Self-sabotaging…”Moral Licensing”


I stumbled upon an article that was written about one of the youngest professors under 30, talking about his main research – Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Business Ethics. As it seems, CSR in businesses is a ‘good way to impact’, but in one of Dr. Sam Yam’s papers, when he was researching the companies’ forcing the employees to partake in CSR practices (e.g. volunteering, charity donations, social welfare), the ‘good’ and ‘ethical’ motive may not be as well as it is envisioned. He said:

The idea is that when you force employees to be pro-social people, they gain a sense that they’re doing something really good, even though they didn’t really want to.

They aren’t being compensated for it, so they gain that sense of psychological entitlement and they feel freer to engage in unethical behaviour later on.

After I read this article, I really couldn’t believe how this would work. How would doing good entitle anyone to do bad later? I was very confused when I read this article; do humankind really perform in this way? What drives this behavior?

Since I didn’t explicitly believe in the results of Dr. Sam Yan’s research originally, as I couldn’t believe such a twisted behavior appeared within humankind. However, I had realized there’s a more common example that many of us can relate to: going to Church. Many of Hong Kong’s secondary schools are either Christian or a Catholic school – where religious studies are taught and tested, stories are acted, or had church going on every Friday. But after graduation, very little people actually keep the regular practice of going to church.

Moral Licensing

Moral licensing‘ (definition) is a type of social psychology, of a subconscious phenomenon; it occurs where past moral behavior makes people more likely to do potentially immoral things without worrying feeling immoral. In simple terms, this means that doing good gives you ‘permission to sin‘.
Some examples: According to the author of the infamous book “The Happiness Project“, Gretchen Rubin, moral licensing works like a ‘loophole‘, that is a seemingly infinite cycle that forces us to break the practice of establishing new habits. As we begin testing and making ourselves form and keep habits, we will eventually find excuses to stop and justify – then excuse ourselves until we reach the same situation again.

  1. I’ve run a lot today. I deserve some ice cream!
  2. I’ve saved so much money on these cheap clothes, I ought to buy a luxury handbag.
  3. I’ve worked a lot today, I deserve not to tidy my room.
  4. I’ve recycled my bottle yesterday. Today it’s fine, I’ll buy a disposable carton.
  5. I haven’t turned on the air conditioner for a few days, I get to blast it tonight!

Doing ‘good’ all day gives us permission to be ‘bad’.

Gretchen Rubin says, “Loopholes matter, because when we try to form and keep habits, we often search for loopholes. We look for justifications that will excuse us from keeping this particular habit in this particular situation. However, if we catch ourselves in the act of loophole-seeking, we can perhaps avoid employing the loophole, and improve our chances of keeping the habit.”

The only way to get out of this loophole is to identify keystone habits. Habits that…

  1. you will keep. You have identified it to be something you want to change about yourself.
  2. are actions that make you a part of your identity. A part of your character that you want to have.

In order to start a habit, is easy! It takes about 30 days to form a habit. So for each month, give yourself a MISSION.

  1. Wake up early and drink two cups of water
  2. Pack your things before you go to bed
  3. Pick out your outfit for the next day
  4. Read at least 10 pages of a book a day
  5. Watch a TED Talk every day
  6. Type 1/2 a blog post every day
  7. Not use more than 5 minutes of watering time when you’re in the shower (- switch off the water tap when you’re putting on shampoo, conditioner or body wash!)

All in all, it’s not difficult to start a habit. Get a habit-friend, a person who will report your life progresses with you all the time. Good Luck! I’m in for this too!



Realistic 5Rs


Everyone had learned about the “R“s during the school days, but after graduating, most people had forgotten what they’ve learned. When going out to eat, drink, most people don’t regard their impact as a big problem, when in fact, each one of us on the Earth is contributing  to the environmental damage done. We’re just refusing to face the fact that we’re compromising our future.

To recap the “R”s we learned in primary and secondary school:

  1. Reduce
  2. Reuse
  3. Recycle
  4. Replace
  5. *new* REFUSE.

The 5th R is REFUSE, it’s a newer R in this concept. A reminder that we should refuse the opportunity to act in an unenvironmentally-friendly way.

5. REFUSE disposable plastic

  • #BYOB Bring Your Own Bag. Bring Your Own Bottle. Bring Your Own Box.
  • Bring your own bag when you go shopping.
  • Bring your own bottle when you go out. You can ask shops to fill the drinks in your bottle/tumblers.
  • Bring your own box when you go out for dinner and you think there’s a possibility of leftovers. If your box is too heavy – can help you – they have 100% silicon boxes that are collapsible and lightweight!
  • Choose items that aren’t packed in plastic.


1. REDUCE usage of materials

  • Such as doing double-sided photocopying.
  • Sharing a tempo tissue with a few people to wipe your mouth after meals.

2. REUSE everything!

  • Not everything is one-use!
  • Buy reusable cups, plates.
  • Don’t use paper cups at water stations.

3. RECYCLE paper, bottles, metals

  • Recycle paper the clean way. Keep paper dry, no staplers, stred the paper first if it’s business-related confidental information.
  • Recycle water bottles! Of course minimize the opportunity of ever buying water bottles outside, but if you do, the least you can do is recycle them.
  • Put a recycle bag at home. Collect bottles and then take them to the recycle station once a few days.
  • Recycle your canned drinks at recycle station – same principle.

4. REPLACE with environmentally-friendly versions

  • Replace your plastic or paper cups with real ones – it’s not bad to invest in a durable and long-lasting one.
  • Use environmentally-friendly recycled paper instead of pure white paper. White paper sucks when the light reflects on it and the paper is so bright, anyway.

Fictional literature is made from the imagination. (1).png

The above image is to recap. #BYOB

  • When going for a takeaway, going out for dinner, bring out a box!
    • So you don’t need to buy styrofoam boxes.
      *Styrofoam plastic = nonbiodegradable. Plastic that stays on Earth forever (even until you die!)
    • Suggestion: Buy silicon collapsible lightweight food containers @lexngo (actually I’m not sponsored by them! Honestly I feel that it’s a waste they’re not as known as they should be. It’s a plastic revolution!)Untitled design.png
    • Bring Your Own Bottle!
      • It’s hot in the summer, yes. We like to drink fruit juices from shops, bubble tea, starbucks or whatever! We can bring our own bottle or tumblers to those shops! (If you’re a HongKonger check this Apple Daily article about #BYOB: link) Very environmentally-fashionable too!
      • Help remake a tumbler a trend! Remember Starbucks’s tumbler discount: if you use their tumbler you get a $3 discount! Think about all the money you can save with all the coffee everyone drinks every day (Interesting fact: The average Hong Konger drinks 2.2 kg of coffee in 2012 alone! Source)

All-in-all, being environmentally-friendly may seem like a bother to some. But as long as it’s grown into our daily routine and incorporated into our daily lifestyle, it’s just as easy as you get up in the morning (since you have to wake up and live on anyway, same principle)!

#BYOB Let’s prepare our Earth’s future together.

The best.png