I’m currently reading Ray Dalio’s Principles in which he outlines his principles to live by in his work and life.
One of his mid-level principles really struck home with me. It applies to the many decisions we all have to make in regard to our desired outcomes whether we’re on the fence about getting to the gym, what we should eat vs. what we want to eat, or being effective with getting our work done.
The principle refers to recognizing the difference between first-order consequences and second and third-order consequences of our decisions.
First-order consequences tend to be the seemingly less desirable outcomes of our decisions.
For instance, there is often perceived discomfort associated with the fatigue and the muscular work associated with exercise. If the decision whether to exercise or not is based on first-order consequences, you’ll most likely not get your workout completed as planned.
Those who are less successful in their endeavors tend to make decisions based on first-order consequences while more successful people are able to see the value of second and even third-order consequences.
If you’re able to see that the second-order consequences of completing your workout will result in improved health, a more fit-looking body, and more comfortable movement, you’ll be more likely to stick to your workout plan.
The same goes for your eating plan.
“Quite often the first-order consequences are the temptations that cost us what we really want, and sometimes they are the barriers that stand in our way. It’s almost as though nature sorts us by throwing us trick choices that have both types of consequences and penalizing those who make decisions on the basis of the first-order consequences alone.
By Contrast, people who choose what they really want, and avoid the temptations and get over the pains that drive them away from what they really want, are much more likely to have successful lives.”
-Ray Dalio, Principles, page 156.
I’m not saying to never indulge in your favorite foods ever again. I’m not saying that some days you just don’t have the energy to put forth the effort in the gym. It happens to everyone. Just see that an unplanned deviation from your plan and goals has consequences.
Is it worth it to indulge? Would sticking to your workout plan get you to your goal faster and make you happier in the long run?
Most likely, yes.
If you’re challenged by the desire to deviate, pause, take a deep breath, and see the second-level consequences that lie beyond the most-likely emotional decision of the first-order consequences.
Your comeback starts today.