#METC: Ethical Fitness

Physical fitness is concerned with our overall general wellness as well as specific physical abilities (push-ups being my particular nemesis). To grow more fit, we typically focus on nutrition (fuel for the body), exercise (stressing the body in particular ways), and rest (to allow muscles to repair).

The concepts are the same when we’re talking about ethical fitness – individuals (hopefully) possess a general level of moral well-being (no one’s an angel, but hopefully not too much of a devil either), and individuals are called up to exercise moral judgment in specific areas related to their jobs and relationships – so your specific ethical fitness requirements will differ from mine as a professor, or a doctor, or a banker, though we may share some specific requirements related to our status as children with aging parents.

As with higher levels of physical fitness, an ethically fit individual will have a stronger immune system than those with lower levels of fitness. That said, you can be ethically fit and still be tempted to do wrong. Temptation is not an indicator of ethical weakness. Yielding to it is. Temptation is simply an indicator of your humanity.

Just like with physical fitness, your ethical fitness is developed through:

  1. Correct Nutrition: (why parents get so concerned about TV!) This can come from mentors, self and group study, reflection, etc.;
  2. Exercise: (placing yourself and your subordinates in situations of increasing ethical complexity). Ethical decision games, PMEs, hotwashes, case studies, incorporating ethical scenarios into tactical training packages, etc.; and,
  3. Rest: (sleep deprivation has a clear correlation with weakened moral judgment) This can be a real challenge, but finding opportunities to create emotional distance, fellowship, actual sleep, etc.

If you were to grade yourself today (100 point max for each event), how would you score?

I like to task our students with developing an Individual Ethical Fitness Plan, so I’m tasking you too!

Just like you’re not going to go run a marathon the first time you lace up your sneakers and you have to hit the gym regularly to maintain muscle mass, you have to exercise your moral muscle. And, just like your performance will suffer if all you eat are the chow hall hotdogs and ice cream, your moral decision making will improve to the extent that you read, think about, engage information that supports, develops, or reinforces sound moral judgment.  Finally, it’s just as important to get some down time to let your brain reset and do that back burner processing that’s so important to judgment of any sort. I think pilots are better about this than other folks, but it’s worth mentioning, because the effect on moral judgment is so pronounced and the wear-and-tear stress of combat is so great.

So what we’re going to do in our final #METC session is talk about the components of moral behavior and what an ethical training plan looks like. Then you’re going to develop one for yourself and another one for your subordinates.

What do you need to develop a fitness plan?

  1. Goals: General and specificRealistic:
    1. Start out more simplistic and grow more complex (want to challenge, but not undermine confidence);
    2. What areas do you need to develop (sensitivity, judgment, motivation, character)
    3. Are you building or maintaining?
    4. Start slowly
  2. Schedule
    1. Realistic and adaptable to changing environments and schedules
    2. Vary volume and intensity
  3. Activities
    1. For each specific goal
    2. Fun and interesting
    3. Matched to current skill level, tilted forward
    4. Time and convenience
    5. Make sure are varied
    6. Guidelines:
      1. Show both good and bad examples (want people to model good decisionmaking, so have to illustrate it).
      2. Hot washes to re-frame events in ways that promote moral sensitivity.
      3. Train like you fight…
      4. Hit people’s level of moral development
  4. Tools
    1. How can you measure growth?  Kidder gives us inner restraint, moderation of desires, and modesty in approach. Others?
    2. Progress log (journal?)
    3. What does conscious reflection look like?
    4. If morality is the mean between law (the enforceable) and free-will (discretion), what motivates you to self-regulate?  Why do you restrain yourself? How can you encourage subordinates to restrain themselves? What are the areas where restraint is appropriate?
    5. What inspires you to keep at it when you get bored? (How do you develop a habit/discipline?)
    6. Books, lectures, religious services, time out in nature, accountability groups, journal, PT time.
  5. Support
    1. Buddy / mentor: Who do you trust for mentorship? What kind of mentorship works for you?
    2. Do you need a trainer? A running buddy? Who keeps you accountable to the process and who do you look to for guidance?  When developing the plan for your subordinates, who else in the unit needs to be involved? What role do they play?
    3. What’s your plan for when you fall off the wagon?

Remembering that you’re not just responsible for yourself, but those you lead, how can you develop your subordinates’ ethical fitness plan?

  • What are your goals for your immediate subordinates?
    • How do you get them there? (Activities, tool, support)
    • What are your goals for your subordinates’ subordinates?
      • How do you get them there?
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