Universal Ethics

7. Define Policies and Measures

At this stage you have determined the outcomes you will pursue, along with any other people who are participating in the plan. Many of these outcomes are arranged as "stepping stones" over defined time periods. Essentially you have created "timed advice" for yourselves.

However, there are a few more things that you need to consider for a complete plan. In this step of the planning process you will:

Define Policies

In your plan you have outcomes planned out over specific time periods, and you also have some alternatives available that can serve as a contingency plan. However, there are many situations that you can encounter, the timing of which cannot be predicted. Many of these situations arise suddenly, and they require a choice to be made immediately.

If you have not given any thought to these situations in advance, you may find yourself in a bit of a crisis, as you do not know what to do. Or you may make a rash decision, to do what seems desirable at the time, without having time to consider the consequences. This can be counterproductive to your goals and it would likely result in regret.

To be better prepared, you need to decide policies that describe how you will handle particular situations. The same policy always applies in the given situation, regardless of when it occurs or how many times it occurs. Essentially you define timeless advice for yourself and the other people who participate in your plan.

These policies can be related to specific outcomes in your plan, or they can simply be policies that you collect over your life, as you learn from experience and by observing other people. It is not essential that they all be written down, but if you write them down it helps you to remember them, and also it enables you to review and refine your policies from time to time.

In particular, it is a good idea to write down policies for:

As a result of growing up within any nation, you will come to be aware of the laws and the behaviors that people there deem to be acceptable. So, unless it is your profession to be teaching that information, there is little need to write them all down. However, sometimes there is a need for change. Sometimes people will behave like a herd, following behaviors that bring misery instead of happiness even when they should know better.

An example of that is tobacco smoking in the 1960s, when most adults in North America and many other nations were adicted to smoking. By then the adverse health effects were well known, but yet most adults continued to do it. It was even considered to be a right, so that non-smoking people also suffered in smoke filled airplanes, restaurants, and university classrooms.

If a child's parents smoke, the child in most cases will choose to do likewise when he (or she) grows up, notwithstanding that the parent warns him. The parents might have some excuse, because it isn't easy to break free of an adiction once they've got it. But the most insidious cause for continuation of this harmful habit wasn't addiction or even ignorance, but social pressure among teens. In order to feel accepted and "grown up," many teens felt obliged to begin smoking. So many began, and then they were trapped too.

What broke this vicious circle is that many teens resolved among themselves to not smoke and they maintained that policy through their life. That caused pockets to form in the population where people could have friends without smoking. Within two generations the situation was totally reversed, with non-smokers in the majority and the smokers being the ones who are considered to be be "backward and ignorant."

That's an example of the past, but there are also examples we will see in the future, because our world leaves lots of room for improvement! Many problems arise not just from the lack of planning or the lack of action, but from habitutual behaviors that have unwanted consequences. So, wherever you have a "wish" in your plan for a better outcome that requires better ongoing behavior, it is helpful to make a resolution for yourself and write down a policy to remind you of it.

You can record your policies in a word processing file. You might find it convenient to record a separate chapter for each policy, perhaps arranged in alphabetical order of policy title. Or you can record them with the Pathways Advisor app. The latter enables you to collect a number of policies together in one "book," organized by topic. Pathways also enables you to link outcomes in your plan with particular policies in the book, so that you can trace from one to the other.

With the Advisor you can also embed logic that defines conditions and advice that applies in particular conditions. You can predefine questions and specific answers, and invoke those questions and answers later. This is a sophisticated planning feature that you might not need, but if it is your profession to councel others you might find it worthwhile to use this feature. It tends to cause you to think through a policy more fully when you map out the various conditions and exceptions.

Set Measures of Progress

Now you have a course of action planned, you are prepared to handle various situations, and you have policies that you chose regarding your behavior, but how do you know whether you are making effective progress toward your goals?

For some goals it is sufficient that you spend the time you have planned, and observe whether you and other participants are realizing the satisfaction that had been predicted. However, for other goals (and in particular, for stepping stones), it is often helpful to have some measures by which you can evaluate your progress.

To do that, you can define progress measures for some of your outcomes. For example, if you have a goal of improving your fitness or losing excess weight, you can keep a log of results such as the number of repetitions of an exercise that you can do, or your morning weight. It is a good idea at this stage to plan how you will measure progress, so that you can implement your plan effectively. That leads us to the last step...

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