Website owner:  James Miller

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A sense of duty, of moral obligation; a sense of "ought to"; a sense of responsibility

   Why the big differences between the way children do in school?  
   Some do very well and others do very poorly.  One can attribute 
   it to interest, motivation, ability to concentrate, etc., and 
   no doubt these things are involved.  But perhaps there may be a 
   deeper reason.  I ask myself: "Why did I study when I was in 
   school?  What was the primary reason I studied?  Interest in the 
   subject?"  No, that was not the primary reason.  Was it because 
   I enjoyed studying?  No, that was not the main reason.  The 
   reason I studied was because of a feeling deep down inside me 
   that I should, that I "ought to" (a sense of moral obligation, 
   duty).  I studied because I knew I should study.  I studied 
   hard and seriously.  Why did I study hard and seriously?  
   Because of interest or enjoyment?  No.  Because I knew I 
   should.  It was a voice inside me.  I, by habit, obeyed the 
   voice.  I may have developed an interest in the subject after 
   getting started.  I may have found it enjoyable after getting 
   started.  But the reason I did it was from a sense of duty, a 
   sense of "ought to".  It was that feeling that propelled me in 
   the most of the things that I did then.   And it is the same 
   feeling that still propels me in the most of the things that I 
   do now.  If I ask myself, "What is the underlying reason that I 
   do the most of the things that I do each day in the daily 
   routine of life?", the answer must be:  "I do 90% of the things 
   that I do each day, not from interest in doing them, or 
   enjoyment from doing them, but because I know I should do 
   them, because I know I 'ought to' do them."  When there are 
   things that need to be done at home or at work I do them, I do 
   them promptly, and I do them well.  Why?  The feeling that "I 
   ought to".  I just do what I feel I ought to do.  Generally, I 
   have no interest in them.  I often obtain little pleasure in 
   doing them.  And if I do find interest or pleasure in doing 
   them it is pleasure or interest that is generated after I have 
   started them.  I keep things tidy and in order at home and at 
   work.  Why?  The feeling that I "ought to".  It is a mental 
   habit.  And I must wonder if this habit of doing those things 
   that I feel I should do is not the thing most responsible for 
   my accomplishments and achievements down through the years.  
   And I also wonder if lack of it is not the main reason for the 
   lack of achievement in many people.  There are many people who 
   habitually procrastinate, who only do those things they enjoy 
   doing or feel like doing.  The interior of their house becomes 
   a mess because they don't pick things up and keep it clean.  
   The exterior falls into disrepair because of many outside jobs 
   going undone.  Many people live surrounded by many things that 
   they ought to do but don't do.  Why?   Either they don't have 
   this feeling of "ought to" or they have it and don't obey it.  
   Why might a person know he should do a thing but not do it?  I 
   can think of one reason.  Laziness.  If one only does those 
   things in life that he finds pleasure in doing, or only does 
   what interests him, he will do badly.  Life requires that we do 
   much that is tedious and boring, much that gives no pleasure.  
   Those who live only by their feelings and whims do badly.  
   Going back to the subject of children's performance in school, 
   I suspect that the main reason many children do poorly in 
   school is either that they don't have this feeling of "ought 
   to" or they have it, but don't obey it.

   Where does this feeling of duty or moral obligation come from?  
   What is its source?  Isn't it that voice of prudence, wisdom, 
   good sense deep within us?  The voice of reason.  Or that voice 
   of knowledge of right and wrong, of conscience?  Are there 
   people who don't have these voices within them?  Or does 
   everyone have them but some people don't hear them because they 
   have gotten into the habit of ignoring them?  And others hear 
   them because they are in the habit of listening to them and 
   obeying them. 

Aug 1977

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