Does an Occasional Inconsistency Really Matter?


We often behave based on incentives and anticipated consequences. If a specific behavior will have a positive effect, we will likely move forward with it. Conversely, if an action is expected to have negative ramifications, we will most likely refrain from it. In my last post, I discussed immediate and delayed consequences, noting that our actions will often be based on immediate rather than delayed consequences. For instance, if a person is presented with the opportunity to experiment with a recreational drug, he may only consider the here-and-now pleasant experience rather than the possibility of lifelong addiction. 

I would like to provide two points of clarification. Within reason, it is what you do most of the time that counts. Doing something once or twice will not have a major impact on your life. I qualified this by stating “within reason” because many times, performing reckless behavior, even once or twice, can create catastrophic, lifelong repercussions. In addition to the recreational substance example, deciding to drive while intoxicated only once can produce irreparable damage for your entire life.

However, aside from careless behaviors, it is what you do most of the time that counts. Just as eating a single cheeseburger is not going to give you a heart attack, eating a single serving of veggies is not going to turn you into the picture of health. Conversely, eat cheeseburgers regularly, and you will likely see your health decline. Eat vegetables consistently, and you will likely enjoy good health. 

The second point of clarification is somewhat in opposition to the first point. Whereas it is true that a single act will not have major consequences on your health, it may have significant effects on your mind. There is a school of thought that believes the occasional indulgence will set you back mentally and emotionally. Suppose you have been eating healthy for a while and decide to reward yourself with that one cheeseburger. This will certainly have no ill effects on your health. However, you may savor its flavors so much that you decide to have another one tomorrow and perhaps again next week. If you have refrained from smoking for many months and then experience a stressful situation and choose to smoke a single cigarette to “help calm down,” this will have no adverse health impacts. However, you might have enjoyed this small indulgence so much that you decide to come back for more.  Again, although no immediate health impacts, there may be instantaneous mental effects, which can result in the restoration of the bad habit that you worked so hard to abolish.

Although consistency matters the most, sometimes, seemingly minor inconsistencies can have significant negative impacts.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I hope you have enjoyed it and found it informative. Please feel free to share it with anyone who may benefit from it.

Leave a Reply