Develop a Code of Ethics

Here you are, ready to live by your very own ethical principles and lead a satisfying and meaningful life. One can draw ideas and applications from one's religion, spiritual beliefs, higher order teachings, from a mentor or simply use your own gut instincts to implement these changes. The only problem is, you're not sure what those principles are. Ethics is about relationships. It is about working to develop a well informed conscience and it is about being true to the idea of who we are and what we stand for. It is about having the courage to explore difficult questions and it is about being accountable. You will need values, morals, concepts, to understand right from wrong, having knowledge, need wisdom, having intelligence. Here are a few ideas for getting started on coming up with your own code of ethics.


  1. Learn what a code of ethics is. A code of ethics is essentially a comprehensive system of right and wrong. It is a set of guidelines to help you make decisions based on your own conscience.
  2. Use existing codes to develop your own. A few places to look for ideas include political ideologies, religious codes, and analytical philosophy. Ask yourself which specific ideas make sense to you and which do not. Do you agree that war can be justified, for example? Do you believe that it is important to help others, even if it is not convenient? How should humans treat other animals? Ask yourself as many questions as you can think of, and try not to let popular opinions influence you. What do YOU really think?
  3. Write down your ideas. It's best to save it on your computer or write in pencil, so that you'll be able to edit it later if you need to.
  4. Look for patterns and organize your ideas into specific principles. Maybe you are against all types of violence, so a strict adherence to "nonviolence" would be one of your principles. Usually, you will find that most of your opinions can be grouped into several principles. This is your code of ethics.
  5. Adjust your code through trial and error. Once you have something on paper, try to apply the guidelines to your real life experiences. If you find that you actually feel differently in practice, you may need to change one or more of your ideals.
  6. Go to school, and actually listen and learn something they do want to help you and care about you.
  7. Know and understand the law as it applies to you and your situation. Take the time to figure out how the law relates to you and how it applies to day to day situations. In some cases, "the law" may mean the policies of your work place or organization. It is important to know how these rules relate to you and how they are enforced.


  • Know the issues. When making an ethical decision, you should be aware of different intelligent viewpoints and you should try have a good reason for choosing the one you do.
  • Trust your instincts. A lot of times, you will hear two or more conflicting opinions on an issue and be able to see where each is coming from. This is a good quality to have sometimes, but even if you can't logically justify it, one side will probably "feel" right to you. When all else fails, go with that.
  • Don't expect everyone else to agree with you. The primary purpose of developing a code of ethics is so that you have an idea of how YOU should live. You may think the world would be a better place if everyone did the same, but judging others and telling them what to do will not change them. Be a solid example for what you believe in, while remaining upbeat and understanding, and others will be much more likely to follow you.
  • Know good from evil.
  • Be patient with yourself. You can't develop an entire code of ethics overnight. It will take time and effort, but knowing that you are living by your own set of morals will be quite rewarding in the end.


  • Be careful not to adopt one person's or group's entire code of ethics without question. It is probably not 100% right for you, and it defeats the purpose of developing your own.
  • Make sure that you stick with your code of ethics once you have it. Definitely consider what people say when they disagree in case you have to make adjustments, but if you know you are right, stick with it. Be careful not to simply change your ideas every time someone disagrees.
  • Can be difficult.

Things You'll Need

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