Decision making

We often talk about doing the 'right' thing. But there are different sets of criteria to measure what is right. In addition, deep down some of us don't want to do the right thing at all, instead hoping for wealth, friends or status - sometimes even repressing our moral compass in order to achieve these things. Whatever your motives, this page aims to help you better understand your decision-making rationale by evaluating common actions according to standard frameworks. It might tell you that your actions aren't as moral as you'd like them to be, or it might give you some ideas of other things you can do to improve yourself.

Here are the definitions of each of the criteria columns:

Ethical (ET): If everyone did this action all the time, would it make the world better? Do you think someone who does this action has high morals?
Makes friends (MF): Does doing this action cause people to like you more?
Practical benefit (PB): Is there a clear benefit to you (e.g. money, free stuff, being accepted for a job) from doing this action?
Enjoyable (EN): Would you enjoy performing this action consistently? Note that enjoyment is subjective so feel free to overwrite my verdict if my generalisation doesn't apply to you.
Easy to do (ES): Assuming you want to do this action, is it an easy change to make in your habits? Note that the tick or cross in this column shouldn't be interpreted as 'good' or 'bad' like the other columns. But if you the action is good according to the other criteria, then a tick in this column says it's extra-good to do it because it's an easy habit to implement.

Actually, I think this table is a good idea for a decision-making-process. Next time you have an action you're not sure whether or not to do, take the action and compare it against a set of criteria that you feel you value (not necessarily the ones I've used here). Even if your set of criteria isn't ethical or anything, it doesn't matter. In the end you will feel like you've come up with a better decision compared to if you'd just your instinctive drives (e.g. do stuff for greatest personal benefit) make the decision for you.

Oh and a disclaimer: The ticks and crosses I've put in are mine and mine only. If you disagree with something, that's normal. If you disagree and think you are objectively correct, please email me at and persuade me about why you are right. Also, there are some blank rows down the bottom, so if you have any extra actions you would like me to add in, I would love to hear it!

ET - Ethical | MF - Makes friends | PB - Personal Benefit | EN - Enjoyable | ES - Easy to do
Smiling at people ✓ 
Helping your friend do his/her assignment
Helping someone cheat on their assignment
Giving money to homeless people  
Studying hard for tests  
Playing computer games  
Flattering people to get something  
Giving compliments to people for no reason  
During conversation, deliberately mentioning good things about yourself
Learning more about human psychology with respect to social interaction    
Listening to music      
Telling others about faults you think they have  
Lying to make yourself seem more impressive  
Lying to avoid upsetting someone about something that's your fault  
Lying to avoid upsetting someone about something that's not your fault      
Arguing with someone when you're 100% sure you're right    
Teaching someone something that they want to learn  
Dancing in private        
Wearing makeup/hair gel
Complaining about friend B to friend A without A's knowledge    
Killing a human being  
Talking to a random stranger on the train without seeing them ever again      
Talking to random people whom you will see again (e.g. if they are in one of your classes)  
Talking to a boy/girl just because he/she's cute
Working for a low salary    
Working for a high salary    
Getting a part-time job as a student  
Suing someone who has done you a personal wrong  
Learning a new card/board game    
Joining a sports club    
Joining the gym        

I actually have nothing against comic sans.
(Image taken from

P.S. Note that 'Is the action legal' is not a criterion. I understand laws to be a reflection of what society considers wrong and right (which itself is arbitrary), and so I think it's silly to reason "This is a law, therefore it's unethical to do this" or whatever. We need to use our own common sense criteria before referring to a system that someone else has invented for us.