Consequences are the forces that drive us to make the decisions we make every day. Although we typically categorize consequences as solely negative, consequences are the outcomes of our choices, both positive and negative. I believe that if we boil it down, all intelligent life forms are motivated by consequences. Initially, I would have said all humans are motivated by consequences, but being a pet owner and watching my dog make decisions based upon reward or punishment leads me to the understanding that anything with the ability to reason will use this ability to live according to consequences.
Starting at an early age, we train our children to react to consequences. If a child lashes out against another child, he receives a negative consequence of “time out” or losing a toy or experience. If the child behaves appropriately, he might receive candy or a toy as a reward. By instilling this idea at a young age, we train people to act based upon consequences.
Similarly, we train animals to respond to reward and punishment. Both children and animals can instinctively react to consequences. As the child grows up, this mindset is reinforced. If they do well in high school, they will be accepted into a good college, and if they get into a good college, they will land a great job, right? Right? Wrong, this is not guaranteed, and this is the problem. We raise our children with the idea that if they perform the right steps, they will receive the desired reward. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
It's dangerous to train our children to take steps towards a tangible reward. While obtaining rewards such as employment and success are important, they are not guaranteed results from good actions. So many people get to graduation thinking that if they just do the right steps, everything will work out, because that's what we’ve been told.
Rather than chasing success, we should chase a reward that will come from making the right choices for ourselves. If the consequences of our choices make us sad, we made the wrong choice. If our choices makes us happy, then we know we are doing right by ourselves. While employment and success might make some of us happy, others might find joy from other sources. Instead of waiting for consequences to happen to us, we have the ability to determine consequences that will please us, setting us apart from the way in which animals approach this issue. Being mindful of consequences pushes us to seek what makes us happy. If we live our lives seeking happiness, we will be successful because we will have achieved what is important to us.