Before. Hi-tech companies flew recent hires to Silicon Valley, the promised land of in-house gourmet cafeterias, gyms, Zumba classes, hair salons, and on-site laundry.
Now. Employees look for a balance between a cool job with the conveniences of living according to one’s conscience.
Before. People were obsessed with high salaries, big cars, and new houses.
Now. Waning interest in jobs with perks and a growing interest in a company’s moral and ethical qualities.
In times of crisis, it’s natural to question the importance of our work, and how to improve our life. When confronted with a crisis, the ground beneath us shifts. It’s time to think about what’s important. It’s no longer just about what makes us happy, but to go deeper and look for an answer to, “What was I meant to do in life?” We’re forced to stop and think about our lives.
This is also the time when something called integrity sneaks into our subconscious. Once we expect more from both ourselves and our employers, the ground shifts again because we understand that our purpose needs to be marked with a moral code.
Ethics provides us with a moral map, a framework of behavior we can use to navigate our way through tough times. Ethicist Christopher Gilbert uses a ladder metaphor to describe ethics:
- On the lowest rung, you think only of yourself.
- On the middle rung, you think of how a decision can affect others.
- On the highest rung, you wonder how every choice impacts all affected by it.
Ethics offers a way for people with integrity to think about their moral behavior. For those who stay on the lowest rung, they’ve chosen to stay in first grade. We can’t fix stupid, though, and there are lots of folks who still think it’s all about them, even on their deathbed. And then we wonder why so many old people die with a bitter and withered heart?
How to love your life is the most important question you can ask of yourself because it requires you to start with an ethical, moral code that defines everything you value as either right or wrong. A moral code also means you’ve left behind selfish behavior and easy questions. Your existence becomes about something other than yourself. This is when you begin to love your life.
This is how:
1. Self-Improvement Becomes A Duty
You might have the itch to improve the world but the first place to start is with yourself. You can complain, be offended, and foist your lofty opinion onto others—but you’ll never be anything other than a puppet in the hands of louder voices until you define your own moral code.
There’s a fundamental link between respect for ourselves and respect for others. If our culture’s obsession with narcissism was the birth of stupidity, a good old-fashioned crisis may be the slap in the face we need to awaken us from the trance of arrogance and self-absorption.
Self-improvement leads to self-respect, and self-respect isn’t about feeling better about yourself; it’s about knowing your own worth as a human being.
How To Make It Work For You: Ethics is coming to an understanding that everyone has value, dignity, and basic rights. Including yourself. If you tell yourself that you’re a shithead loser, it’s just as wrong as telling others they are shithead losers. Lying to yourself is just as unethical as lying to others. Ethics are cultivated deep within ourselves, even when there is nothing else. They are also something that cannot be taken from us, even in a crisis.
2. Treat People With Respect
Ethics is terribly misunderstood. Many of us look at ethics as a burden designed to make life miserable with its high moral ground and strict parameters. But when understood, ethical living is being kind, compassionate, and truthful—a gift to everyone, including ourselves. Without ethics, you’ll find yourself on a hedonistic roller coaster. The harder you work, the emptier you’ll feel.
It’s the Golden Rule: Do to others as you would have them do to you. There are a couple of key points to remember.
First, at the heart of ethics is a concern about something or someone other than yourself, your desires, and your self-interest. Ethics is concerned with what is good for both individuals and society. It’s not a “me first” way of thinking because ethics are buried in the way we think about what is good and bad, or right and wrong.
Second, it doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice yourself to be ethical. Ethical living focuses on what is beneficial to everyone. It’s important to include yourself; otherwise, you could make the fatal mistake of thinking that treating others well is the same as a sacrifice. Not so. When practiced wisely, ethics serves your well-being and that of others.
How To Make It Work For You: To be a person with ethics does not mean you’re a doormat who caves in to any request that sounds morally sound. Ethics asks you to focus on what is beneficial to everyone, including yourself.
3. Allow Values To Affect Your Behavior
Our values influence the way we choose to behave. It’s easy to pinpoint which values are important to you because they’re the ones you back up with your actions. Talk is cheap. We can march in protests, scream on social media, and boycott certain people and brands, but the rubber meets the road when all the drama has subsided and the crowds have disappeared. Who do you become?
It’s easy to get caught up in the moment with a conviction that seems moral and just; we really do wish we were a person with integrity that follows through with actions that gird values we admire. This is about the time we realize that we’re lying to ourselves—we don’t really have a firm handle on our values, which often leads to a crisis because our values are extensions of who we are at our deepest level. It’s a WTF moment because it hits us with the reality that we’re living someone else’s version of what life should look like.
How To Make It Work For You: Remove yourself from your day-to-day pressures for a period of time to recover a sense of what is important to you. Look at your life from afar and gain a perspective on it. Is this the life you really want? What do you really care about? Do you have the guts to quit your job because the company you work for is unethical? Question your decisions and priorities.
4. Recognize That Ethics Are The Wave Of The Future
In articles about generational differences, Boomers and Millennials get most of the attention, but that may change as Gen Z moves into place. In 2020 the oldest of that group is 23—old enough for experts to see trends in the generation’s buying habits and values.
Each generation brings with it a unique form of consumption. According to research by McKinsey:
- Baby Boomers – materialistic
- Gen Xers – status hungry
- Millennials – experiences, experiences, experiences
- Gen Zers – authentic and ethical
This is a generation not afraid to boycott a brand or movement because they disagree with it. They crave authenticity, values, and ethics. Don’t fake it with this group unless you’re living with the values you claim. It’s not just Gen Z. Millennials also expect more from brands with ethics and morality becoming part of their identity and culture in real life and online.
This has led to a techlash—a backlash against technology—where employees are no longer enamored with the perks of the job. Employees realize that hi-tech companies duck their fair share of taxes, abuse their power in the marketplace, and evade laws required of everyone else. More and more, people demand companies engage in ethical behavior before they support them.
How To Make It Work For You: Studies have found that Gen Z and millennials have a better impression of a brand if they associate it with a social cause. More importantly for you, you need to have a clear handle on your values and follow up with ethics that reflect your authenticity. For Boomers, you could fake it until you made it; not so much with either Millennials or Gen Z.
© 2020 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.
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Great post LaRae! I especially love the idea of ethics and self-care. You share: “Ethics asks you to focus on what is beneficial to everyone, including yourself.” We sometimes confuse the importance of putting others first and forget about ourselves. Both are critical. I try to remind myself how a decision will not only impact a team I am working with but also how if may change my direction.