What is right? We face repeated opportunities (and sometimes requirements) during the course of each day to choose among multiple courses of action (including doing nothing). How do we decide? Absent compelling (internal) or constraining (external) forces human beings will default to choices that serve our own needs and desires. We will default to what is easiest or makes us comfortable. We will naturally decide and act to achieve our own goals or make ourselves look good. How do we overcome those inherent tendencies? What mental filters should guide our choices?
Here are seven factors which can help us decide and act more rightly more often:
Authoritative. In some situations there is a right and a wrong. Our society’s increasing focus on individual rights casts a relativistic pall, which marginalizes or even mocks this notion. Nonetheless, I contend that there are certain universal truths that apply regardless of time, place or circumstances. For example, abusing a less powerful person is never right.
Attentive (to the needs of others). Our judgment on what is right may change when we consider the needs of others involved. Right choices for a couple’s weekend activities change when they add a baby to their family.
Acceptable (to the sensibilities of others). Sometimes we choose to act in a certain ways purely out of respect for others. We may adapt our dress, actions or speech to comport with the acceptable social norms of certain situations or of other cultures.
Appropriate (for the situation). Circumstances often influence the right course of action. Certain behaviors suitable at a football game are improper during a church service. Similarly, decision-making methods appropriate in a stable business environment may not work right for a business in crisis.
Aligned (with core principles or natural laws). The right position or posture often requires that we balance competing forces at play. When we fall down physically, a relationship or business fails, or we struggle emotionally, we are most often out of alignment with certain core principles or natural laws. This principle led to the phrase, “right the ship.”
Available. At times rightness is a merely a matter of availability. If we cram events one after another into our daily lives, we have no margin of availability to respond to the inevitable opportunities or crises which intersect our lives unplanned. Creating such margin involves purposeful choices. In support of this principle we also make ourselves available without reservation or restraint to those closest to us. We will cancel other plans politely and firmly yet without hesitation or regret when those people need us.
Aimed. Pursuing the right course requires that we determine first the proper destination or focus of our attention and energy and, secondly, the most effective and efficient path or process to reach that goal. Stephen Covey called this “Beginning with the End in Mind.” Absent an aim our choices can lead to wasteful wandering.
Interestingly, two themes undergird this entire list of factors which influence what is right — Respect for Truth and Respect for Others. Said another way, identifying what is right rarely starts with us. A purposeful pursuit of right behavior involves looking outside of ourselves; not focusing on what makes us most comfortable, satisfied or happy. That’s not to imply that our ease, satisfaction or happiness is of no import. Rather, I believe it means that we find these elements of personal fulfillment through exercising a servant’s heart.
The next time you face a decision and want to choose rightly, consider applying the filter of these seven elements.
PROPS…The speaker at a recent Kettering Executive Network event, Andrew Dietz, discussed the importance of relationships in growing revenue and applied the principles from his book “The Opening Playbook: A Professional’s Guide to Building Relationships that Grow Revenue” to people in professional transition. When we’re selling a product/service or even ourselves, Dietz urged concentrating more on opening than closing. An effective opener, Dietz argued creates more opportunities to win. The keys to great opening involve the right connections, conversations and context. Dietz discussed each of those three keys, but that little question, “What is Right?” got me thinking and led to this post.