As We Move Forward: Unintended Consequences

Vending Machine Photo by Jackson Jost on Unsplash
Jackson Jost

If we put money in a vending machine, and we receive what we anticipated, that would be a totally anticipated consequence. Receiving something different—an item we did not select, would be an unanticipated consequence. As in this example, our responses can range from happiness to disappointment, depending on the outcome.

One area where unintended consequences can be huge involve occasional contacts. I will often engage a server in a restaurant in conversation. Depending on how busy they are, these conversations can be very informative. Who knows when one of these conversations might lead someone to consider something in their lives that makes things better.

I have spoken to many people who can point to one event or even one conversation that changed the course of their lives. These unintended consequences happen Every day. Think of the occasions when teaching someone how to jump rope, throw a ball, sing or play an instrument might result in the unintended consequence of a new hobby. Even a career.

Just think how watching a performance, whether athletic, musical or dramatic might influence the direction of someone’s life. In much the same way, giving encouragement and guidance to someone doing something can help affirm a leading to follow that activity even further in life.

Teachers are obvious sources of these unintended consequences, but so might co-workers, supervisors or customers be.The truth is we never know when our words and actions might trigger positive unintended consequences in someone else.


As we move forward, join me in always being on the lookout for doing or saying something to another that might result in a positive unintended consequence in someone’s life. Even though we may seldom if ever know of these consequences, it is exciting to live our lives with the possibility. Just think of the people who have triggered unintended consequences in your life and resolve to follow that pattern.

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