“Integrity is choosing your thoughts and actions based on values rather than personal gains.”
Many of us make choices and decisions in our day to day life that define who we are and what we believe in. All of us face integrity-based choices on a regular basis. Most often, the choices we have to make may seem insignificant, but even the smallest choice or action we take has an impact on our reputation.
And it always takes courage to do the right thing at all times and in all circumstances whether or not anyone is watching. But many stay disconnected from their true inner core and tend to carry on with social persona merely to seek acknowledgment, appreciation and acceptance. “The end justifies the means” has become a common school of thought in today’s world and many tend to either exaggerate, over-promise, or underdeliver in a desperation to meet their expectations or goals. They tend to justify their act of dishonesty by telling themselves a valid reason as to why the end result justified their lack of integrity.
Acting without the constraints of morality may provide instant gratification in the moment but is always temporary and the success with such actions comes with far reaching consequences and at the price of your trustworthiness. Just as honesty is essential to develop trust in any healthy personal or professional relation, so is integrity to become trustworthy.
If you can’t trust someone in all areas, you can’t trust them in any. Integrity is a prerequisite for credibility and involves an inner sense of wholeness which results in being consistently honest and morally upright. Integrity is important in all aspects of life, professional, personal, or social.:
What is integrity?
Integrity is the quality of adhering to moral and ethical principles and is a state of being whole and complete or undivided. It comes with an inner sense of ‘wholeness’ and consistency of your actions, words, decisions, measures, expectations, methods and outcomes. Integrity encompasses truthfulness, credibility and sincerity.
Learning to live with integrity requires developing self-awareness, adhering to strict moral values and communicating truthfully to others regardless of the complexity of situation or the possibility of negative consequences.
Lack of integrity, for instance, saying you will do something and not doing it or telling a lie or leading someone to believe that they can trust you and betraying them, or hiding things about yourself so that the aspect of you that other people see is not the real you or changing your opinion in order to bend to other’s opinion shows inconsistency between your words and actions.
Lack of integrity is not adhering to your conscience and not living in a state of wholeness. For instance, when someone puts pressure on your authenticity, then deciding to change your stance so others will see you as a good person demonstrates your lack of integrity. To give false impression or telling lie in a way to avoid shame of being different or for the fear of being ridiculed also takes you out of integrity.
Integrity is important to achieve your goals
Integrity is one of the most important and valuable character trait to build in order to be successful in your endeavours as it can help you to build trust, be honest and consistent in your efforts and in decision-making. Integrity includes two components that go beyond just doing the right thing. The first is honesty to adhere to moral and ethical principles.
If we are honest with ourselves we know intrinsically what the right thing is without having to look to laws, rules or some code of ethics. Being honest with ourselves and others makes us authentic to build trust. And the second is consistency to live in alignment with your values, actions and words. Being consistent enables others to rely on their expectations of your future behaviours based on your past commitments or actions.
We often fail to stay committed to our goals and resolutions due to lack of integrity that is, we simply don’t keep our word to ourselves. We make promises to ourselves and then break them often for reasons we don’t even understand. How good are we to our expectations depends to a larger extent on our integrity. When you are in integrity, you bring the same you regardless of the circumstance and don’t leave parts of yourself behind thereby removing self-doubt and show consistency in your commitments.
You cannot commit to your goals if you agree to things but never seem to be able to show up for your agreements, or when you use your words destructively or when you say things you don’t really mean. Such actions often take you out of integrity. Personal power to achieve your goals and objectives comes from being in integrity with yourself and others.
Principles or values are prerequisites for personal growth. Maintaining moral high ground and honesty in your dealings with coworkers, friends, peers, superiors or team members helps you own your sphere of influence and can gain their trust as you become dependable and hold yourself accountable for your actions, decisions or choices. This can help you to build healthy relations and impacts your success positively.
“The most important persuasion tool in your entire arsenal is your integrity.”– Zig Ziglar
How to practice living with integrity?
Everyone makes mistakes, so being a person of integrity does not mean you haven’t committed a moral violation, it means having the strength of character to learn from those and seek continual self-improvement. It is an important character trait that can be strengthened and developed in our daily life. Here are some strategies to enhance and live in integrity.
Identify your core values. Your personal values are a central part of who you are and who you want to be. They are often shaped by your formative experiences, but your values may change as you grow and adopt to new stages of life. Assess the degree to which you adhere to them and focus on what matters most to you. To live with integrity is to align your behaviours and actions with your core values.
Define what’s truly important to you and make sure they fit with your vision of yourself. Which values are important to you ? Do your values make you feel good about yourself? Are you proud of your values? Would you be comfortable and proud to tell your values to people you respect and admire? Do these values support your choice even if it isn’t popular? Answering these questions can help you in determining your values.
By becoming aware of your values, you can use them as a guide to make the best choice in any situation and maintain your sense of integrity.
Align your choices with your core values and do not drift or fall into the easy or popular path while making important career choices, work or business agreements or personal decisions. Consider all the options and consequences and the impact of your decision on yourself and others. How does your decision align with your personal values? How would it differ from a decision you would make if no one found out about your choice? If you make a choice right now, will it hold good in the long-term?
A good way to ensure that you are living a life of integrity is to assess where you are now and where you want to be in future in terms of your personal integrity. Analyse every choice you make. Keep in mind that in times of fear, stress or chaos, the temptation is even greater to make a wrong choice.
Integrity isn’t about living by your values when it is convenient, they are values that you should live by all the time which include both big and small choices. By aligning with your values all the time, you can approach decision-making with more clarity and confidence.
Set a moral code for yourself and others. Choose a set of rules, morals or principles that you believe will lead you to righteous and satisfying life based on what your values are. Be willing to update your code as you adjust your sense of right and wrong and your moral reasoning.
Most of the times how we think about right or wrong changes as we gain more experience. Whether it is leading a group of people or managing a business, parenting children, leading with integrity requires outlining a standard of behaviour by which others abide. Adhere at all times to the behavioural standard you have established for them.
Surround yourself with morally upright people.
Avoid spending your time in environments that can drag you down morally. If people around you violate your sense of integrity, consider removing yourself from that environment. Develop friendships and work relationships with others who demonstrate integrity and who support your decisions.
If you surround yourself with dishonest or by those who cut corners to get ahead, then you will find yourself following a pattern of enduring and adopting their behaviour. Do not give into others who try to get you to do things which are not in alignment with your values in favour of an easy gain. Remind yourself that you alone have to live with consequences of your behaviour.
Create an atmosphere of open communication
Communicate to others with authenticity. Be open with others regarding issues that affect them. Stop speaking impulsively or sugarcoating your response. Be assertive to put your point of view with authenticity and without being aggressive. Keeping secrets or hiding important information can lead to an environment of mistrust.
Listen attentively to others to lead them with integrity. Acknowledge others’ contributions and practice tolerance for different perspectives. Be transparent in your interactions with others so as to avoid mistrust. If you are running into obstacles then communicate to the person and take responsibility for your words and actions.
Be honest in keeping your promises
For some people, overpromising, underdelivering, or apologising for running late, for being behind schedule on their work or project, or forgetting to do the thing they said they would becomes a regular thing. Stop and reflect before you say ‘yes’ to commitments. Practice saying ‘no’ to things you know you will have difficulty completing. If you break a promise, apologise, but don’t let that become a habit. Keep your appointments personally and professionally. Be honest in owning up to your mistake and take responsibility for your action and do whatever it takes to right the situation.
If you give your word that something will be taken care of, do it. Follow through your promises and commitments. Reflect on what circumstances, relationships and patterns are leading you up to broken commitments to identify where you are most frequently breaking promises with yourself and others.
Live with mindfulness
When you live with mindfulness, you are conscious of the way you think, speak and behave every day and you work towards carrying out those activities in a more meaningful way. Meditating through mindful breathing can help you gain a deeper awareness of your thoughts and actions. You cannot live a life of integrity without being mindful of and concerned for others. A lack of empathy can result in poor judgment, act of selfishness and lead to unhappy relationships.
Show compassion and empathy towards others. Reflect on how to live and make decisions in a way that is reflective of your values and beliefs by contemplating on which actions of yours are in accordance with your conscience? Is there consistency between what you are thinking and what you are doing? Are your thoughts and practices are same? and so on.
Are you living your life with integrity?
What are your core values? What standards of behaviour are really important to you? Do you have a habit of breaking your promises? Are you two-faced? What specific values you admire about other people, Is the fact that they are generous or honest? Are you aware of your authentic self? Do you identify yourself with those values? Would you still live by those values even if they put you at a complete disadvantage?How honest are you in your behaviours, actions, and words? Are your choices and decisions aligned with your core values in all situations? Answering these questions can put you in the perspective of whether or not you are mindful of integrity in your choices and decisions.
Acting in accordance with your integrity requires aligning all aspects of yourself with what is right and to be honest and authentic with yourself. Living with Integrity is not forcing yourself or trying to be better or harder and following yet another should. It is more about authenticity, self-honesty and a steadfast adherence to a strict moral code and being whole and undivided. Appreciate yourself when you act with integrity and acknowledge when you don’t. Use the above strategies to correct course when required. Be persistent and patient with yourself and others while practising integrity.