Paul DesRosiers

The Next Right Thing: A Framework for Ethical Decision-Making

There are times in life and times in business that you just aren’t sure what to do next.  Maybe the future isn’t clear, or the horizon is so wide open that you’re not exactly sure in what direction to head.  What should you do next? According to author and virtual mentor Michael Hyatt, do the next right thing.

Start with figuring out where you want to end up: what is your goal?  Then, figure out the next step: what is the next task to complete to get you closer to that goal?  Figure out who you need to assist you in that endeavor: do you need the involvement of anyone else? If so, who?  Answer those questions and get started. It’s just that easy.  When you’re not certain what to do next, doing the next right thing will help ensure continued progress towards your stated goal or direction that you want to head.

It’s like driving a car at night.  You can only see to the length of the headlights, but you still complete the entire journey.  You don’t know what is down the road.  You don’t know what is hidden off in the woods, just outside the view of your headlights.  Yet you still make it to your destination.  Do the next right thing, however short that distance is, and the journey will unfold in due time.

Inactivity is not the solution.  Ruminating on alternatives and potential outcomes (a.k.a. analysis paralysis) or predicting the future will not help you take steps towards your goals.  Only action will do that.  Furthermore, considering all the negative consequences of an action will only paralyze you with fear.  Just ask Michael Hyatt and read his article.  He knows firsthand that worrying about the future will produce no gains.  He defines three steps to achieving your goal:

  • Forget about the final outcome.  Though you may be able to influence it, you can’t control it.
  • Figure out and focus on the next “right” action.  If you don’t know, use these tools to help find what is right:
    • Let your values guide you.  If you don’t know your primary values in life, use this handy tool to help with your investigation:
    • If there are multiple options, write the pros and cons of each.
    • If there is only one option, and it seems unfavorable, evaluate the pros and cons of either taking that action or not taking that action.  There really are two options here.  What are the benefits of that action and what are the drawbacks?  If you choose not to take the action, what are the benefits of that and what are the consequences?
  • Do something! Take that first step, even if you don’t have clarity. As Hyatt says, “clarity comes when you move toward your destination and correct along the way.”

I'd like to add a fourth step to ensure continued, measurable success over time:

  • Establish a plan to monitor your progress.  Consider the direction in which you are headed, not the final destination.  From time to time, review that roadmap to ensure you’re still on right track to achieve your goal.

Hyatt’s approach is very similar to the one outlined by Sarash D. Sarasvathy of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. Her approach is the time-proven process of dealing with uncertainty: Act, Learn, Build, Repeat.  Based on Sarasvathy’s research, entrepreneurs act, learn from what they find, build upon that learning, and then act again. More specifically, they:

  1. Start with desire
  2. Take a smart step as quickly as possible towards that goal
  3. Review results and build upon what they’ve learned
  4. Repeat

Two additional points to keep in mind:

  1. You can only make a decision with the information you have at this moment.  Don’t second-guess or try to predict future events – make the best decision possible with the facts that are available now.  
  1. Accept that you can’t figure out (or control) the whole future.  Be comfortable and willing to change course if you begin to stray from the established path.

Speaking of comfort: in order to excel, you need to “put yourself out there,” i.e. take chances and make it happen.  You need to be comfortable being uncomfortable.  That’s the only way to develop new skills and improve upon your existing skills.  No one gets better by competing against a lesser opponent.  That might be how you ensure success, but it’s not how to develop or improve.

At AdvantageCS, we’ve been “out there” for a very long time and have a proven track record of helping our customers transition from one business-critical software package to another.  We’ve talked with a multitude of companies around the world, listened to their stated goals, and heard the direction that they intend to head.  We’ve been there to provide guidance and assistance in their efforts and to be involved in those efforts as a long-term valued partner, not just a participant. 

What’s your “next right thing” and how can AdvantageCS help?

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