“On matters of style, swim with the current, on matters of principle, stand like a rock.” – Thomas Jefferson
Everyone lives by certain rules of conduct or moral code. The narcissist lives by, “I’m the only one that matters”. The cynic lives by, “Do unto others before they do unto me”. What about you? What is your personal code of ethics? What is your character based on? What do you stand for? These are heavy questions that take honest, deep introspection and time to answer. Yet, to live fully, only you can find your own answers. No one can give them to you.
If you don’t have a strong personal code of ethics, you’ll have difficulty standing up for yourself when you’re challenged. Peer pressure will get you every time. Times of intense stress will make you feel as if you’ve lost your way. You may often feel the need to find yourself, because people have been telling you what to do and what to think your whole life. If you detect any of these issues in your life, now might be a good time to strengthen your resolve by reassessing your personal code of ethics.
Ethics are moral principles that govern your behavior; a set of values that day in and day out dictate what we do. Your personal code of ethics is the unwritten rules you live by. Sometimes these can be a bit vague because they are unwritten and change according to circumstances. For example, you may value honesty, until honesty causes you to lose something you value more.
Many of us adopt our ethics from family, without realizing it. Why not take some time to review your personal code of ethics by writing them down? This will allow you to fully commit to these principles of life. And, in turn, you’ll gain an unshakable inner strength and confidence. Knowing your personal code of ethics consciously will help you make important decisions more easily.
Here are three steps for creating your written personal code of ethics…
1. Ask family and friends to describe you. This is a good place to begin collecting the qualities that are intrinsically you. Write down everything they say.
2. Identify beliefs that influence your decision making process. This will take time. Reflect on everything you’ve done in your life and identify the ethics that motivated your decisions. For example:
- If you give your word and do everything to keep it…then honesty and reliability are important to you.
- If you’ll fight for what’s important, mental strength and personal integrity are important to you. You aren’t one to take the road of least resistance.
- If appearances matter, then you’re likely swayed by others’ opinions and fitting in is important to you.
- If serving others is your focus, then making money probably isn’t number one on your list.
- If cutting corners to save money is your way, then pride in workmanship may mean little or nothing to you.
Here are some other contrasting ethics to help you think more deeply:
- Tell the truth. Use deception when threatened.
- Keep your promises. Change plans when a better invitation arrives.
- Punctuality. Always late.
- Fit in. Set trends.
- Always kind. Brutally blunt.
- Comfort seeker. Push the envelope.
- Work hard. Do just enough to get by.
- Life is cheap. Life is precious.
- Trust everyone. Trust no one.
- Save for a rainy day. Spend it as soon as you get it.
I appreciate how Ayn Rand gives us some thought-provoking direction:
“There’s nothing of any importance in life — except how well you do your work. Nothing. Only that. Whatever else you are, will come from that. It’s the only measure of human value.”
3. Take it a step further and identify WHY you believe in what you believe. You may find that many of your whys are based on cultural background, family tradition or religious training. If the foundation for a belief is shaky, the belief will be shaky. So be sure to dig deeply to find YOUR firm basis for each belief. Remember to operate out of your code, rather than letting others dictate how you react.
When creating your personal code of ethics include a beginning section that contains these two things:
My purpose: Are you writing this to adjust your behavior; to become sure of yourself so you can be more tolerant of others; or to confirm your beliefs and find inner strength to be true to yourself? Answering this question allows you to develop the philosophy behind your code. Some examples of underlying philosophies are:
- Live and let live
- Make the world a better place
- Exceed expectations
I Aspire to: Write down the best version of yourself and what you can do to reach it.
As you write your personal code of ethics, you may find things you’d like to change about yourself. Maybe you’re more demanding than you’d like to be. Or you play it too safe. If you’d like help with developing your “next step” plan, please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype). I’d love to partner with you on this journey of self-discovery.