Think of the toughest decision you ever made. It was probably highly visible, of critical importance, and of course, the result wasn’t going to be popular. To make matters worse, you probably felt as though your neck was on the line. It’s also tough when you’re forced to make a decision that could cause people pain –– even if the outcome would be in everyone’s best interest. In each of these circumstances, those with strong moral character took a deep breath, bit the bullet, and pulled the trigger. When it came to tough decisions, they chose to do the right thing.
But other people don’t see it that way. Their primary focus is how their decision will impact them personally. What’s more, they formulate a plan to CYA if the result goes south. They’re likely to limit their risk by following majority opinion, opting for joint decisions, or kicking the can down the road. They could care less whether or not it’s the right thing to do –– it’s right for them. Period!
Ask yourself, “Do I care not only about where life has taken me, but also about how I got there?” I’ve learned that you’ll rarely regret a decision if it was rational and fair, and you knew in your heart that it was morally defensible. The truth is, knowing what’s right isn’t as important as doing what’s right.
Do Good People Finish First?
Some people may say, “While all of this sounds great in theory, you’re living in a fantasy world.” They believe you have to be tough and put yourself first. To that I say, “hogwash.” You be the judge:
Relationships. When you’re a person of high moral character, there’s no need for others to second-guess your decisions or question your motives. It’s abundantly clear that your heart is in the right place and that your intent is honorable. This strengthens the bonds of trust and creates healthy and productive relationships.
Leadership. When you base decisions on doing the right thing rather than on what’s politically expedient, you’ll earn the trust, respect, and admiration of your colleagues. People will follow you because you have moral authority rather than because you wield power and position.
Business success. When you strive for win-win decisions rather than winner-take-all, the trust and commitment that you build will translate into significant competitive advantage for business. The truth is, there is a direct correlation between integrity and the bottom line.
Reputation. When you live your life with honor, you’ll secure the trust and respect of others. Your reputation is like a shadow, following you wherever you go. You can’t disguise it, you can’t hide from it, and you certainly can’t run from it. It will follow you for life. And although it’s said that you can’t be in two places at the same time, you actually do it every day — your reputation serves as your stand-in whenever you’re not around. Your reputation can be your best friend or your worst enemy. What does your decision-making process say about you?
Face the facts. When you live by sound principles and choose to do the right thing, you’ll face yourself in the mirror each day and be proud of what you see. You’ll be able to say that no matter the consequences, you did the right thing. “How much is that worth,” you ask? You have to live with yourself for the rest of your life. Follow your conscience. Sleep well.
How Do You Make Tough Decisions?
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Lori Gosselin says
The toughest decision I’ve ever made is still too fresh to talk about but I do relate to everything you wrote in the first paragraph. In the end, though it had been brewing for months, I made the decision because my mind, heart and body were in accord with it. It nearly wasn’t a choice at all, though that didn’t make it any easier.
Frank Sonnenberg says
These decisions are never easy. The key is that you’ll look back one day and know that you did the right thing. People will respect you for it, but more importantly, you’ll respect yourself for making it. I wish you and your family the very best of health and happiness in the coming year.
Bob Vanourek says
Another great post, Frank. I wish our leaders in Washington in both parties would read and understand this. Keep up the great work.
Frank Sonnenberg says
Thanks Bob. It drives me crazy that some folks believe that honorable people don’t win. I’ve found that when people do what’s right –– simply because it’s the right thing to do –– rewards follow. This is true in politics, business and in all walks of life.
Edie Patterson says
Hi Frank-another great post, and thank you.
I realized while reading it that it is essentially a given for me to try to do the right thing, and aim for the right decision. I don’t say that with anything other than gratefulness, as it is rarely easy and sometimes I have to pause to get to the right place. But I think about why that is, and I can only say that my childhood milieu- parents, teachers, adult friends, and schools-all had the same values. Perhaps they were stated differently, but in the end the actions taken by all of my role models were built on thinking of others, not themselves. The golden rule-it’s golden for a reason.
I know there are many who do the right thing-and we do have their stories wafted in front of us on a fairly regular basis. But-perhaps it’s time for all of us who see those right things being done to stop long enough to give our appreciation, and, if possible, publicly acknowledge what doing the right thing looks like. I don’t believe we can afford to be silently applauding, when there are probably too many younger people who might not recognize the right thing when it is in front of them. Seeing people live into right actions is what enables and strengthens others to do the right thing. But they have to see it to believe in it for themselves. We all seek those honest men and women to light our way.
Frank Sonnenberg says
Your point is right on the mark. As you say, “I don’t believe we can afford to be silently applauding, when there are probably too many younger people who might not recognize the right thing when it is in front of them. Seeing people live into right actions is what enables and strengthens others to do the right thing. But they have to see it to believe in it for themselves.”
For some crazy reason we publicize poor behavior, and quietly nod when people do the right thing. I hope everyone follows your advice and shines a spotlight on the good deeds that are performed every day.
Thanks for taking the time to write.