How to Know the Right Thing to Do.


How often do we find ourselves struggling to know the right course of action, the right thing to say? There is no magic solution to knowing the right thing to do. But, these are a few suggestions for working out the best course of action.

1. Listen to Your Inner voice

Deep within, we all have an inner voice, – our own conscience. It is sometimes hard to put our finger on this part of us, which knows the right thing. To be able to listen to our own conscience we have to silence the mind and put aside the perceptions of the ego. Conscience is like a muscle, the more we listen to it – the stronger it becomes. If we value our inner pilot, it will be easier to listen to it.

2. Does your decision bring inner peace?

The best way to tell whether we are doing the right thing is to feel whether we are inwardly happy with the choice. As William Shakespeare suggested it is:

“A peace above all earthly dignities, a still and quiet conscience.” [1]

Sometimes we want to do something, but feel tremendous discord and inner turmoil. With these kind of decisions we cannot get any peace of mind, but, we spend time vainly trying to justify our decisions. Sometimes we can succeed in overriding the voice of our conscience – but, this inevitably leads to regrets later on. Note the ‘right decision’ may not lead to outer peace. Sometimes doing the ‘right thing’ will bring complications in our outer life. But, in working out the best thing to do, we need to place importance on our inner state of mind. If we know we are doing the ‘right thing’ we can more easily tolerate outer sufferings.

3. Give Time for Reflection

Quite often our initial reaction is clouded with emotion. When we react in haste, it is more difficult to know the right thing to do. When writing an important letter, always give time to revise your initial draft. Sometimes we write things in the heat of the moment, but, on quiet reflection we realise there are much better ways of saying things. If a difficult situation arises try to give yourself time before pronouncing your verdict. This is particularly true if we are consumed with anger. When we are angry we lose our equanimity and our judgement is often impaired.

4. Are you acting out of Ego – Jealousy / Pride?

It is important to be able to critically analyse our motives. If we are acting out of a feeling of wounded pride or jealousy it is highly likely we are not taking the best solution. In deciding the best thing to do, don’t act from a misplaced feeling of pride or what makes you look good. Try to act selflessly, when we have selfless motives it is much easier to know the right thing to do.

5. Read the Wisdom of Teachers who inspire you.

If you feel an affinity with a certain teaching / philosophy, how does your decision fit in with these basic ethical / spiritual principles. A Christian would read the words of Christ, a Buddhist would read the philosophy of the Buddha. Sometimes we read teachings of other people, and part of it really resonates as an inspired philosophy to guide our life by. Remember these particular quotes and try to live this philosophy, even in the most trying circumstances.

6. Take Advice

Don’t be too proud to seek the advice of others. Two heads can be better than one; for some questions it can be helpful to take a second opinion. It is important to take advice from the right people. Often the best person may be someone who is detached from your situation. However, we should not feel duty bound to follow the advice of others and society. Often the ‘right thing’ is that which is not dictated by social pressures.

7. Are You Happy with the consequences?

A simple spiritual philosophy, is to act in a way that takes into consideration your neighbour. When deciding what to do, try to place yourself in the position of other people – would you be happy if behaved like that towards yourself? Would you be glad if other people did this to you? Will you regret this decision if people find out what you are doing?

8. Silence

Sometimes to know the right thing to do we need to speak a little less and listen a little more. Silence often saves us from having to enter into difficult and unnecessary disputes. Often problems are not helped by our intervention. Through remaining silent we often enable the problem to resolve of its own accord. (When silence is the best philosophy)

[1] Henry Viii Act iii Scene ii

Photo by Ranjit, Sri Chinmoy Centre galleries

11 thoughts on “How to Know the Right Thing to Do.”

  1. “In deciding the best thing to do, don’t act from a misplaced feeling of pride or what makes you look good.”

    The intent beneath any action is much more important than the action itself. If in doubt, search for the real intention behind any act. If the intention is based on lust, anger, greed, attachment or pride, the action is probably not going to bring any peace or bliss, though tt might bring some temporary pleasure. The most obvious example is that of charity. Helping someone without any underlying desire for fame would be the right thing to do. But a lot of us probably realize, how hard it is to make considerable donations and then never mention this to anyone ever.
    But knowing our real intentions takes a lot of reflection and introspection. Like Tejvan says “Conscience is like a muscle, the more we listen to it – the stronger it becomes.”

    It’s great to start my week with these excellent thoughts. Thank Tejvan.

    May peace be with all 🙂

  2. I donot have much to say,didnot have time to go through into detail,I’m willing to go through it when I’ve got time….AM very excited and eager to learn more about certain things

  3. a thought..

    those who come here are those who are stuck in their lives… not knowing wat to do.. they are atopped by their unwillingness to move without a sure path of success… as well as hooked on to some result which they feel might come if they wait and be patient, rather then move on.. or they may have to decide between one route which is tempting but not necessarily good in long term, vs nontempting and replusive which might be a good thing in long term but not with a surity…

    the thing is that what ever we rightly choose will not always bring u happiness…atleast not instantly… and we cant asume everything done that doesnt bring us joy or happiness is a wrong thing… when u dont know wats the right thing to do… often u will be short in beleiving who are the right people to take advsie from…often we find problems which are unique to us… faced by no one not even our teachers… or elders who seem to be just as much at loss as we… and inner peace is hard to experience when we find turmoil outside… and often we feel inside hurt and pain… though we know we are doing the right thing… or somehow have done all we can… and still are unable to be at ease…

    all i ahve to say… right thing to do is any thing which doesnt harm anyone intentionally… but to do it… we need to be strong enuf and wise enuf to know wat it is and be able to do it… when we dont know wats the right thing to do…. we are in a place where we are placed with two choices… both of which have its good and bad consequences… and we are scared of the bad consequences… we dont want the bad consequences… and that fear often keeps us from taking any course… the fear… wat if it fails wat if we regret… we always know wats the right thing to do, though we may might be weak in doing it… wat we dont know is to choose among two possible course of actions which both seem doable and both can have negative consequences… to commit to which one… and which one will be better able to handle and deal with and find joy with and which will turn out best…and the worst part is that we can only choose one… and we have to let go the other… along with it the possibility how it wud have been (better or worse) if we had gone for it rather than wat we choose)

    peace of mind in this case will only happen.. when we choose one we totally take it like the most beloved and only option… and never doubt it until u reach its destiny… never look back or wonder how it wud have been if we had chosen that and not this…

  4. I don’t know what to do … I have a tricky situation in a volunteer organisation and I am the secretary. The leader of this organisation likes to avoid meetings (he is not a team player and likes to do things on his own) but others expect meetings and as the secretary I am supposed to organise them.

    We have a meeting coming up in two weeks and the sub-committee is supposed to meet one week prior to that meeting but I email and email the leader of this organisation, asking whether I can send out an email to suggest a date. He never replies nor does he answer the phone (he would rather not have this meeting – although it is in our terms of reference). Then I get pressure as to why I am so disorganised that I haven’t set up this meeting.

    I don’t want to “dump” the leader in it. I am supposed to be supporting him after all — and equally I don’t want to go ahead and try to organise it without getting his permission first. That also seems wrong.

    Is it my ego that wants to be seen as being efficient that is pushing me to go ahead and organise meetings without his permission? Is that right? Should I discuss this more directly with him and how difficult I find it? I feel as though I don’t know what is the right thing to do. I don’t like the fact that everyone thinks it is my fault, when I am ready and organised to do it but what I can’t manage is getting the leader to agree to it. I am a good secretary (in terms of being organised) but I am not a good manipulator or bossy person at all….

  5. Very great post and I agree with everything you said. I have a problem. Now I am going to say this first: I am very lucky, I have a great fiance and a wonderful 4 year old baby boy, and I am a stay at home mom, we may not have a lot of money but we have just enough to allow me to be a stay at home mom, and we have a house (only in my fiance’s name though) and my fiance is a responsible, intelligent, reliable, faithful, loving, respectable., very attractive, man and great father. My son is my whole world, my life, and I love him more than anything else in the whole universe and I want only the very very best for him. So my problem is this: I do not live NY fiance. I mean I love him like a best friend but that is it. I never ever want to have sex with him or cuddle with him or hold his hand or hug him. I have never, even from day one, I have never had any sexual feelings towards him or even any desire at all to even touch him. Dont get me wrong he has a very very great body and gorgeous face (not that that is a deciding factor with me ever because I am attracted to someone by chemistry, a desire to touch and be touched by that person whether that person is gorgeous or not so gorgeous) but I have never had any chemistry with him. He knows how I feel and is convinced I will someday fall in love with him and everything will be just great. I only started dating him because he was such a great guy it was nice to be treated so sweetly and I had just gotten out of a bad relationship. I know what true love feels like, I have been there and still do love that man but i could never go back to that man no matter how I feel. I feel that true love never goes away, it may temporize or change a bit but it never truly goes away. But since I know what it feels like I really really want to have that again. I want to walk down the aisle when I get married to the man I love so much and feel nothing but joy. But I know if I ever married my fiance I would not feel joy, I would feel like I was making a bad choice. BUT I want what is best for my son, and he has two loving patents that are together in one home, that get along well with each other, who may not be affectionate to each other nor lovey dovey but that are both great parents in one home. My son loves having both mommy and daddy together, he loves us being a family, and I love that he is so happy. I dont want to ruin that happiness. If I split from daddy I would have to get a job (which I have no problem with working, I actually like working) but I dont want to take away from my time with him. But that I know I could work around a bit by working weekends waitressing (which I’m very good at) and could make enough money to support me and my baby, but I’d have to move into an apartment and I just feel I’d be ruining my son’s wonderful little life that he has right now. I dont want to do that at all. I never ever want to hurt him like that. But I also really want to be truly in love. Not that I feel I must be in a relationship to be happy because that’s so not true, I’m just fine being single, but I would eventually like to find love and get married to the man I love. I just dont know what the right thing to do is. My son, my Fiance and I all have this great life. I just am not in love with my fiance and we never have any intimacy because I never want to with him but I definitely want to with other men(which I have never cheated nor ever would, but I’ve definitely met men before that I wished I wasn’t in a relationship so I could date them and see if they were THE ONE). I just dont know what to do? I dont want to hurt my son or my fiance but I want to be happy. I know I’m being very selfish and I feel very guilty about it. I am just so confused as to what the right thing to do? Can you help me please?

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