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The Gift of Consequences - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

A few days back the host of a support group that I participate in asked if we had a topic we wished to talk about. One of the members suggested exploring the gift of consequences and this got me thinking and realizing that it could mean the good, the bad, and the ugly all in one box!

What are consequences and are they all bad? Not necessarily and even if they’re mean and ugly, the gift lies in learning from the action you took OR didn’t take. That statement alone could have you cringing – after all, your choice, taken or not taken, is your responsibility.

Consequences are mostly seen as negative but it depends on how you choose to see them and either way, you get to learn something from the experience. Therein lies the gift.

What Are Consequences?

Consequences refer to the results or outcome of an action taken. They can be positive or negative but in most cases, consequences are uncomfortable or unpleasant. I love this quote about consequences by Darren Shan who wrote Cirque de Freak: The Living Nightmare:

‘The thing about real life is, when you do something stupid, it normally costs you. In books, the heroes can make as many mistakes as they like. It doesn’t matter what they do, because everything works out in the end. They’ll beat the bad guys and put things right and everything ends up cool. In real life, vacuum cleaners kill spiders. If you cross a busy road without looking, you get whacked by a car. If you fall from a tree you break some bones.”

Pretty hard-hitting and true too! Do something stupid and you’ll pay for it, one way or another. That’s the consequence of bad decisions or not thinking something through properly before making a choice.

But, guess what? There’s always a gift, whether you made the right decision or not.

Consider the Consequences of Your Actions

This reminds me of one of the first exercises my new clients have to do at the beginning of the life coaching program after they’ve come up with a goal. The question they need to answer is, ‘What are the 10 consequences of NOT achieving your goal?”

This often creates a lot of resistance and pain as they identify what would happen if they didn’t follow through with their goal, dream, or vision.

Why? Because the consequences of not reaching their goal meant the bad and even the ugly. It meant they took NO action or made the wrong decision which stopped them from reaching for the stars. But, even so, there is a gift in the consequences as painful as they may be.

I’m reminded of all the goals I never followed through on and the subsequent results – needless to say I was always disappointed and before I knew better, I blamed or justified. The ultimate gift came years later when I discovered two phenomenal words - responsibility and accountability.

I was responsible for the action I took OR didn’t take which meant I was accountable for the outcomes. Painful but true.

Negative Consequences: What Happens?

Negative consequences happen when you take action that doesn’t serve you, others, or the greater good. How do you experience negative outcomes or results? Here are some examples from my life experiences.

Impatience and Loss

Negative consequences come from the mistakes you make and choosing to blame or justify rather than take responsibility for your actions. My impatience has got me into trouble a lot of times – more than I care to remember.

Impatience made me force things to happen when they shouldn’t have and the results have been:

My life experiences and understanding of shamanic and life coaching principles have taught me that patience and perseverance are what get me the best outcome. That realization was the ultimate gift of my impatience and the consequent losses in life.

Jean Jacques Rosseau once said, ‘Patience is bitter but its fruit is sweet.” Patience is now one of my personal core values and I’m learning to respond more than I react.

Negative Action and Poor Self-Esteem

  • Every time you take negative action and refuse to take accountability for the consequences, you knock your self-esteem.

  • Every time you blame someone else, you lie to yourself.

  • Every time you justify a situation, you lie to yourself.

When you lie to yourself, you start to battle psychological issues with your SELF. You begin to lose confidence and faith in your own abilities.

However, the greatest gift here lies in your self-awareness and a willingness to acknowledge what YOU did to cause the less-than-ideal outcome. The next step is a desire to understand your behavior and to do something about it – only then will your self-esteem grow.

Acknowledging that every negative action I took meant I lost the very little confidence I had in the first place. It took a shaman teacher, life experiences, and training to be a life coach to show me what I needed to do to take responsibility for my behavior.

My healthy self-esteem today is the gift of the consequences of my poor choices in life.

Irresponsibility and Unexpected Challenges

Irresponsibility leads to several problems including aggressiveness, lack of motivation, unethical behavior, and unexpected challenges. This could be in the form of:

  • Financial loss

  • Loss of reputation

  • Illnesses

  • Death

Choosing to leave a job without taking into consideration the financial obligations to yourself and your loved ones could be detrimental. Getting into a fit of road rage because you’re impatient could see you spending time in jail. Not taking responsibility for your physical and mental health could result in financial loss, broken relationships, and even suicide.

Irresponsible behavior has bad and ugly consequences and if you’re willing, you’ll learn some very painful lessons. Therein lies the gift of irresponsibility – but you may end up paying a costly price for it so choose wisely if you want to avoid unexpected challenges because of a lack of responsibility.

How to Deal With Negative Consequences (and Reap the Rewards)

Dealing with negative consequences in a responsible manner will bring you many gifts:

  • Take responsibility: By acknowledging you’ve made a mistake, taking the blame, and accepting the consequences of such behavior, you’re giving yourself permission to put things right.

  • Forgive yourself: Everyone makes mistakes and dwelling on your poor choices won’t help you do the right thing by yourself and others. Forgive yourself, learn from your actions, and move on.

  • Ask for help: Speaking to someone you trust and asking for help will help you take responsibility for negative consequences. Another person can view your situation objectively and suggest ways for you to move forward.

  • Make amends: Owning up to your negative behavior and subsequent poor outcomes lets you make amends with those you have harmed.

  • Find ways to fix the mess: Salvaging the situation isn’t always easy but trying to improve it is better than doing nothing. Correcting your wrongs can bring you and those affected some peace and forgiveness.

I highly recommend reading Louise Hay's book, 'You Can Heal Your Life." Too often our negative choices create physical disease and discomfort. The author shows you how the relationship between your mind and your body creates illnesses and pain. The gift of these consequences is physical and emotional well-being (if you do the inner work, that is!)

The Gift of Positive Consequences

Positive action equals good consequences and I’ve seen the proof of that in my life whether it’s my story or someone else’s.

Choosing to Fight

My partner has spent the last two years fighting for his life because of taking the wrong medication to manage his depression and anxiety. While it wasn’t his initial choice to take benzodiazepines for anxiety, it was his decision to come off them when he realized they were causing him more harm than good.

The consequences, before and afterward, have been catastrophic, debilitating, and life-threatening.

Both of us could have chosen to give in to the consequences of coming off the Benzos. Instead, we chose to fight. It meant going deep within and undertaking intense healing journeys in our own ways.

We’re nowhere near the end of this particular journey but the consequences of mental health and medication choices have given us the gift of life, hope, and being TRUE to ourselves.

Agreeing to the White Cane

When I was diagnosed with Ushers’ Syndrome because of deteriorating eyesight, I could have chosen to be a victim (and I was very close to picking that option.) However, I chose to be proactive and find ways to cope with my partial sightedness. The consequence of that choice meant becoming friends with the white cane!

Displaying my disability so publicly was one of the hardest challenges I’ve ever had to deal with and yet, with the support of SA Guide Dogs, I was able to overcome my fears. The white cane gave me back my independence and allows me to “see” where my eyes can’t. That is one of the greatest gifts of taking positive action and the subsequent consequence.

Living in the Moment

Patience has taught me that the best action to take is to live in the moment. One of the shamanic (and life coaching) core principles is, “NOW is the moment of power” and I choose to align my actions as much as possible with that principle. The consequences of taking such a step are positive – every time!

The consequences of living in the moment bring many gifts and they include:

  • A healthier and happier YOU

  • Better mood control

  • More zest for life

  • Less emotional exhaustion and burnout

I use meditation, mindfulness, gratitude, and humility to keep me in the present, all practices that cultivate a calmer and harmonious life.

Questions to Ask for Getting the Consequences YOU Want

Getting the best consequences for yourself and others means being aware of the actions you take. Asking yourself the following questions before taking any action will give you the positive outcome you want:

  • Will my action harm myself, others, or the greater good?

  • Am I taking action only to satisfy my own needs without considering the impact it will have on others?

  • Is this something someone I admire because of their good character would do?

  • Will my action contribute to everyone’s state of happiness and not only mine?

  • How would I feel if someone else took the action I want to take?

Final Thoughts

The gifts of consequences work all ways – in the good, the bad, and the ugly. Some gifts are more painful than others but if taken with gratitude and a willingness to change will result in a personal transformation.

I end with this quote by the author of Memory, Lois McMaster Bujold – “When you choose an action, you choose the consequences of that action. When you desire a consequence you had damn well better take the action that would create it.”

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