There may not be a more accurate definition of applied ethics than in those words from "The King" in the sub headline just above this paragraph. Our actions are the direct results of our most deeply held values. Some people may put on a public front that gives an impression of certain high moral grounds, but actions always give away the truth.
In "The 8th Habit", Stephen Covey offered this advice. " Values should be anchored in principles so that your life will have a changeless core and inner source of security, guidance, wisdom and power." You will find some long-winded, multi-syllable definitions that would seek to separate applied ethics from something called "normative ethics."
I don't buy it. Doing the right thing is always right. If our actions are really anchored in solid, moral principles, we won't have to go through long, drawn out battles within ourselves to decide what is the correct course of action. Perhaps because I take the two words "applied ethics" in the most literal sense, I can't separate them from the most basic principles of doing what is right because it is right.
In the spirit of fairness, here is a link with some discussion of applied ethics and other associated terms from an academic standpoint.
The rub comes in determining what is truly the moral, correct course of action. For those who have made the decision to base their actions and subsequent activity upon a planned personal mission statement, there is never a conflict. For those who haven't made that decision, the opportunity to be consistent in direction and purpose driven is much more difficult.
Just below is an image very similar to one found in "The 8th Habit." Dr. Covey suggests that all of us write our own personal mission statement to help shape the direction our lives will take. He writes, " Having this mission statement up front enables you to prioritize your life." I cannot imagine better advice to offer for any business or professional setting.
Then following up the pyramid with concrete action steps will serve as the guideposts along the way. I've seen this in action in my own life. In some areas I failed. But my revised definition of failure allowed me to recover and redirect. In some areas, this pyramid concept has always served me well.
As regular readers at books-empower.com already know, I spent a decade in the mortgage business. Part of that period was during the real estate bubble period. Mortgage programs expanded to the point where nearly anyone could get financed regardless of past payment history.
Property values were coming in at levels which defied normal logic. And mortgage shops opened up on every corner. In our little town we had seven of them at one time. As people bought into the false hype of their personal residence being "an investment", they were easy targets for unscrupulous mortgage brokers, real estate agents and bankers.
I loved my time as a mortgage professional, but hated seeing people taken advantage of over and over by commissioned agents who knew they were placing people in dangerous loans and in houses they could not afford. My definition of applied ethics would not allow this to happen.
My entire business was built on referrals. It was built on people being satisfied and telling others about their experience. As the markets changed and the inflated home values came crashing down, most of the dishonest loan shops went away. Sadly those who bought in to the idea of buying that big house still had the big payments.
I look back on that time knowing I resisted the easy paychecks because taking them involved bypassing my own definition of applied ethics. Doing so would require me to go against those values at the base of the pyramid. And I understood the difference between an asset and a liability.
We all need somewhere to live. True financial literacy teaches us that we need to know the difference between assets and liabilities. Our house is a liability. A necessary one, but still a liability. Just below is a short video that explains the difference. Please soak in the message and you'll never be taken in by crooked commissioned salespeople again. I've also added some information in this link that may help you if you seek out a mortgage again.
Please also check out the list of classic books in the left margin. Robert Kiyosaki, who is featured in this video has two excellent books in this section to provide you with some empowering knowledge.
Applied ethics is also mentioned in discussions about whistle blowers. These would be the people who see things that are wrong and speak out. Erin Brockovich is one such person whose life gained even more notoriety because of a movie. While it was a good show, the real message is in her actions. Those actions, I believe were based on her core values.
I've written extensively about the dangers within our world food supply. The numbers are impossible to ignore. We are facing an important time in history. Will we use the literal meaning of applied ethics in this area?
Will we stand up to the Monsanto conspiracy? Will we demand independent testing of genetically modified foods? If they are certain the food is safe, why is there a need to resist testing? On what moral grounds would any company put millions of lives at risk? Would it be companies that would devastate entire communities such as Anniston Alabama and Nitro West Virginia?
Would it be companies that ignore the science that tells us their pesticides-those containing active ingredients as used in Agent Orange-are wiping out entire populations of butterflies and bees. I can put aside for a moment the impact of those losses but cannot put aside the reality that if they are being killed by massive doses of toxins dumped on altered seeds, we are also at risk.
This is so often a subject from which a rich supply of jokes arise, but when the laughing stops, we're still left with the same problem. Despite abysmal approval ratings, an overwhelming number of incumbents return to office each election cycle.
And the same national problems remain. There is debate. There is talk of possible deals and there is no shortage of finger pointing. But the process that failed in the past is repeated over and over.
Bills containing hundreds of pages are handed to unaware representatives a few hours before a scheduled vote. There is no way anyone could carefully read such a package. The deal is, they aren't supposed to read it. If they knew what was in it, they might not follow the party line.
Deep-pocketed corporations don't need to pay every congress person. They just need to grease the palms of a few of them and let the entrenched crony capitalism do the rest.
There are a few in Washington willing to practice applied ethics every time. For instance if they don't get sufficient time to read a bill prior to a vote, the default result is always nay. Regardless of which party is pushing the measure.
If we had more of this kind of thinking, we also have much more efficient work being accomplished in Washington D.C.
This is one of our main points of emphasis at books-empower.com. And our very direct definition of applied ethics needs to be at the forefront of that teaching. Our next generation must understand the idea of basing actions on core beliefs.
I think that too often discussions of applied ethics, bioethics and the like give people excuses for avoiding responsibility for their own actions, thereby avoiding any consequences of those actions.
But the consequences are still there. They may be passed on to someone else, but the mess still needs to be cleaned up. And the results can serve to improve overall situations or further deteriorate them.
If we can teach our children well to follow the four steps in that pyramid, we'll be energizing an entire generation to take the very literal definition of applied ethics to such moral high ground as not seen for a long time.
* Identify their mission and values
* Set goals that are aligned with those values
* Plan weekly to do things that get them closer to those aligned goals
* Plan daily to make a difference in that direction
Applied ethics. Doing the right thing every time. Because it is right. It is ethical, moral and responsible. And we'll apply it to every action. Not as wordy or complex as some definitions.
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