Most of us know what the right thing to do in a given moment is. I’m not talking about grand decisions where good and evil are strong opposing forces, but daily decisions, the seemingly insignificant ones that, over the course of a lifetime, show themselves to have a profound impact.
We know that opening a book is better than turning on the TV, that working out is better than sleeping in or that the work we think we should do, we ought to do rather than pushing it off to a tomorrow that never comes.
We understand that doing work now brings our goals closer faster than pushing it to another day would.
What ought to be done is known, by all of us. In every moment we have an inkling as to what the best thing we could do is, but why do it?
Why not push it to tomorrow?
What are the actual effects on both sides – the upside of doing the right thing, and the downside of not doing the right thing?
They’re not immediate. Time and compounding makes their effects grow on either side of the spectrum the longer we live.
Starting to invest in your 20’s is far better than starting to invest in your 40’s, but investing in your 40’s is also far better than investing in your 60’s.
The longer you do the wrong thing (sleep in, eat crap foods, drink too much, spend too much, avoid work, avoid reading, learning, and studying), the greater the negative effects are in the long term.
You’ll be fatter, more broke, more depressed, more lost, and more of a loser in the literal sense the longer you continue making the wrong decision.
The opposite is also true.
The longer you eat right and workout consistently, the better shape you’ll be in and the better you’ll look.
Any outcome you want is propelled forward by consistency of action, and the more consistent you are over a long period of time, the more success you’ll have in a given area.
It’s a Battle Between The Short Term vs Long Term
If you’re wondering what the right thing to do is, it’s most often a decision between short term pleasure or a desire that’s filled immediately and a long term desire.
The short term desire is typically tied to pleasure, it’s tasty food, sex, ease.
The long term desire has to do with what you want for your overall life or who you want to be overall in life.
It’s a choice between what you want now and what you want most.
Of course, we all say we have big goals for our lives, but we show that we want pleasure more by the actions we take.
You Can Be Wrong and Still Be Right
What about those times when we aren’t certain as to whether what we’re doing is what we should be doing?
This happens more on a macro level than a micro level. We choose a course of action, like starting a business or creating a product or product line, and we’re uncertain as to whether it’s the best use of our time, energy, or capital.
In these cases where the uncertainty is real and warranted (you won’t figure out if it is the right course of action until you’ve finished), the act, the work, is still the correct course of action.
I heard or read Elon Musks response to Charlie Munger listing out a bunch of reasons as to why Tesla would fail.
Musk essentially said he agreed with these reasons and that it likely would fail, but that it was worth trying anyway.
Even if the macro is uncertain, the micro is. It’s always the right decision to do what you said you would do, what you set out to do.
Even if, in the end you’re wrong and the launch fails, the time and effort still results in valuable lessons that will make success more likely in future attempts.
So, even though you may be wrong, in the moment, when you choose to do the work, you are right.
It’s Never Too Late Until It’s Too Late
As I said earlier, it’s better to start investing in your 20’s vs your 40’s, but it’s also better to start investing in your 40’s than in your 60’s.
It’s never too late to start making the right decisions, start eating right, lifting, running, investing in yourself, reading, and evolving…
…Until, one day, it is.
So, start. Start now.
It’s impossible to comprehend who or what you can become if you did what you knew was to be right and true.
Over a lifetime those compounding good decisions would create something so great it’s hard to imagine. So get started.
We’re Here to Be At Our Best
In the end actually doing the right thing depends on your view of the meaning of life, of YOUR meaning, which is something completely personal.
The more I live the more I align with the idea that we’re here to see just how good we can be.
We’re here, in part, to get as close to our potential as possible.
Potential has a personal aspect as well. We have our own interests and talents and we have to reconcile that we’re not alone here, and that helping others and benefiting others has to fit into our purpose at some point in our lives.
Taking that into consideration, you’re here to be at your very best.
That can’t be confined to one area of life, either, but it must include wisdom, because the acquiring of wisdom helps you make better decisions, so the actions you take are more likely to be right.
It has to include health and performance, because you’re given a body, and the better your body performs the better you’re able to use it to live a great life – ‘great’ in your own eyes.
It should include work. Humans need to produce things, to bring our imagination into reality, to make our lives better with our hands and mind, and the lives of those around us as well.
And every other area of life, family, friends, relationships, humor, happiness, charity, and so on.
What you do now ripples into the future and impacts who you will be, what you will have, who you will have in your life, and how happy and satisfied you will be.
If we’re here to be our best, to reach our potential, the ‘right thing’ in a given moment is the truest expression of our existence, it’s what we’re here to do.
Being lazy, weak, quitting, being devious and lacking discipline, these are not our true nature. Sure, they’re easier, they’re ‘fall back settings’, but they’re not true.
Sometimes other things prevent us from not doing the right thing, like a lack of confidence, but confidence shouldn’t determine your actions.
It does, but it shouldn’t.
The right thing should be done whether you feel up to it or not. It’s in doing the right thing that you create confidence.
Confidence is the reputation you have with yourself.
If you’re constantly proving yourself right – in a bad or good way – you’re showing yourself who you are.
If you consistently don’t follow through on what you say you’ll do, over time you won’t believe that you’ll follow through on anything. You’ll have no confidence that you’ll actually carry things out.
If, however, you always follow through on what you tell yourself you ought to do, there will be no doubt in your ability to carry out what you’re attempting.
Either way, you create confidence or you destroy it based on whether or not you do the right thing or not.
Kill the Past
Finally, for you to be able to do the right thing in a given moment, and then for the moments thereafter, you have to kill the past.
You have to leave who you were behind. The past is a story you tell yourself that you quite often get wrong. Leave the regret be, dead in a grave so you can be free to be who you want to be. Leave the success be, dead in a grave, so you don’t rest on who you’ve been and become someone who you don’t want to be in the process.
The past doesn’t exist, it’s subjective. Right now is all there is, and you have an opportunity to choose the action that will help you live a truly wonderful life from now on. So get after it.