One of my favourite movies is Groundhog Day with Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. If you’ve seen it you’ll remember that it’s about a cynical tv reporter who is sent to cover an annual small-town Groundhog Day ceremony and finds himself reliving his day over and over again. After hundreds of different variations on how his day turns out, Bill Murray’s character becomes a better person, wins Andie MacDowell’s heart and is released from the cycle.
The great message I got from the movie was the difference even our smallest actions make. It’s rather unfashionable these days to think that our actions have consequences. But the truth is that there is no such thing as an action without consequences. Even doing nothing has consequences, often quite dire ones!
It is an excellent idea to get into the habit of thinking about the consequences of our actions. And to realise that most of the things that we like and dislike in our lives are the consequences of our previous actions… or lack of them. Of course there are vast numbers of things that happen to us every day that are out of our control, but it’s our reaction to them that makes all the difference.
So let’s take a few examples. If you are in debt and have money troubles, it’s the consequence of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of little actions in which you have spent more than you had available. If you are overweight and unfit, again it is the consequence of a long series of decisions to eat too much and to take too little exercise. And eventually this chain may lead to a complete breakdown of your health.
So you might like to try this exercise. Tomorrow spend some time consciously looking at your actions and asking yourself: “What would be the long-term consequences of doing this?”. So for instance if you are tempted to skip your daily exercise session, ask yourself what the consequence of taking your exercise would be: feeling more alive during the day, a sense of achievement, establishing a good habit, making yourself healthier, stronger and more resilient.
What on the other hand would be the consequences of not taking your exercise? Feeling guilty and lethargic, a sense of failure, getting fatter, weaker and more pathetic in every way!
Faced with those two visions, which are you going to go for?