every great achievement has sacrifice written in the fine print. Don’t let first order consequences drive you away from what you really want.
Stay focused and fight the temptation to:
… skip the gym
… stay in bed all day
… eat like crap
… stay up late
… watch hours of TV
… drink excessive amounts of alcohol
… eat that double chocolate glazed doughnut
… over eat
This is all that separates you from great improvements in your health and happiness. Choose wisely, see you in the gym.