What You Do Matters

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series The Spiritual Path

You matter. Others matter. The world matters. Life matters.

What you do matters. Your actions matter – for yourself, for others, and for the world. Your actions matter now, and they matter in the future.

Actions can be mental (thinking), spoken (speaking), or bodily (moving).

How you move matters. How you speak matters. How you think matters.

Actions have choice (free will, agency, volition), content (significance), and consequences.

Inaction – not doing something – is also an action. You can freely choose to not act, and that has content (significance) and consequences.

Actions can be good or bad. Good actions tend to lead to positive consequences; bad actions tend to lead to negative consequences.

It can be confusing and non-obvious what the moral content of our actions is. However, in many cases, morality is obvious and simple. Don’t doubt what is straightforward – and don’t give up just because something is complex or confusing.

Various religions and spiritual practices have guidelines about ethics and morality. Use these as the foundation of ethical action in your own life. If your instincts disagree with these traditions, have a healthy skepticism about your own opinions and preferences. Still, you will need to continue to investigate and evolve your own moral sensibilities based on your own life and context.

Refining our ethics, morality, and character is endless. It is also fun.

Taking an action makes it more likely that you will take that action again.

Effects can themselves be causes; consequences can themselves be conditions.

Effects can have multiple causes; consequences can have multiple conditions or factors.

Our actions can have expected and unexpected effects; these effects can be perceptible to us, but this is not necessary. We cannot detect all of the effects of all of our actions.

Small actions can have big effects. Private actions can have public effects. Assume that small, private actions will have large, public consequences for years to come.

How you do anything is how you do everything. The way you do this is the way you’ll do that. The way you do it today is the way you’ll do it tomorrow. The way you do small, seemingly insignificant things is the way you’ll do what really matters to you.

Each action presents us with an opportunity, a choice. We can continue what we’ve been doing, or make a change. Move forward, not backwards. Don’t do bad things, do good things, and clarify the mind so that what appears morally unclear becomes clear to you (see Dhammapada XIV.183).

Thank you to Tommy Bonn and Noah Seltzer for reviewing this post.

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