By answering all of the above five questions affirmatively, you affirmed your commitment to the five fundamental principles of ethics:
Yes, there are serious health issues that can prevent us from sleeping, and even the most rigorous adherence to the principles of ethics won’t overcome these sorts of problems. Medical conditions such as sleep apnea require the intervention of a health care professional, which I am not.
Nevertheless, much of the psychological conflict that keeps us up at night can indeed be traced to choices we have deliberately made during the day. If we can choose to take the low road and are willing to accept the consequences for doing so, we can also choose to take the high road—and be rewarded with a peaceful night’s slumber, among other benefits.
It is also the case that, no matter how hard we try to the do right thing, or how often we set out to be the best we can be, we fail, over and over again.
We respond to a nasty remark with more nastiness.
We are in a position to be a force for good, but we choose to do otherwise.
We lie instead of telling the truth, simply because it is easier to do so.
We allow anger to get the best of us and determine how we mete out punishment, even though we know that this isn’t right.
We have the opportunity to show loving kindness to someone, but we keep that feeling bottled up, perhaps out of fear of appearing weak or making ourselves vulnerable.
In other words, when we go through the checklist above, we are not always able to answer “yes” to every one of the five questions. But let’s cut ourselves some slack. After all, there’s always tomorrow. And the day after that, and the day after that.
Our lives are a work in progress, and by striving to live ethically, we seek to bring out the best in ourselves. In so doing, we may very well bring out the best in others. It bears repeating: the reason to do the right thing is simply because it is the right thing to do. Nevertheless, we reap many professional and personal rewards by taking ethics seriously in all that we do. Enjoying deep, restful, restorative slumber is one of those dividends.
May you have a good night’s sleep tonight, tomorrow, and every night.
Editor’s Note: This article was published originally on BusinessWeek.com.
Bruce Weinstein is the corporate consultant and public speaker known as “The Ethics Guy”. He has appeared as an ethics analyst on The Today Show, Good Morning America, Anderson Cooper 360, CNBC, MSNBC, NPR, and other national media. To book him as a speaker, call 800 285 6988 or write to: [email protected].