“I’m an honest person and have always thought of myself as having integrity. I mean, relatively speaking. I mean I’m not honest all the time and sometimes I veer from my values and beliefs; but compared to some other people I know, I have much more integrity.”
Ah! herein lies the core of today’s post. My quote is a story I tell myself to rationalize my shortcomings in the area of integrity and honesty. The minute I start comparing myself to others, I am abandoning my own accountability for integrity. The minute I say I have integrity “BUT”, I am moving away from integrity.
My definition of integrity is ‘acting in alignment with my beliefs and values’. If I value honesty and then I cheat on my taxes, pad my resume, exaggerate my accomplishments, tell someone I am not upset when I really am…I am out of integrity.
If I say I’ll pay someone on the first of the month and I pay on the 12th and I rationalize it because I have been busy and other people delay their payments until much later than that, I am out of integrity.
It has as much to do with little things as big things.
If I value my health and believe that taking care of my body is an important part of being a leader, and yet after Aikido training on certain mornings I cross the street and go to the little breakfast place for a high calorie Danish and coffee, I am out of integrity. I rationalize my actions by telling myself a nice story… I had a good workout and deserve the reward. Does it hurt anyone? No. Is it a big thing? No. Should I beat myself up about it? No. Would I like to be more deliberate about my breakfast choices? Yes!
I believe in a clean environment but as I rush past a corner trashcan and shoot a balled up paper bag at it and miss, I keep going. I tell myself, that normally I’d pick it up; but today I’m late and there are so many people in the crowd, and it’s just one small piece of garbage, and I’m really pretty religious about being neat with my trash, and there’s plenty of other people’s garbage blowing around the street, and on, and on, and on.
Now, it may seem I am beating myself up about little things. It may seem like this is an exercise in negativity and self-criticism; but it isn’t. It is nothing more than waking up and becoming aware of the constant stream of stories I tell myself from moment to moment throughout the day. It is through the recognition that these stories are rationalizations that I start to breakdown their power.
I am a human being. I am not perfect. On the other hand, I want to continue to grow my integrity.
To be in integrity is to be deliberate about one’s actions.
So, armed with this awareness, every moment is a chance to choose to act in ways that are in integrity with my beliefs and values. I can choose to listen to the person standing in front of me, or I can let my mind slip into thinking about what is next on my schedule and pretend that I am listening by nodding my head and saying “Hmm!”
I can be angry and frustrated with someone’s behavior and make believe nothing is wrong while letting the anger and frustration cloud my behaviors, or I can choose to have the courage to speak with them about it.
The more we are out of integrity the more difficult it is for us to lead others.
If we say we value professional development; but make it the first target for cuts when the budget is under stress…
If we talk about transforming teaching and learning, but continue to spend all of our time and energy in putting out fires and dealing with day-to-day issues…
…when we stand in front of others and ask them to follow us, we may find that people hesitate.
Integrity builds trust, both in ourselves and in others.
It helps if we can wake up to the stories that we tell ourselves to rationalize where we are not in integrity. Once we are aware, we can decide to be more deliberate about the choices we make.
The more often our values and beliefs align with our actions, the more we feel the power of integrity. It is from here that we live a life that is ‘centered’ and ‘grounded’. It is from here that we can effectively lead others. It is from here that we can say…
…I am living life on purpose.