My parents lived by three rules:
- Treat everyone with respect.
- Do your best.
- Do the right thing, just because it’s the right thing to do.
And, they rarely missed an opportunity to instill these ideas into our brains. The first two were easy for a kid to understand but the third rule was more complicated. They wanted us to keep our rooms clean, not because we wanted our allowance, but because it was the right thing to do. However, if we kept our rooms clean, we earned an allowance. They expected us to be home on time, not to avoid being grounded, but because it was the right thing to do. However, if we were late, we got grounded.
We live in a culture built on consequences. Drive too fast and you might get a speeding ticket. Show up late to work and you might get fired. But, from my parents perspective, your motivation shouldn’t be the consequence. Your motivation should be simply a desire to do the right thing because you know it’s the right thing to do. They believed that living with a “do the right thing” mindset had important benefits and eventually we realized they were right.
You see, the big reward is internal. Making right choices builds self-worth and confidence. It makes you strong on the inside. It sets you up to become an honest, trustworthy, successful adult. And, it feels good. In the long run, it makes you happy.
Do the right thing, just because it’s the right thing to do and you’ll find your “happily ever after.”