|Photo by ppdigital|
Most of us make fundamental decisions in life based on trying to achieve a single fixed goal, but if you’re prepared to look a little further unexpected benefits can often be found.
Any decision or choice you make in life is likely to have direct and indirect consequences. In making your decision your are going to weigh up the pros and and cons of the obvious and predictable consequences. However, there will always be something you hadn’t thought of, that with a little work or change of attitude, may be turned to your benefit.
These secondary or tangential benefits are not necessarily be monetary and may present themselves in various guises that aren’t immediately obvious. Some you will need to seek out, others are already there, but perhaps you just didn’t see them as such.
Isaac Newton is famously accredited with the saying;
“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
While this was describing physical forces, it has many resonances with our “actions” or decisions in life insomuch as anything we do will precipitate some “reaction”, be it positive or negative, or predicted or unpredicted.
While we hopefully try to predict the reactions to our decisions, unpredictable consequences are inevitable. The mathematical analogy to which might be chaos theory, where one tiny event can result in vastly disproportionate consequences.
So if we accept that anything we do will have unforeseen consequence, potentially opening up new possibilities, the trick then becomes seeking these opportunities out, or learning to recognise them, and then trying to capitalise on them.
While achieving your primary goals should be immediately obvious, recognising secondary benefits in your endeavours may be less so.
By way of example…
A few years ago I was talking to my gardener George about websites. George asked “How do you make money from websites?”, to which I explained “one of two ways, you either sell something directly, like a product or service, or you provide free content and make money from advertising.”
Out of this conversation the Plant Advice website was born. Using my technical skills to develop the website and George’s horticultural knowledge to write the content, our ultimate aim was to generate income from advertising.
We have now achieved that aim, the website is beginning to generate a small income for George, which was the primary goal, and I had fun developing the website, but where were the secondary benefits?
The first benefit came from the content management system (CMS) that I developed for the project, which has now formed the basis of most websites that I develo for friends.
The second, more subtle benefit came from having developed a website that attracts over 10,000 visitors a month, which is a very useful marketing tool to demonstrate my design skills and abilities.
The third benefit was less obvious, but highlights the issue of looking deeper into things to see how you can capitalise on your assets.
Last year I went to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show for the first time, some photos of which I added to the Plant Advice website in a new gallery section. The tickets cost £40 each!
This year I went to the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show. Only I didn’t pay for the tickets this time! No, I didn’t sneak in, but managed to get press passes on the back of the Plant Advice website. Not only did I save £50 in ticket costs, but went on a day that was only open to the press, so didn’t get jostled by the thronging crowds.
Being press I was also able to go into the show gardens to take photographs, and was offered a glass of Pimms in the Homebase garden and a glass of Sherry in the Croft garden by two rather attractive young ladies. Result!
I would never have considered this possibility when I set up the website, so while the website is achieving its primary aim and has a few secondary benefits which have been exploited for a while, the Hampton Court trip was a real tangential benefit. Roll on Chelsea next year…
While you should be looking for secondary benefits in the positive things you do, when things go wrong there can often be tangential benefits that you would never have encountered otherwise, or as the old saying goes:
“Every cloud has a silver lining.”
This is easier said than done, as when things go wrong, it’s often very difficult to see any positives, but if you can try and find the positives in bad situations, then you’ll probably lead a happier and more contented life than your grumpy counterparts.
By way of example…
In July 2000 I dived into my next door neighbour’s swimming pool, breaking my neck and leaving me paralysed from the neck down. As a further consequence of which, my marriage broke down and my wife moved to mid Wales with my young son. Not, generally speaking, a very positive situation.
While I’ve now come to terms with my situation and got on with life, it may still be considered as far from ideal, so where’s the positive in all this, where’s the tangential benefit?
My son! I now get to see my son for a week at a time for school holidays and half term holidays. So how’s that a benefit? Well not much in it’s own right, as I guess many estranged fathers are in similar situations with visitations in this respect. However, because of my circumstances, I no longer work for a living, which means my son has 100% of my time when he’s with me.
That’s a luxury that most fathers who work full-time for a living don’t get, so I consider that a blessing and cherish every moment with my son.
Half Empty or Half Full?
So, are you the sort of person who’s glass is half empty or half full? Are you going to try and find the positives in situations and try and seek out secondary or tangential benefits, or let them pass by and whinge about how everybody else seems to get all the opportunities?
Opportunities are all around you, you just need to open your eyes to the possibilities. Carpe diem!