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  • Paul LaLonde

Doing the Right Thing Is Always in Our Control

“The time is always right to do what is right.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

The beginning of the year has so many of us thinking, reflecting. We write about our thoughts. We give pause, give ourselves space to explore our feelings, emotions, dreams. How does this all impact our future?

Two of my good friends recently wrote two amazing blog posts from the heart. Both posts are great self-reflection pieces:



New blog post 😊 today I’m sharing why 2020 feels more positive for me. Do you have a routine? What tools do you use to help make life more positive? #ClaireShares #HRpositive #HRfitcrew https://t.co/6cUHf6ujUq — Claire Petrie, PHR, SHRM-CP (@_strclaire) January 20, 2020


New serving at the #HRSushiBar "Self-Care Doesn't have to be Self-ish"#SelfHelp #SelfCare #DayOfJeff #HRonPurpose #HRRising #SHRM #WISHRM #NextChat #StateLineCrew https://t.co/6JB94O1Llt — Jeff Palkowski, MHRM, SHRM-CP, PHR (@JeffPally) January 16, 2020

I truly enjoyed both of their posts! Their musing inspired me to do some of my own self-reflection, especially on doing right and what that means to me. The tagline in my LinkedIn profile states:

I enjoy HR & doing the right thing. #HRPhilosopher Blogger

People who connect with me sometimes say they are attracted to the “doing the right thing” mantra. So, I got to thinking about what it means to do the right thing. It’s not always clear, yet if we are silent, it is always clear.

Recently, one of my major influences, Ryan Holiday, tweeted the following:



8 questions that can change your life: – Is this in my control? – What am I missing by choosing to worry or be afraid? – Am I doing my job? – Who is this for? – Is this who I want to be? – Does this actually matter? – What does my ideal day look like? – Who do I spend time with? — Ryan Holiday (@RyanHoliday) January 20, 2020

I absolutely LOVED this tweet. I’ve written in the past how philosophy, particularly Stoicism, has influenced my approach to HR. I believe work (both personal and professional) is an act of philosophy. Philosophy, to me, is about being better than you were yesterday, so you can better approach the world by doing the right thing. In HR that has so many amazing possibilities!!!

Back to the right thing. What’s the right thing? In this context, it’s acting kindly, justly, fairly, and empathetically. It’s judging a situation and acting in a measured approach without impulse, without allowing emotion to cloud your actions. This can only be done with discipline, study, and self-reflection.

Recently, Holiday wrote an incredible piece I encourage you to read. In Why You Should Study Philosophy, Holiday proposes that philosophy helps us understand what’s in our control and what isn’t, helps us learn how to live appropriately, how to act in difficult (and not so difficult) moments, develop practicality, help us feel balanced (a particularly important concept to me personally), help us gain perspective, and challenge us to be better in all aspects of our life.

An overwhelming majority of us are doing the best we can. We need to remember that when dealing with others, and when dealing with ourselves. Never forget the role the self plays!

So if philosophy is an act of self-betterment towards helping others, how can thinking about these 8 questions Holiday posed help us in our HR journey?

Is this in my control?

Ahhh, control. EVERYONE struggles with this. Even those who are not self-described control freaks. One of the hardest things to do is admit we are not in control. However, once one let’s go of that burden, so many possibilities open up! Admitting we are not in control of a particular situation allows us to move in a different direction where we can apply ourselves more effectively.

What am I missing by choosing to worry or be afraid?

I often wonder why people complain so much about their job, yet they never leave. I believe it has to do with not being able to let go of what is familiar to them. The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t – apparently. But why does it have to be the devil? How self-defeating is that!  Maybe the devil you know is worse than the angel you refuse to meet. By not moving on from a bad job, a bad boss, a toxic situation, we allow those things to consume us! By letting go of the worry and fear, we open new doors and opportunities! Also, you gain a little bit of that “control” thing we all crave! 😊

Am I doing my job?

How do I know if I’m doing my job? If my actions are based on the parameters outlined above, doing the right thing, then I am. If not, I need to take a serious look in the mirror and ask why.

Who is this for?

In HR we have the unenviable position of trying to craft a balance between the organization and the employees. Sometimes, they are one and the same, as in engagement initiatives; and sometimes, they are not, as in layoffs. It’s a fine line, and often HR gets the brunt of the tension blowback. However, every project, every initiative, every policy suggestion should never be about oneself. It should be about doing the best work so others can prosper. If done right, there should be no worries about oneself, because you’ll prosper based on the good work you’re doing for others.

Is this who I want to be?

Before every action, I try to think “is this in accordance with whom I wish to be for myself and to others?” Sometimes, I fail and act differently than I should. However, by continually asking myself the question, I work hard at continuously being the man I need to be – for myself, for my family and friends, for my job, for the HR profession, and for my community. I don’t believe I can act any differently.

Does this actually matter?

Act with purpose, not with impulse. Do a deep dive into why certain things are occurring. Dissect what you’re doing to ensure it makes sense for the organization, for the employees, and for yourself. If it doesn’t matter, then try to find an approach where it can.

What does my ideal day look like?

Ideal? Providing someone who’s down a pick me up. Being a person who can help change the trajectory of that person’s day – even if it’s a simple smile. If that’s not idealistic, then I need to figure out the true definition.

Who do I spend time with?

How does the old saying go? Show me your company, and I’ll show you your future. Who we surround ourselves with has such an impact on who we become! It’s like the old joke, people married for a long time eventually exhibit characteristics of their partner. If we surround ourselves with toxic, mad, cynical people, we become toxic, mad, cynical. If we surround ourselves with kind, encouraging, supportive people, we become kind, encouraging, supportive. This is one of the main reasons over the last several years why I have become more intentional with whom I give my time. It’s why the #StateLineCrew is so important to me. It’s why #HRCommunity is so important. Life is short, and we all end up 6 feet under. Keeping that in mind, I choose to be around people who lift me up, not drag me down! I don’t need any help getting into a shallow hole!

#StateLineCrew at Moody Tongue Brewery in Chicago, IL.

#StateLineCrew in Milwaukee, WI touring the Miller Factory.

#StateLineCrew visiting Hofbrau Haus in Rosemont, IL. Prost!

Doing the right thing is hard. We may not always know what the right thing is immediately. However, most of the time, if we listen closely to our inner voice, we know intrinsically what it is. We just have to give ourselves space to think, so that we can act appropriately to whom we want to be. And if we fail, no worries because we will be better prepared for the next time.

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