At times I’ve hated myself for needing to do the right thing. Why put in that effort when others do not? A system only works if everyone buys in to it. So, if some choose to not do the right thing, or to push the boundary a bit to get ahead, why should I keep focusing on doing good work? Doing right is hard. It is a grind. It can become a habit, and when that happens doing right will change your life.
I’m not here to tell you about the moral reasons that doing right makes sense. I’m just here to tell you from experience that doing right until it matters pays off. Doing right consists of knowing right, acting on right no matter what, and doing this so frequently that it becomes a habit.
Doing right means feeling discomfort in your stomach, finding the courage within, and still doing what makes you uncomfortable because you know it is right. Knowing right is not the hard part, acting on the right is. We can rationalize ourselves in to, or out of, any situation. Most of us want to do the right thing, but possessing the courage is another matter all together.
Finding courage is difficult when we listen to narratives. Failing to act at the outset allows a perceived discomfort to grow until, in our minds, not taking action is less painful than taking action. To prevent this, act decisively, before your mind can “convince” you that another path is right. Sometimes the mind is right in convincing your otherwise, but most of the time we already know what is right and just struggle to follow through.
Our instantaneous world of things, and convenient lifestyles means we have been trained to believe discomfort is bad. All discomfort tells us; though, is that we are encountering a situation we are not familiar with. This could be firing someone, disciplining bad behavior, or your product facing ridicule by a customer. At times, these things and many others, are necessary even though they can make you feel inferior. In the business of life you must have thick skin. If you are doing anything worth doing, feedback and failure are natural parts of the process.
The Grind of Doing Right
Grinding out doing right may sound funny, but usually that’s what it is. You act in a manner you are proud of, treading the course between progress and right. If you lean too far in one direction the other aspect begins disappearing. We all want to do good, but sometimes get it wrong. Out of ignorance. Out of a desire to balance.
If you focus too much on progress at all costs you forget to do what is right. You’ll stomp on whoever, do anything, and attempt everything to get to the top. This even means pushing people under the bus. And if you focus too much on doing right you may never see progress at all. Idealism is good at conceptualization, but horrible as an action method.
Finding a course between the two; though, often means doing good things while feeling like the end result is getting kicked in the face. This is where many people give up. You are acting and hoping that your actions will be rewarded some day.
Doing right requires a lot of trust. In yourself. In what you are doing. And in a universe that recognizes and rewards good people. That’s a lot to trust in. As a results driven society, not seeing instant results can discourage us from continuing an action. We think since the results are not there, since not even a minuscule amount of progress is measurable, we must be on the wrong course. But, instant results do not coincide with doing the right thing. What does coincide is A) that feeling of discomfort inside of you that says “this is right, but I do not want to do it” and B) playing a long game.
Doing Right as a Habit
Our lives are built on three types of actions: large, medium, and small. Small actions represent our habits, and while they may seem small and insignificant in steering the overall direction of our ship they are not. Habits help us stay on the right track, as in the case of doing right.
Although you may not always see the result of your actions the important thing is doing right until it matters, because it doesn’t always matter. What I mean by that, is that seeing the results of doing right sometimes requires reaching a point of no return where you build enough momentum for things in life to exponentially change or progress. You could be doing the same thing for ten years, and then all of a sudden all of that work comes to fruition and opportunities of advancement or significant progress appears.
Unfortunately, most of us get discouraged and quit before building enough momentum. We never realize the life changing benefits of doing the right thing. The cream always rises to the top, and while others may make gains now, even though they choose less than savory methods of acting, you will win in the long run because success is about climbing your way slowly up a mountain, not taking a helicopter.
Taking a helicopter takes you to the top of the mountain, but life is not one mountain. Life is many mountains. Those that take shortcuts eventually reach a mountain their helicopter cannot summit. I know this is true because of the peter principle. People rise to the level of their own incompetence, and stay there. Shortcuts help, but they only get you so far if you have not done the right things throughout the whole journey to set yourself up for success.
Doing right is more than about morals. Doing right is about learning how to create innovation and progress, adaption and resilience. These skills require grooming. They require a lot of your time and energy, and on days when you really do not feel like doing the right thing for your career or yourself, they require you continue acting in the right way even when you cannot see the result of your effort. Doing right is boring. It is a grind. When you grind enough for the habit to form, that’s when doing right will begin mattering.