The Inner Journey Series, Step #5: Courageously Clarify, Reclarify, and Stick with Your Morals

Thoughts on Excellence Free E-Newsletter Series
Volume 20, Issue No. 10b
March 15, 2022

By Dan Coughlin



In the book, Journey to the Center of the Earth, by Jules Verne, a small group of people go through a variety of stages to get to the center of the earth. In this series of articles we are working our way through a variety of stages on our inner journey. First, to surrender our selfishness. Second, to embrace our virtues. And now to focus on our morals.

The Positive Impact of Sticking to Your Morals

Your morals are what you think is the right thing and the wrong thing to do in a given situation.

By sticking to your morals, you strengthen your personal integrity and enhance your self-esteem. I define integrity as doing what you believe is the right thing to do even if no one else is watching. When you stick to your morals over and over and over again, you know that you can count on yourself. Your integrity is very strong. That is a very valuable aspect of yourself that you can keep with you for the rest of your life.

Morals are a Very, Very, Very, Very, Very Personal Matter

When I reflect on the many conversations I’ve had over my lifetime with a wide range of people, I am continually reminded that the range of what people believe is the right thing to do and the wrong thing to do on a given topic is enormous. These are all people whom I liked a great deal and admired, and yet their morals, which are their beliefs on what is the right thing to do and the wrong thing to do, were oftentimes the polar opposite from other people’s beliefs and even from my own morals.

I’ve come to the conclusion that morals are a very, very, very, very personal matter. What is right for me may very well be wrong for them, and what is wrong for them may very well be right for me. In my opinion, it is wrong for me to tell another person that his or her morals are wrong. They are not my morals; they are the other person’s morals.

I’ve learned to accept that I can have a strong relationship with a person even though our morals might be very different. Each of us is on our own inner journey to clarify, reclarify, and stick to our morals. If I walked away from every relationship just because we have different morals, then I would be a very lonely person. I even disagree with some of my own morals from a few years ago. Do I have to stop having a relationship with myself?

The Critical Importance of Your Conscience

Beyond your physical and mental functions, your conscience resides. This is the magical aspect within each of us that tells us whether what we are doing or considering to do is the right thing or the wrong thing to do. Your conscience has been influenced by many people: your parents, family members, friends, neighbors, teachers, coaches, bosses, co-workers, etc.

However, your conscience still has a voice of its own. It can deliver to you a message that is contrary to what all of your influences have said to you. You can consider all of the inputs from other people, you can listen to your conscience and think over what you want to do, and then you can decide what is the right thing to do and what is the wrong thing to do in that given moment.

Your conscience is that small voice within you that focuses on what is the right thing to do and what is the wrong thing to do. That small voice, your conscience, is incredibly important. By turning toward it and really listening to it, you are able to forge your own set of morals. The challenge happens when you allow yourself to get so busy that you don’t slow down enough to check in with your own conscience.

Slow down and really listen to what your conscience is trying to tell you throughout the day. This will increase the chances of you making decisions that you think are morally correct.

The Essential Factor of Courage

Of course, it’s one thing to determine what is the right thing and what is the wrong thing to do in a given moment, and it’s another thing to actually follow through and do what you think is the right thing to do and avoid what is the wrong thing to do.

This is where courage provides the essential factor. Courage is the ability to do what you think is right even in the midst of great challenges. Personal courage often ends up costing a person in material ways, but also ends up profiting the person in terms of increased self-esteem and personal integrity. This is a very important part of working your way through your inner journey. Along the way, you will become more courageous and stronger at sticking to your morals.

Here are some book recommendations on courage.

Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy, specifically Chapters 1, 2 and 11.

Courage is Calling by Ryan Holliday, specifically Part One.

Your Morals Can Change Over Time

Your morals are not set in stone. As you go into reflection, discussion, prayer, and discernment, you may come to decide that what you used to think was the right thing to do is no longer the right thing to do. The key is to clarify and then reclarify what you believe is the right thing to do. Some of your morals will remain the same, and some may very well change.

I used to think it was wrong to use foul language in the title of a book. And after thinking about it I still think it is wrong. It doesn’t matter to me how popular some books have become that use vulgar language in their title. I still think it’s the wrong thing to do.

I used to think it was right for me to be completely honest in every conversation. However, I’ve learned that it can be hurtful to the other person for me to be completely honest with him or her. So now my moral is that the right thing for me to do is to try to be helpful to the other person. I’m not dishonest. I don’t lie. I just don’t share every thought I have every moment I have it.

As we mature, I think it’s possible for our morals to change, and that can be a very good thing.

Republishing Articles

My newsletters, Thoughts on Excellence, have been republished in approximately 40 trade magazines, on-line publications, and internal publications for businesses, universities, and not-for-profit organizations over the past 20+ years. If you would like to republish all or part of my monthly articles, please send me an e-mail at with the name of the article you want in the subject heading. I will send you the article in a word document.

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