Why You Should Do the Right Thing, and How to Do It

One of the hardest things to do in life is to do the right thing. What you think is the right thing. Not what you friends, family, teachers, boss and society thinks is the right thing.

What is the right thing? That’s up to you to decide. Often you have a little voice in your head that tells what the right thing is. Or a gut feeling.

It might tell you to get up from the couch, stop eating those snacks and go to the gym instead. Sometimes you will put on your exercise clothes and go. Sometimes you will not.

It might tell you to stop sulking and feeling like a victim with everything against you and instead look at the opportunities and take action. Sometimes you will. Sometimes you will not.

Now, why should you do the right thing? Here are three excellent reasons:

1. You tend to get what you give.

By doing the right thing you tend to get the same things back. Give value to people, help them and they will often want to help you and give you value in some form. Not everyone will do it but many will. Not always right away but somewhere down the line. Things tend to even out. Do the right thing, put in the extra effort and you tend to get good stuff back. Don’t do it and you tend to get less good stuff back from the world.

2. To raise your self-esteem.

This is a really important point. When you don’t do the right thing you are not only sending out signals out into your world. You are also sending signals to yourself. When you don’t do the right thing you don’t feel good about yourself. You may experience emptiness or get stuck in negative thought loops. Its like you are letting yourself down. You are telling yourself that you cant handle doing the right thing. To not do the right thing is a bit like punching yourself in the stomach.

3. To avoid self-sabotage.

A powerful side effect of not doing the right thing is that you give yourself a lack of deservedness. This can really screw up you and your success. If you don’t do the right thing in your life then you won’t feel like you deserve the success that you may be on your way towards or experiencing right now. So you start to self-sabotage, perhaps deliberately or through unconscious thoughts.

If you on some level don’t think that you are a person who deserves the success you want then you will probably find a way to sabotage that success. You may rationalize it as being about something else or what someone else did. But oftentimes it’s just you standing in your own way. By doing the right thing your can raise your self-esteem and feel like a person who deserves his/her success.

How to do it

Here are a few suggestions that can hopefully help you to do the right thing more often.

Review the reasons why you are doing it.

Whenever you feel unsure about doing the right thing remind yourself of the powerful reasons above (or any other that you can come up with). They might give you that extra push of motivation you need to spring into action.

Go for improvement. Not perfection.

I’m not saying you will do the right thing all the time. I certainly don’t. But I’m saying that we can strive for gradual improvement. If you for instance do the right thing 10 percent of the time right now then try to doing it 20 percent of the time. And then 30 percent. Or you can try to do the right thing at as many opportunities as you find this week. Try some stuff and see works best for you.

My point is just to not get stuck in thinking about perfection or being some kind of saint. This can paralyse you from taking any action at all. Or leave you with negative feelings despite doing the right thing many, many times (since you are still not feeling like you are not quite perfect).

If you seldom do what you feel/think is the right thing now then you will probably not be able to change this completely over the weekend. It might take some time.

Just do it.

The more you think about these things, the more often you tend to come up with reasons to not do it. You need to think but not over think since that often traps you in analysis paralysis. To raise your self-esteem and get a spiral of positive action spinning in your world and with the people around you need to start moving and take action.

Taking the route of doing the right thing takes more effort and can be more painful. It’s often seemingly the harder thing to do.

But when you understand how you are hurting yourself it gets a lot harder to just avoid doing the right thing. The perceived advantages of not doing the right thing – such as it being easier — tend to lose their power and are replaced with a more clearer understanding of what you are doing to yourself and others.

Taking this – perhaps a little less travelled – path is a lot more rewarding than taking the easy way out. Both for you and for the world around you.

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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehacker, HuffPost and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Hi Henrik,

    Sometimes people think that if they get the benefit first, then they will do something for others. It doesn’t work that way, only if we give out things to others, then we are in a better position to receive.

    Personal Development Blogger

  • Hi

    Great post (and very relevant for me at the moment).

    One feeling that often comes up in these situations for me is guilt. That is an awful feeling and also rather a waste of time. I think that that is often an indication of society’s ideas being an influence.

    Another thing that I feel is important is to not look back once you have made the decision (you’ve decided but you are still deciding!). I often fall into that trap and that is of no benefit at all.


  • I especially like the improvement not perfection thing – that’s definitely what I practice, and when I worked as a Professional Organizer, the industry’s unofficial motto was “professional, not perfect.”

    We are the sum of our cultural influences but we are also our own people. To me, the only way to know is to try it out. If it fits for you because you want it regardless of the approval or disapproval of anyone else, then that’s your voice. When you stop caring about the judgment of others, then you’ve found your voice. I’m still working on that one, but as I said above, I’m all about improvement, not perfection. ;)

  • Hello,

    Very good post.

    Doing the right thing for yourself and towards others certainly makes us better people. Building up our self-esteem is Awesome but what’s even greater is Self-Acceptance, being TRUE to you. When we’re True to ourselves, we’re True to others, and in turn its not as difficult to do the right things. Even when it comes to listening to the little voice in our heads. If you remain True to yourself, the little voice will only be leading you into the right direction. :-)

    Many Blessings….
    Hugo and Roxanne
    ~ Believe Achieve ~

  • You know what will be the sure fire solution to doing the right thing? Telling yourself the truth. Yes, those ten pounds you have gained make a difference and without going to the gym you will not lose it. And by the way, if you don’t lose that ten pounds now, it will be twenty pounds this time next year.

    If you hate your job, truly hate your job, you are not going to like it any better next week or next year, be honest with yourself and go find something else, you and your coworkers will be really happy about that, don’t think they can’t tell you are miserable.

    I would say your are spot on with the “Just Do It” it is the only way to do the right thing.


  • Doing the right thing definitely raises my self esteem. When I’m not honest or when I don’t act with love and kindness it weighs on my mind. There’s only so much room in the attic, so to speak: the more garbage that’s in my mind the less likely I am to feel good. I’m with Hugo and Roxanne regarding the little voice. The committee in my head needs subject matter, and it will take whatever I give them whether it’s negative or positive.

    Thanks for a good post!

  • Shain

    What a great article! Thank you….we all need a good reminder to try to strive to be the best person we can, remain positive at all times and just do the right thing- be a good friend and that person we want deep down but loose in the chaos of today’s life!

    I was recently given a terrific gift which also speaks to these qualities. It is called The Friendship Stone. I was so touched when someone I met at Starbucks gave me one! It is kind of like the pay-it-forward idea in that this stone helps connect people and say ‘thank you’. I saw this person was having a hard time getting connected with the WI-FI at the table next to me so I offered to help. We struck up a conversation, ‘connected’ and then before he left, he gave me this Friendship Stone. He explained it was about passing it on to others and to remind us that the simple things (like what I did for him he said) and people is what matters in life – cool huh?! He said it is also about staying positive and giving to others. So, there you go….I gave to him and he gave to me and it goes on from there. Now I will always remember this encounter and that it is key to always try to be better, do the right thing and to just give of myself —even to help “strangers” – not to be strangers for long. :) He told me there’s a great website that explains about it: http://www.thefriendshipstone.com

  • dave

    It always sounds so simple.Look through the eyes of the man that scorches in hell for years and tell me if he would have selflessness to do the right thing and override his instinctive need for survival.

    The Truth of the matter is its all a myth,its possible by psychologically reprogramming to destroy guilt and be happy.

    let me ask you if you had a choice either your family dies or 100 innocent people.what would you choose?.Either choice you choose you will walk through life with guilt.What about soldiers who return from the frontline with blood on their hands to protect their nations.

    for the record alot of what this blog says is right but i am coming from a different place here.90% of us have the lovely habit of formulating destructive questions in our minds,heres a tip for the lazy ones just use your negative thinking on your negative thought and doubt them till they put their tails between their legs and skip of like fairies.

  • kay


    been there done that