The power of consequences

Dolphin jumps over trainerMost people are aware that the consequences of our actions affect our future actions. Very few people realise how powerful, pervasive and useful this is!

Every activity you undertake can be broken into a little sequence that happens over and over again all day. Something sets you off, you respond accordingly, and there is some outcome that you attach value to. Here are some examples:

  1. A: A trained dolphin sees a dolphin trainer give a hand signal. B: The dolphin does a particular kind of jump. C: At the top of the jump, the dolphin hears the trainer’s whistle, as expected. The dolphin feels elation, because the whistle is associated with a job well done, social approval and maybe a fish or a pat.
  2. A: Sue hears the phone ringing. B: Sue answers the phone. C: She’s not surprised that one of her friends is on the other end, as her friends often call for a chat, which Sue enjoys.
  3. A: The puppy realises that he has a full bladder. B: Checking to make sure no one is nearby or paying attention, he piddles behind the couch. C: He feels relief, not just from the emptying bladder, but because he knows that if he “keeps it private” he won’t be attacked mid-stream by the humans in the household!

These events are described by this simple equation (scientists can make it way more complicated, but this is the basic version):


This chain is pervasive. It happens all the time, every day. The consequence is a powerful shaper of how we behave. The usefulness of this little chain comes in when you arrange consequences to change how you behave. There’s lots of advice “out there” on changing your personal habits. One of the biggies that underlies that advice is to make sure your C is something absolutely awesome. There are a few tricks to that, which I’ll get into in later posts. 😉

Can you think of any situations in your day that fit the equation? Please share them in the comments!

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *