Instant satisfaction has a tendency to trick our minds into wanting to do things that are actually very much counterproductive to our best interests. This is not to say that after reading this, I want you to stop enjoying your life. But I do want you to understand how second and third order consequences work because maybe it can help motivate you when doing the right things seems, well, hard.
Let me explain.
Oftentimes the immediate consequence of doing something can be very pleasant, yet is actually the opposite of what you should be doing. Instead, the second and third order consequence of certain actions is the one you should be basing your decisions on.
More often than not, this is true.
You go eat fast food. First order consequence, it was quick and it’s delicious.
Second order consequence. You don’t feel good.
Third order consequence. You’re gaining weight.
You go to the gym and work out hard. First order consequence, that took time and was exhausting.
Second order consequence. You feel great for having worked out.
Third order consequence. Your body looks healthier.
You’re not happy in your career, so you decide to do something about it. Unfortunately, you’re kind of scared to feel denied in any way or shape, so you just randomly submit your resume on open jobs posted on some behemoth job search site.
First order consequence, you feel good – like you’re doing something about your career.
Second order consequence, nothing happens.
Third order consequence, (maybe) you get a callback and proceed to interview for a gig you don’t want.
The last one.
You’re not happy in your career, so you decide to do something about it. You research the kind of organizations that you’d actually love to work for and then reach out to employees of theirs who you find on Linkedin to ask them for an informal informational interview over coffee.
First order consequence, you’re scared shitless because the chance of someone “saying no” is pretty high.
Second order consequence, out of the ten people you emailed, three agree to meet with you. One of those conversations is super promising. At the very least, you built your network by adding a person who matters.
Third order consequence, whether it’s this batch of outreach or the next, you’re very likely to find the kind of job that’s worth making a change for.
Moral of the story.
Too often in life, we make decisions because of immediate consequences.
If you can force yourself to try and consider second- and third order consequences, not only will it be easier to do the right thing but you’ll also gain a massive competitive advantage over the millions of humans out there who’re just doing what seems easy right now.