Action Reaction Goals


Isaac Newton postulated the 3 laws of motion. One of them, the second one, introduced the concept of action-reaction. Action equals reaction is what he postulated. But, my thought is that we need to add goals to this to make a meaningful triad to let us live a meaningful life. Here, let me elaborate.

In a recent trip to Madhya Pradesh, a central province in India, we encountered a very bad traffic jam near a holy place called Shirdi. We assumed that this jam was caused because of some mishap and we were hoping that no one was hurt. After 2 grueling hours in the hot sun, occasionally shielded by massive trucks about 10 inches away, we did get past the “troubled” zone.

But, this helped me realize something in life.

Going past the “zone”, we were relieved that no one was hurt. It was just the case of indiscipline of my fellow roadies. The convention in this part of the world is that you drive on a certain side of the road. But for some, those conventions didn’t make any sense. So, they happily drove on the opposite side of the road, thus blocking oncoming vehicles. Duh! What did you expect?

None of the vehicles around me, all the 6 lanes that formed out of the 2 lanes moved. Since I had a lot of time at my disposal and given that my feet were off the pedals, I started to drift in my own thoughts. (When the vehicle doesn’t move, the mind moves :))

What did these people do? They had driven on the wrong side of the road.


What did that result in? This action piled up a long trail of stopped vehicles on either side of the highway.


Now, these drivers intended to reach their destination in one piece.


The triad of action-reaction-goal was broken because the wrong action had been taken.

How does one find out if the wrong action was taken? By examining the effect on these two things - reaction and goal. If the reaction or result was slowing down their progress toward a goal, then they know that their action was not in the right direction.

I infer from the various texts that I have read that one has to love the process and not worry about the result. Focus on action and not the result.

My addendum to this is to look at the immediate result/reaction and examine against the stated goal.

Let’s take an example to explore what I just said.

Let’s say you sign up for working out at the gym. You take the action of going there and exercising. Now, the reaction may be one of the following:

  1. Feeling great (that you went to the gym and actually exercised)

  2. Creaky joints or aching muscles

But, what was your goal to begin with?

Was it to reduce weight? Was it to feel fit?

Whatever be the goal, the important point is to have a goal. Once the goal is in place, you can examine your reaction based on your action.

You are feeling great, but your muscles ache. Examine your reaction against your goal of getting fit. Over time, if you realize that the only thing that is happening is the aching of muscles, then it is time to quit. (Or to go to physio/trainer and find out why).

On the other hand, if you do go to the gym regularly and your muscles are indeed accepting the strain. Give yourself a Me-Five or an I-Five. You did it! The triad’s intact, you rock, buddy!

Now, as Swami Vivekananda put it,

“Stop not till the goal is reached”.

To end my road story, a few good Samaritans got out and stopped people from blocking the roads. Slowly and steadily, the mess got straightened out.

A big lesson for me - Never take that road if your goal is to get back to Pune in time… :)

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