Do the Right Thing (Even When No One’s Watching)

 In Values, Values - Top 10, Your Best Self

Each month, I feature one of my top-ten core values. This is my seventh: Do the right thing.

What do you do about small dilemmas? Those everyday situations where you have to decide between what’s right and wrong? I’ve been curious about what we do when no one’s watching. Do we follow our core values? Do we choose convenience? The path of least resistance?

Power Tip:

Get your copy of my free worksheet. It features this month’s core value, Do the Right Thing. Expect a new worksheet every month.

Let’s explore a few scenarios to get the juices flowing!

And don’t worry — this isn’t a graded quiz. But please, do be honest with yourself.

Ready? Let’s go!

Scenario 1: The Wallet

As you get into the back seat of a rideshare, you notice a $20 bill on the floor behind the driver’s seat. You wonder if it fell out of a prior rider’s bag.

Do you pocket the cash, deciding it probably doesn’t belong to the driver … so who’s going to know? Or do you mention it to driver and let her decide what to do with it? What do you do?

Scenario 2: Sworn to Secrecy

Your co-worker swears you to secrecy as she tells you she’s accepted a job with a competitor. She plans to resign in a month. Now, your boss has assigned both of you to a special project. You realize your co-worker will have access to confidential information she could take to the competitor.

Do you breach her confidence and talk to your boss about the conflict of interest? Or do you keep her secret and hope she won’t share the confidential information after she leaves? What do you do?

Scenario 3: The Big Bonus

You just received a sales bonus from your employer. You knew you’d had a good year, but the bonus is much larger than expected. You review your employment contract and discover the contract’s language is correct. However, the calculation example is wrong. Someone processed your bonus using the incorrect calculation example.

You know it’s just a matter of time before the accounting team discovers the error — and takes the extra money back. But recently several large medical expenses hit your family budget. You sure could use that extra money as a short-term solution right now!

So, do you raise the issue to your manager or the payroll group right away? Or do you keep the extra money for now, and stay quiet until they figure it out themselves? (After all, it’s not your fault the legal department didn’t catch the error when they reviewed the contract…) What do you do?

Power Quote:

“The time is always right to do what’s right.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Right or Wrong?

When it comes to big things — like robbing a bank or lying under oath  — it’s easy to distinguish right from wrong. But in everyday life, the “right” thing isn’t always spelled out — legally or morally.

That leaves situations open to a lot of interpretation.

The lines between right and wrong can get blurred unless we have our core values intact.

Power Tip:

You might remember a prior post about putting on our big-kid underpants.  You, and only you, can choose to stay true to your values and have the courage to act!


But what about those times when you can rationalize doing the “wrong” thing as easily as the “right” thing? You’re always going to encounter gray areas, so read on for ideas on how to handle them!

Power Challenge #1: Get clues from your body.

Did you know your body can give helpful clues about the right thing to do? Many personal growth teachers believe everyone has three centers of intelligence — the mind, the heart and the gut. Each center “speaks” in its own way. We just need to learn to listen.

The exercise below is one way to check in with all three centers about a decision. Keep an open mind — and give it a try!

First, put your situation into the form of a question. For example: Should I tell my manager about my co-worker leaving next month to work for a competitor?

Come up with a few answer options and write them down. For instance, options might include:

  1. Yes, I should tell my manager. But I should first tell my co-worker I’m going to do this, so she has a heads-up.
  2. Yes, I should tell my manager. But I shouldn’t let my co-worker know. She’ll only try to discourage me and/or get mad at me.
  3. No, I shouldn’t tell my manager. I should encourage my co-worker to disclose her own conflict of interest.
  4. I shouldn’t do anything — just mind my own business.

Next, you’re going to check in with your mind, your heart and your gut — one by one. Here’s how:

  1. Close your eyes. Sit quietly for a moment. Bring your question to mind.
  2. Touch the middle of your forehead with one hand. State each option slowly, one at a time. “Listen” or “sense” your mind’s answer to each.
  3. Next, move your hand to your heart. State each option again, sensing your heart’s answers.
  4. Finally, put your hand on your lower abdomen — your gut. Once again, state your options, and notice any answers.

You may find some differences between mind, heart and gut. Your mind might give you a very “wordy” answer. Your heart may offer few words but give more of a “feeling” about the right course of action. Your final gut check may give no words at all — maybe just a nonverbal grunt. Or “YES!” or “NO!”

Your body’s responses give you helpful clues about how aligned you feel with each of your options. You get a better understanding of why you feel an internal conflict about the situation.

If you can’t sense some responses, you might be neutral about that option. Or you may just need practice tuning in. Like every new skill, this will take time and practice to develop.

Power Challenge #2: Align with your values.

Now do a values check. Write your top four to six core values on the same sheet of paper where you wrote your options in Power Challenge #1.  (Stumped? Here’s a refresher on core values.)

Go with the core values that resonate most strongly in this moment. Don’t overthink it!

Related: Do Your Values Align With Your Work?

Look once again at the options you’ve been considering. Work with each option, one at a time, and ask: Which core value (or values) does the option reflect? Would any of the options lead you to act in ways that go against your core values?

For example, let’s say your top four core values are loyalty, honesty, courage, and openness. How do they align to the options in Power Challenge #1?

Option 1 (telling your manager after a heads-up to your co-worker):

    • This reflects loyalty to your employer and the courage to openly and honestly speak up about a possible conflict of interest.
    • It also requires the courage to openly and honestly communicate with your co-worker, even at the risk of upsetting her.
    • Even better, it may encourage your co-worker to speak to honestly to your manager herself!

Option 2 (telling your manager only):

    • This reflects loyalty and open/honest communication with your employer but doesn’t demonstrate loyalty to your co-worker or open and honest communication with her.
    • It also lacks an element of courage, as you would be avoiding a difficult conversation with your co-worker.

Option 3 (encouraging your co-worker to disclose her own conflict of interest):

    • This demonstrates courage to openly and honestly initiate an awkward conversation.
    • You’re showing loyalty to your co-worker and your employer by raising the issue in this respectful way.

Option 4 (doing nothing):

    • This may be the “easiest” choice, but …
    • It does not align with any of your four core values.

Options 1 and 3 reflect all four of your core values — even though these options may feel the most difficult to do!

Power Tip:

What do you do when there’s no good option? Sometimes all options feel difficult or uncomfortable! Choose the option most aligned with your core values (even if it doesn’t align perfectly). Usually this is also one that will feel the most “right” on a gut level.

Power Challenge #3: Talk it out.

If you’re still struggling with your situation, try talking it out. Find a trusted friend to be your sounding board. Or go inward, reflect and “talk it out” with yourself. You may be surprised by the discomfort that bubbles up around one option versus another. Suddenly, a situation that was “gray” becomes clearer.

Power Quote:

“You can’t make someone else’s choices. You shouldn’t let someone else make yours.” — Colin Powell

If you do ask someone for help, make sure they avoid telling you what to do. Ask them to  listen and reflect back to you what they hear and notice.  They can play “devil’s advocate” and help you talk though the consequences of the options you’re considering. And they can suggest new options — but you make the final call.

The Small Stuff Counts

The more we practice doing the right thing when it comes to the small stuff, as well as the big stuff, the more it becomes our everyday way of operating.

Power Quote:

“You build your ‘courage muscle’ daily, by being courageous in little things. Just do right.” – Maya Angelou

It doesn’t matter where you start or how small your action. It could be something simple — such as putting a grocery item back in its original spot, instead of leaving it near the checkout because you don’t want it after all. Just like building any healthy habits, we start with baby steps and grow from there! Be your “best you” — even when no one is watching!

Looking for a motivational speaker for your next event? Carla energizes and inspires attendees to be the best version of themselves that they can be. Contact her today.

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