7 Ways Your Choices Have Consequences

How do bad decisions affect your life? Do you look back to a time before a particular decision and wish you could go back and choose differently?

While not all of your choices have negatively impacted your life, you sometimes wonder why a single ill-advised choice should hold so much power. 

Some choices affect more of your life than others.

But every time you face two very different options, your choice is likely to impact one area of your life more than others. 

How does that work? Read on to find out. 

What Are Choices and Consequences? 

According to Newton’s third law, “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” That doesn’t give you the complete picture, though, because inaction has consequences, too. 

Put simply, the choice is what you decide to do (or not do). The consequence is the result of that choice. Consider the following examples: 

Example #1

  • Choice: You spend the night before a test partying and drinking with friends instead of studying. 
  • Consequence: You wake up feeling like garbage, and you don’t remember the material, so you do poorly on that test. 

Example #2

  • Choice: You say, “Not tonight. I’ve got a test tomorrow,” and spend a few hours studying before going to bed early enough to get a good night’s rest. 
  • Consequence: You wake up refreshed and recall the material you studied. As a result, you do well on the test. 

Some consequences are more direct and more impactful than others. And as you’ll soon see, consequences aren’t always as clear-cut or predictable as the above examples would suggest. 

Do All Choices Have Consequences? 

Some choices have no apparent — or discernible — consequences. They have little, if any, impact on your life. If you notice a consequence, it’s minor and short-lived. Consider the following examples;

  • Choosing almond milk over dairy milk (as long as you’re not allergic to tree nuts)
  • Choosing one silk scarf over another that goes equally well with your outfit
  • Choosing to take a salsa dance class rather than one for hip hop or Zumba. 

When the choices are as similar as these are, the consequences (if you can detect any) will also be similar (unless you meet the love of your life in that salsa class).

The bigger the difference between two choices, the more there is at stake.

When you face two diametrically opposed choices — morally, ethically, or practically —  the choice you make is more likely to have a big impact. 

Make one of these choices without regard for the logical consequences, and you’re likely to regret that choice. Make a choice that’s necessary to gain a specific, desired result, and it’s more likely you won’t. 

woman leaning on white brick wall while thinking choices have consequences

That said, it’s true that consequences don’t always obey logic. 

Sometimes, a timely intervention will change things. Sometimes, other people jump in and help you avoid the worst. But even in those cases, you need to remember two things:

  • You can’t afford to assume that someone will always save you from yourself, and
  • If you don’t pay now, you’ll pay later. Karma can be patient, but she doesn’t forget. 

All choices have consequences, sooner or later. Some you’ll feel more than others. 

In general, though, the more mindful you are of the consequences, the more likely you will make better choices. 

Choices and Consequences: 7 Ways Your Choices Impact Your Life

People of every belief system get to experience the connection between choices and consequences. Look through the following choices and consequences examples for those most relevant to you or someone you care about. 

1. Choices That Impact Your Relationships

Some choices have a strong positive or negative impact on your relationships. In choosing one thing over another, you reveal your priorities, which can either draw you and your loved ones closer together or drive a wedge between you. 

Examples: 

  • Choosing to attend a child’s recital rather than going out for drinks with friends, or
  • Going out with friends (without your spouse) on your wedding anniversary

2. Choices That Impact Your Health and Well-Being

Some choices have a direct impact on your health and overall well-being. Here again, you reveal something about yourself: priorities or habits. 

You make some of these choices without thinking because you’ve gotten used to them. They’ve become part of a comforting routine. Being mindful of the consequences of those choices can help you make better ones. 

Examples: 

  • Choosing to prepare yourself a healthy meal (if you have time) or ordering pizza, or
  • Choosing to snack on a bowl of kettle chips while watching a scary movie

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3. Choices That Impact Your Productivity

Some choices either boost or drastically reduce your productivity, which can, by extension, affect your academic or job performance and, ultimately, your chosen career. 

When you’re mindful of the consequences of those actions (many of which are likely to be habitual), you can choose a different consequence on purpose and create habits that get you the results you want.   

Examples: 

  • Choosing to focus on completing a task vs. choosing to scroll through Twitter
  • Waking up earlier to start a new, productive morning routine vs. sleeping in. 

4. Choices That Impact Your Self-Esteem

Many choices have a strong impact on how you see yourself. Even choosing to dwell on negative self-talk is a choice, and the consequence of that choice is lower self-esteem, which makes it easier to make the same choice repeatedly. 

woman walking with a crossroad in front of her choices have consequences

Once you’re aware of your thoughts, you can choose better ones. Think about the consequences of wallowing in negative thoughts vs. turning your focus to what’s true. 

Example: 

  • Mentally punishing yourself for eating that cookie vs. mindfully reading affirmations and recognizing that it’s okay to have treats in moderation. 

5. Choices That Impact Your Confidence

Many of the choices you make every day impact your self-confidence. And that, in turn, affects confidence-related choices you’ll make on more momentous occasions — first dates, job interviews, public speaking engagements, etc.

When you recognize this, you can consciously meditate on the results you want and choose actions that will lead to those results. The more you make those choices, the more your self-confidence will grow.

Example: 

  • Dressing like the person you want to be for a job interview vs. dressing like someone who just knows they won’t get the job.

Some choices you make can impact your legal status or even your permanent record. Even a petty crime can have long-term consequences for you and others connected with the incident. 

If you don’t get caught, you can feel emboldened to repeat the crime until it catches up.

More serious crimes can lead to imprisonment and the loss of your voting rights, as well as tremendous financial hardship for you and your loved ones. 

Example: 

  • Choosing to shoplift a candy bar vs. paying for it or going without
  • Choosing to sneak into a movie theater instead of paying for tickets

7. Choices That Impact Your Community

Some choices have a significant impact on your community and the people living in it. For example, you might choose to volunteer at a local food shelf or visit residents of a local nursing care center. 

man sitting on rock while thinking choices have consequences

Or you could adversely affect the community by littering or refusing to wear a face mask in a public place in the middle of a deadly pandemic. 

You’re not the only one who can suffer as a result of your choices. 

Example: 

  • Choosing to wear a face covering and to practice social distancing when out in public to protect others vs. refusing to do either and ridiculing those who do

What consequences will your choices have?

Now that you know how your choices can affect your life, consider how some consequences can affect your future more than others: 

  • Consequences of dropping out of high school 
  • Consequences of keeping an item you forgot to pay for 
  • Consequences of having a few drinks before driving yourself home

Even if you experience short-term consequences soon after, the long-term consequences can stay with you for years, affecting your self-confidence, your job prospects, and your relationships. 

The sooner you learn how to consider both the choices before you mindfully and their likely consequences, the sooner you can shape a future consistent with the life you want.

Some choices affect more of your life than others. But every time you face two very different options, your choice is likely to impact one area of your life more than others.

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