Monday, July 31, 2006


Underlying moral/ethical understanding is the base for self-help

“Always treat others as you would like them to treat you.” - Matthew 7:12

As we've found that positive, creative thought is more vital, more effective than non-positive, non-creative thought – this leads logically to the next step: in order to make the best decisions, the most profitable ones, we have to treat others like we would like to be treated.

Wouldn't you like to be surrounded by cheerful people who are encouraging and creatively solving the problems life hands them? Remember that old adages we stated in an earlier section of this book:

You can't get without giving;

You'll only get out what you put in.

This culture, your mind, the environment surrounding you inexorably turns around according to this Golden Rule. This has been so long observed as true throughout history that nearly every religion has some version of it in their scriptures.

You can always try it for yourself. Go around and treat people with fairness, honesty, trust – all the virtues. Try this for a week and note the changes you make in your life. If this doesn't give you some significant changes, you can always try the reverse (but don't say I didn't warn you that this is a very effective way to ruin your life by cheating, lying, deceiving and generally mistreating your former friends). One more effective example is to take someone who is some “enemy” of yours and start treating him with respect, courtesy and fairness. It might take a while to get it through his head, but you'll see some amazing reactions from him. (One idea of what he's thinking is captured in the old phrase, “Smile. It makes them wonder what you've been up to.”)

Again, the majority of these books cover this simple point:

You have to have an ethical base to your actions in order to maintain any forward progress.

There was an underlying reason to this book's research: to see if there were common system of proven self-help techniques. I started with only highly successful books that are even today being distributed, long after the author's death. These books all had common points. Distilled into a fourteen point series, they were then compared with more recent works, such as Dr. Covey's. Only his work made the “short list.” Out of the fourteen points I distilled, one significant one was the mandatory use of such a character ethic or ethical/moral code in dealing with life.

Dr. Covey relates how he came to find this in the opening chapter of his book. He was researching 200 years of success literature in the United States, resolving what a democratic society considered to be keys to successful living. While his study covered literally hundreds of books, articles and essays on the subject, he found that there was a dividing line about 50 years ago. While the first 150 years was based on what he calls the Character Ethic, the last 50 years shifted over to what he calls the Personality Ethic.

The Personality Ethic was erected on image, behavior and human public relations and tended to culminate in shallow, trite aphorisms such as “Your attitude determines your altitude,” and “Smiling wins more friends than frowning.” These self-help books, tapes and pamphlets only worked to a certain degree and are widely lampooned because of their lack of underlying principles.

This was even known to the philosopher Al Ghazzali, in his “The Alchemy of Happiness,” probably the first known self-help work, written around the 14th century. Ghazzali mentions here how people he had observed would simply mouth the words of the Koran and other religious works as some sort of semi-automatic circuit which enabled them to live their lives and so obtain their success. But without understanding and utilizing the meaning behind the words, you might as well hire a Karaoke singer for your next big concert at Madison Square Gardens. There's a wide difference between a trite phrase and the actual.

Dr. Covey describes the Character Ethic in his book:

“The Character Ethic taught that there are basic principles of effective living, and that people can only experience true success and enduring happiness as they learn and integrate these principles into their basic character.”

We are not interested in what is referred to in the music industry as “one shot wonders.” Just as a simple coat of paint will not repair rotted siding on a building, this book covers not just how to be successful, get wealthy or happy, but the reasons behind why you do what you need to so you can make this a perpetual, ongoing habit in your life. The reason for this is logical and follows what we have covered so far. Let's chase this down:

• You have something you want to improve in your life.

• So you have to change your mind in order to make that happen.

• The most successful way to do this is a positive, creative one.

• To maintain a positive, creative approach to life, there must be an ethical, rational basis for making future decisions and thoughts. Otherwise, you would simply drop back into old habits which created the scene you are now seeking to improve.

Dr. Covey's book is highly recommended in this particular vein. He covers simple habits that can be acquired through practice which in turn will start changing around your life and make such changes into an evolution of improvement for you. But he also gives the rational explanations of why his seven habits work, so you can continue to develop them in your own life and in your business or group.

If you already have a set moral or ethical base that is proving successful, I'm not telling you to abandon it in the next ditch you come to. However, character training in America has been weak and getting weaker for years. We now have experienced elected political leaders and church officials who have lied, deceived and acted in immoral ways, becoming top news makers in the media.

Without an ethical base, one is like a boat in a storm with no anchor, rudder or oars. If that boat is to make it through the storm without swamping, it would require a miracle. So it is in trying to make it through life with no basis for making decisions.

Many have worked out their ethical and moral system entirely based on the Golden Rule. Since this gives you a comparison, you can evaluate how you act against how you would like others to act around you. You don't like people who are inconsiderate of you, so try to be considerate of others. Manners evolved much in this fashion and continue to evolve. Making unusual noises at meal time, yelling or throwing tantrums – no one likes these. So people evolve etiquette in order to get along with each other.

People can also use this Golden Rule at work, where cooperation will get more work done than competition. This then gives you a working version that you can develop to work out how to treat people in positive, creative fashions. These actions will then return positive re-actions toward you.

Day 7 Exercise:

Try this –

In your usual chair and room, try this exercise from Haanel's book:

1. “Visualize a plant; take a flower, the one you most admire, bring it from the unseen into the seen, plant the tiny seed, water it, care for it, place it where it will get the direct rays of the morning sun, see the seed burst; it is now a living thing, something which is alive and beginning to search for the means of subsistence. See the roots penetrating the earth, watch them shoot out in all directions and remember that they are living cells dividing and subdividing, and that they will soon number millions, that each cell is intelligent, that it knows what it wants and knows how to get it. See the stem shoot forward and upward, watch it burst through the surface of the earth, see it divide and form branches, see how perfect and symmetrical each branch is formed, see the leaves begin to form, and then the tiny stems, each one holding aloft a bud, and as you watch you see the bud begin to unfold and your favorite flower comes to view; and now if you will concentrate intently you will become conscious of a fragrance; it is the fragrance of the flower as the breeze gently sways the beautiful creation which you have visualized.”

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