Monday, September 26, 2011

Behavior has Consequences

As I reconsider my main topic, that behavior has consequences, I ask myself how anyone could disagree.  Hasn’t this been the message since our youth from parents and teachers, hard work will be rewarded and laxness penalized?  The ancient wisdom of the Yoga Sutra states in part that the consequences of an action will be either painful or beneficial (2.14) and that results of actions will be either immediate or delayed (3.22).

It seems that the opposite viewpoint would be very fatalistic, that no matter what you do, say or decide, your fate is sealed.  You are not rich or famous or popular or successful or happy because you were not destined to be.  It’s not what you do or say that makes a difference, it’s what other people decide.  That is giving up, not taking responsibility.  True, Americans often rely on prayer to assist in their decisions, but they typically pray for help in making a decision or being successful in their actions.  Talking to God helps them sort things out, may help put things into perspective, reminds them of options, or helps them keep the courage to cope when things go wrong.  When something is out of control they put it in the hands of God, but usually only after they have done everything they can think of.  That's not the same as giving up and their action or inaction that comes after praying will also have consequences.

To follow what I am presenting each week requires acceptance of this basic belief that what we do matters.  Bad things do happen to good people and good things to bad people.  This tends to challenge our faith.  On the other hand, good things happen to good people and bad things to bad people, but without the apparent irony this fact gets little attention.  In general, better decisions result in better outcomes.  Luck does enter into it, but there is truth in the saying that you make your own luck.

That’s why I am adamant about the information presented here.  I continue to see examples of opportunities for better decisions, and hence better outcomes, in the key dimensions.  I also see examples of powerful or influential people who really do believe that a sizable proportion of the population is at the mercy of forces beyond their control.  To overcome this is a double challenge:  taking control of our lives away from those (self-righteous) helpers while simultaneously making better decisions in face of the challenges presented by an increasingly technological society.  It’s our only way out.

Whenever people ask the question, “What’s wrong with America today?” my simple answer is this:  Our behavior is not consistently strong enough in the areas of Discipline, Responsibility, Economic Understanding, Critical Thinking and Perspective to deserve better outcomes.  I see evidence everyday and share it with you twice a week with the hope that more and more people will begin to find behavioral solutions to our societal problems instead of relying on the traditional view and trying to fix the problems by working on the symptoms.

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