Whenever anything happens in life, we move through a chain of results starting with the event and ending with the ultimate outcome we achieve from the event.
The chain of results operates as follows:
- An event happens: Events themselves are just events with no inherent meaning.
- You place a meaning on the event: “What does this mean?” You are naturally a meaning-making machine and instantly analyse everything that happens to you and ascribe some meaning to it.
- You enter into an emotional state: “How do I feel?” Based upon the meaning you have placed on the event, you enter into an emotional state. If you thought the event was a good thing, you may choose to enter into a positive emotional state, such as happiness. If you thought the event had a negative meaning, you may choose to enter into a negative emotional state, such as despair.
- You take action: “What am I going to do?” The emotional state that you choose to enter into as a result of the meaning you placed upon the event leads you to take a particular course of action. The action you take while in a positive emotional state is different from one you would take while in a negative emotional state.
- You get results: The action you take leads to the results that you obtain.
To change the results you are obtaining in life, it is helpful to start at the top of the chain of results and change the meaning you place upon events. Taking charge of the meaning you place upon an event puts you in charge of the emotion you will feel as a result of the event, the actions you will take and the outcomes you will achieve. Therefore if you choose a different meaning, you will get a different outcome.
For example, assume that your boyfriend of two weeks tells you that he has to fly to another city tonight for work and he will ring you when booked into the hotel. You plan for an 8 pm phone call. 10 pm arrives and he has not rung you. This event is of itself inherently meaningless. It is the nature of humans to ask, however, “What does this mean?” Here is how the scenario could have played out by placing different meanings upon the event.
- Meaning #1 – He must have another girlfriend or even a wife he called instead.
- Emotion #1 – Jealousy.
- Action #1 – Indulge in negative self-talk berating yourself over your gullibility and poor judgment. Drink bottle of wine and eat chocolate.
- Result #1 – Feel rotten physically, mentally and emotionally.
- Meaning #1 – He cannot be relied upon and reliability is important to me in a relationship.
- Emotion #2 – Anger.
- Action #2 – Send a text message to him telling him not to bother calling as the relationship is over.
- Result #2 – No longer in a relationship.
- Meaning #3 – He probably just forgot or is busy.
- Emotion #3 – Content and happy.
- Action #3 – Watch favourite movie on TV and catch up on some overdue relaxation and alone time.
- Result #3 – Improved feeling of well being.
Positive meanings (thoughts) give rise to positive emotions. Negative meanings (thoughts) give rise to negative emotions. Negative meanings and the subsequent negative emotion weaken our bodies and our sense of purpose while positive meanings and positive emotions do not.
Some of you may be thinking, “But some events naturally have either positive or negative meanings.” Really? Every event can be viewed from either a positive or a negative perspective as beautifully illustrated in a thousand year old story from India.
A farmer has only one horse to pull his plough. One day the horse runs away. His neighbours say, “That’s terrible”. The farmer says, “Maybe”.
The next day the farmer finds two wild horses. His neighbours say, ‘That’s wonderful’. The farmer says, ‘Maybe’.
His son tries to break in the horses and ends up breaking his own leg. “Oh, that’s horrible!” the neighbours say. The farmer says, “Maybe”.
The next day the army shows up to take all the men to war, but they can’t take the injured son. Now the neighbours say, “Oh, you’re so lucky”.
What do you think the farmer says? “Maybe”.
Events that seem at first glance to be obviously either positive or negative, may be the opposite in light of subsequent events. When you think you’re in trouble, you may not be. The farmer could have expended emotional energy upon situations only to find that the meaning he placed upon a situation was not correct in the light of subsequent events. The farmer’s story also shows us that there is always some positive outcome from every event.
Understanding how the chain of results works gives you the power to change future outcomes in your life. The key part of the process for you to change is the meaning that you place upon events. Changing your results is as simple as changing the meaning you place upon the things that happen to you.