How to do the right thing

I have been thinking hard about what’s the most important lesson that a father should teach his children … and the answer that sprung to mind is: Do the right thing.

‘Always do the right thing’ sounds like a pretty good mantra to live with.  It seems rather obvious and straight forward, for after all, if we let our conscience (our innate moral compass) guide our actions, don’t we naturally do what is right?

No, not so easy. The challenge lies in ascertaining what constitutes ‘right.’ Would telling a white lie, punishing a misbehaving child, or putting a sickly animal to sleep (by lethal injection) the right thing to do? What do you think?

Now, I don’t plan to get into a lengthy debate on morality and ethics.  Instead, I want to introduce you to a simple framework that informs my judgment and actions, especially when determining the right actions isn’t that clearcut.

I coined this the I-A-M model.  Essentially, it prompts us to consider 3 distinct yet inter-related elements of action.

  • Intention (I) – WHAT: What do I want to achieve? What outcome do I wish to create? For whose sake am I acting?
  • Motivation (M) – WHY: Why do I want what I want? What would it give me? What’s important about it?
  • Action (A) – HOW: What do I need to do to bring about the intended outcome without causing any undue harm onto myself and others? What can I do? Ultimately, what will I do?

It’s interesting to note that we tend to judge others by their actions and judge ourselves by our intentions. However, just having good intentions isn’t good enough, for it’s often been said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and the road to heaven is paved with good deeds.

In this model, the ‘rightness’ is measured by the degree of alignment between our intentions, motivations and actions.  So long as your intentions are pure and well-meaning, your motivations are healthy (driven by values and not emotions), and your actions are effective and free from harm, rest assured that you are pretty much on the  ‘right’ track. Give it a test run and find out for yourself.


Your Right-minded Dad

What do you want to be remembered for?

I’m in a soul-searching mood today … especially after a lovely retreat hosted by auntie Gennet and Jacq, our new neighbours.  Although the retreat focused more on being grateful for 2011 and clarifying our intentions for 2012,  I can’t help thinking about the ‘big questions’ that I have been ignoring for sometime now …

  1. What do I want to be remembered for when I’m gone?
  2. What legacy would I leave behind?
  3. What would I hope to hear your mother and you say about me?
  4. What would I say to God when asked “What have you done with the gifts I have given you?”
  5. What is the biggest regret in my life if I were to die in the next hour?

For the first question … three words came to mind: Truth, Choice, Action.  Collectively, they underpin my life’s work as a catalyst for the transformation of individuals, organisations, and hopefully, in time to come, societies.

I believe that transformation begins with …

uncovering, confronting, and accepting the truth, followed by making a conscious choice that is aligned with our deepest values and authentic intentions … which leads naturally to new actions that will bring about the desired changes, results, or new realities.

It’s as simple as that, but not always easy. Give it a go. Pick an area of your life that is not working as well as you desire, and test run the Truth>Choice>Action process. May you experience the profound impact it could possibly bring. Meanwhile, let me continue my reflections on the remaining questions.


Your Soul-searching Dad