Consequence is an inescapable part of reality. We make decisions and take actions, and consequences result. Sometimes our decisions and actions are negative, i.e. we choose not to decide or act, but there are consequences nonetheless. I’ve observed three distinct ways in which the people I know deal with consequence. Let’s have a look at them.
1. Fear of Losing Out
This is the fear of negative consequence. It is the source of a need for security. This fear is paralysing, as it prevents the subject from doing anything unfamiliar in case it turns out badly.
Staying in an unsatisfying job can be an example of this. I’ve been there – I stayed in a previous job for too long. There was nothing wrong with the job itself, I just needed to move on for my sake. But I was afraid to push myself out of my comfort zone, afraid to make an incorrect decision.
When I eventually did take the step of leaving my job to pursue a freelance career, it turned out to be a life-changing, universe-expanding decision. I had delayed that decision simply because I was afraid.
This fear also manifests in me as a fear of disappointing other people. I want the people close to me to approve of my choices, to the unhealthy extent that I sometimes act against my wishes or better judgement simply to preserve that approval.
2. Fear of Missing Out
This fear leads to reckless and unmeasured behaviour. It results in the pursuit of any and all opportunities simply because they exist.
The fear of missing out is also the source of herd mentality: “Everyone else is doing it… I don’t want to feel left out, so I’ll join in.”
In me, the fear of missing out manifests in the form of aversion to opportunity risk. I struggle to commit to some things because I fear that if I do, I will miss out on the consequences of committing to some unspecified “other decision or action”.
3. Embracing Consequence
There are a few people I know and admire who seem able to consider the consequences, both positive and negative, of their actions and proceed, accepting the possibility that those consequences could come to pass.
This is the method of dealing with consequence that I desire for myself. In some parts of my life, I believe it exists, and that is certainly to the benefit of myself and the people around me.
I like to use sport in examples, because sport is governed by well-defined rules that lead to one of a limited number of specific outcomes. So I’ll use a racing example here.
Motor racing is one of my hobbies. I like to go racing. The reasons are not particularly important here, but my attitude to the consequences of racing is very important.
Racing can have positive consequences – exhilaration, enjoyment, success, etc. (I’ve experienced each of these to a degree) – and negative consequences – it’s dangerous (there are other possible negative consequences, but this one is sufficient for the example).
Using the above attitudes to dealing with consequence, I could behave in one of three ways:
1. I’m aware that a crash on the race-track could lead to serious injury or death for me, my competitors and/or the spectators and marshalls involved. The Fear of Losing Out dictates that I should therefore not be involved in racing.
2. Racing is enormously enjoyable. I love to win, I enjoy the adulation of other people when I succeed, and I crave the exhilaration of pushing a machine to its limits. The Fear of Missing Out dictates that I should go racing regardless of the risks.
3. Racing has risks, as described above but it also has rewards. I would like to have the rewards, but I would also like to minimise the risks – I’d like to live to hold the trophy at the end of the race. If I embrace the consequences of racing, I must ensure that I do what I can to mitigate the risks (i.e. use appropriate safety equipment, respect accepted track ettiquette, ensure that my kart is well maintained, etc.) while also doing what I can to win (practice, study racing technique, watch and learn from the drivers who are faster than I am, etc.)
Of those three possible behaviours, it’s clear that the third one is ideal. No-one wants to make decisions from a position of fear, and yet we do that so very often. I know I certainly do.
Note that it’s not necessary to agree with my approach to the question of racing – not everyone enjoys it and I know plenty of people who have no interest in it. In my case, the embrace of consequence would lead me to race, but it might well lead someone else to choose not to race.
In all areas of my life I would like to make decisions in the knowledge that I have examined the potential consequences, both positive and negative, as far as is reasonably possible. I wish for my decisions to be made without fear, but instead embracing the potential for positive or negative results.