December 29

The Second Order Effect

General Self-help

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What we do will have an overall effect on us but it will also affect those around us too, you might be willing to do whatever it is you need to do but are you also ready to accept the consequences?

The overall effect your action has on everyone else and also the response you get back is called a second-order effect. Generally in life, if you start down one path you may need to leave another path behind, and you may also need to leave others on that old path behind too.

The second-order effect means you might outgrow your old life, and there will be things and people you will need to leave behind.

We naturally adapt to new surroundings to survive, so the converse is also generally true also if we want new things to surround us in life too we also need to adapt. To thrive you need to change and adapt to any new ecosystem, the second-order effect also dictates that you may no longer fit into your old ecosystem as you do.

Some people are not willing to accept the second-order effect and that’s why they fail to change and drift back into their old life, in NLP coaching we talk about doing an ecology check, as part of helping a person to make a decision we ask them to work out and if they are willing to accept the consequences if the were to change too.

It’s important to figure out if what you really want is acceptable to you, can you live with the consequences of taking action. As a life coach, I’d probably ask you to take yourself into your future self and look around at your new life and tell me who, and what have you left behind, what sacrifices have you made to get there, and can you live that new life. You need to have congruence with the effect your actions will have because the second-order effects are usually something that you may not have bargained for.

I want a better job you might say, but are you willing to get up and go to college every day, are you willing study for hours, are you willing to start from the bottom and work your way up to the top? That great job comes through hard work, and years of grafting hard, personal sacrifice and continued commitment, most people aren’t prepared for the second-order effects, most people generally aren’t prepared to do what it takes.

Running a three-hour marathon or a sub 10 ironman sounds great, but the second-order effect is the training, the hours on a bike and the sacrifice of time away from other things and other people in your life.

Life is complex, sometimes the second-order effect dwarfs the first-order effect, we make decisions we don’t think of the consequences. Every solution to a problem creates new unsolved problems – Karl Popper.

Stand on your tiptoes to get a better view and before you know it everyone in the crowd is doing the same, we can have a huge effect on our environment, and sometimes we can’t do what it takes to live in that new place.

Success, Henry Kissinger said buys an admission ticket to a more difficult problem, this is the second order effect.

About the author

Dr Jeff Stoker 

Clinician, writer, educator, speaker, and problem expert. Helping people to think better, to solve problems, and get their lives unstuck.

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