Cause and Effect

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I believe that cause and effect is one of the universal laws which govern our world. Whilst I will happily admit that there are many circumstances and situations that are beyond our control, I also firmly believe that most of us have more power over our lives than we ever realise.

Many of us have at some stage come across the following quote:

“Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

This sums up the concept of cause and effect in a nutshell. The implication is that by changing our thoughts we can change our destiny. So far, so philosophical… so how do we make use of the concept?

Let us focus on two areas – health (or more specifically weight) and finance. I’ve selected these for two reasons:

They are very easy to measure

Many of us find at least one of these areas emotionally challenging. It is easy to mis-interpret the “effects” we are experiencing as indicative of some kind of personal flaw.

Most people have experienced less than satisfactory results in one, or both areas at some stage. If you’re anything like me, you have also told yourself a story that somehow links these results to a personal characteristic that is set in stone. Here are some stories I’ve told myself about health/money:

I’m fat

I’m lazy

I’ll never be able to get in shape

I’m hopeless with money

One day I’ll come into some money and everything will be fine

There are a few of problems with this type of thinking. Firstly it is based on the faulty assumption that we are our behaviours. In reality we have the power to make choices and change our behaviours. Secondly, these statements imply that we are passively experiencing life, rather than actively living it.

Though it is easier said than done, an alternative way to interpret our results is to look at them as a scientist might:

This cause produces that effect… interesting! I wonder what happens when I change the cause?”

Rather than taking the “effects” personally, we can learn from them and adjust course. This should inevitably lead to different results. Rather than demoralising ourselves by thinking that our current circumstances are written in stone, we can examine what actions have produced these results and change them.

There was a time (and it lasted about twenty years) that I habitually avoided two things: checking my bank balance and getting on a set of scales. I was in complete denial about the effects I was producing in both areas and was unaware that I had the potential to completely change the results I was getting.

“We go in the direction we face.” ~Jim Rohn

Which direction are you facing? The only way to know for certain is to start tracking your results. I started some years ago with the initially painful habit of noting two things on the first of each month – my weight, and my net worth. For me, calculating my net worth was simple: take my overdraft and subtract from it all the debts I owed. This resulted in a satisfyingly large number… which unfortunately had a minus sign in front of it.

As soon as I had two months worth of results I could see which direction I was heading in… the wrong one! At this stage it was fairly clear to see where this would take me if I kept up my current habits for a year, five years or ten years.

I realised that unless I changed my causes, the effects could be devastating over time.

Changing your habits is a study all of it’s own, but if you’re interested in this I would highly recommend Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit. In my own experience I’ve found it easiest to change one or two small things at a time. I often do this by setting myself 30 day challenges. (More information about this is coming soon.)

Questions for reflection:

Which way are you currently facing? 

What simple daily or weekly steps could you take to adjust your course?Each of these steps seem insignificant on a day-to-day basis but can have a huge impact over time.

There are two very good books on this subject which I benefitted from a great deal:

The Slight Edge by Jeff Olsen

The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy

In closing I’d like to paraphrase the great Jim Rohn and draw your attention to the following:

In ten years, we will surely arrive. The question is: Where?

It is largely up to you – cause and effect.

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