Hello, I’m Michael Sliwinski, founder of Nozbe - to-do app for business owners and their teams. I write essays, books, work on projects and I podcast for you using #iPadOnly in #NoOffice as I believe that work is not a place you go to, it’s a thing you do. More…

Moral compass. On being honest and what I’m doing every day to make better decisions.


Recently I read the book by Dan Ariely called “Predictably Irrational” and I think it was a fantastic book. I’ll blog about it later but today I wanted to focus on something that really struck me there and influenced how I approach my work every single day. It’s about moral compass and prayer and being a better person. Here goes.

Moral compass. On being honest and what I’m doing every day to make better decisions.

As you know I’m Catholic. Having said that, daily habit of prayer has always been something I’ve been struggling with. It turns out being able to talk to God is a skill and it’s not that easy to make it regular, honest and not boring or repetitive. Following advice by Michael Hyatt I was trying to read the Bible every day using the “One Year Bible” Kindle book. The problem was, the habit of reading a piece of Bible every day wasn’t sticking with me… I’d read one day… and forget… or “not have the time” to read the other… until I read Dan Ariely’s book and found out about an experiment that changed my point of view dramatically:

Experiment on cheating

Dan made an experiment. He wanted to find out if people are likely to cheat when they have an opportunity to do so. Well, yes. They are. When people have a chance, they will cheat. Mostly a little, but they will. Even the ones who are supposed to have an impeccable moral compass. It turns out we have a built-in tolerance for “small cheats”. I can totally relate to that.

Cheating with moral compass

Dan kept making changes to the experiment and he made an amazing discovery in the process. This discovery is the reason for this blog post.

Dan made an identical experiment as above but before asking the participants to start, he asked them to list 10 commandments. Some didn’t remember all of the commandments but they wrote what they knew. Other time he asked them to sign the code of the university or institution they were representing. In all of the above situations people didn’t cheat. Like at all. Like they-give-me-a-chance-to-cheat-but-I-thought-better-of-it.

Turns out remembering about your code, God or any kind of moral guideline before having a chance to cheat… makes us less likely to cheat. Makes us more attentive to our tolerance of “small cheats”.

This is one of the reasons people speak in the court house under oath. Of course, some people will still cheat… but all in all, we are less likely to cheat when remembering our morals beforehand.

That’s why I made a small change in my daily routine…

Now, back to me. Inspired by what I read in Dan’s book I decided to make a small, but significant change in my daily routine. Now I don’t allow myself to postpone daily Bible reading. Never. Every day before starting work I read the Bible as in the “One Year Bible”. One passage from Old Testament, one from New Testament, one Psalm and a couple of Proverbs. I use the “One Year Bible NKJV” as my guideline but actually read the passages from the “Bibla Tysiaclecia” in Polish. Yes, on my iPad of course.

Will daily Bible reading make me a better person?

Who knows. I don’t. But inspired by Dan’s study I don’t allow myself to start a workday without reading Bible. I just hope this daily “moral compass” reminder will help me make better decisions throughout the day.

Choose your own daily “moral compass” reminder

This is mine. I read the Bible. Choose whatever works for you. Again, I don’t have any proof that it works, but based on Dan’s study I’m inclined to think it does. Even if only a little. I think it’s worth the effort… and it helps me build my daily prayer habit in the process which is a great bonus.

Question: How do you try to make better decisions? What works for you?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013 /pray/