I have been asking myself recently whether it’s possible to always stay in integrity? I consider myself honest and someone who walks-her-talk which, considering the work I do, is very important. And yet I also notice that when I ask myself at a deeper level, I don’t always stay in integrity. I’ve been wondering, is it possible to be 100% in integrity with your values and beliefs 100% of the time? If yes, how do I/we deal with conflicts in our values that are bound to crop up in our 21st Century lifestyles?
What does it mean to stay in integrity?
The Cambridge dictionary defines integrity as:
The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles that you refuse to change.
I think the last part of this definition, “…that you refuse to change” is the challenging part. I believe most people are honest and also that most people believe in being kind and treating others as they would like to be treated themselves. But let me give you a few examples that show how easily these values are temporarily overlooked or ignored on a fairly regular basis.
If you are a kind and considerate person—are you ALWAYS so? Do you make a cup of tea for a work colleague who constantly pushes your emotional buttons? In a hurry to get somewhere on time, do you let another driver out in front of you? Do you listen considerately to an older family member who is telling you a story that you’ve heard a dozen times before?
What about looking after our environment? Do you drive at 55 miles-an-hour on a motorway (for most cars this is the most fuel efficient speed)? Or do ‘cruise’ at 70+ mph? Have you tumble-dried clothes instead of hanging them outside because the weather looks iffy? Do you sometimes buy food that you end up throwing away? Do you turn the thermostat up rather than putting on a jumper?
I’m sure most of us have done one or more of the above: I have. I know too I could find many more similar examples. Does it matter? Perhaps ‘I am a kind and considerate person’ needs to be modified to: ‘I’m a kind and considerate person – most of the time’? Is this OK? If yes, where do you draw a line in the sand to be in integrity?
Lessons from Martin Corry: retired England Rugby Captain
Last month I was invited to back to Banbury Business Breakfast Club to celebrate one of my old client’s successes. It was so delightful to see how well he has done and also to catch-up with old networking acquaintances that I have not seen for several years.
The guest speaker, Martin Corry, spoke about what it had taken to become England’s Rugby Captain. He spoke of how he had learnt that to be at the top of his game he needed to put in 100% effort at all times. He had to be 100% responsible for himself and focused on his goal. To him this meant training even when he didn’t feel like it and playing at his very best right to the very end of every match even when, at a games end, his legs and chest were screaming for him to stop.
But it was a short story he shared towards the end of his talk that really caught my attention. Post rugby career, Martin was keen to gain business experience. On one occasion he had been shadowing a Sales Manager. His mentor worked hard – in the office and on the road. At the end of one day whilst out on the road, this Sales Manager had secured a large order for his company. When this happened, company policy was to leaflet all nearby properties to maximize sales. However, it was now 6 pm. The Sales Manager said he had just one more call to make then they would go home. He told Martin not to worry about the leaflets. But to Martin this was out of integrity with his belief of being the best he could be 100% of the time. So whilst the Sales Manager made his last call, Martin leafleted the properties. Despite it being a menial job and that the company would not know if it had been done or not, Martin felt he had to be the best he could be and this included completing this task. And this really inspired me for it is too easy to let yourself off the hook. Too easy to give yourself good reasons for not doing the things you believe in.
Martin’s story reminded me of something I had read in Caroline Myss’s book: “Entering The Castle”. Although Caroline talks about ‘consciousness’ I think it’s very much along the lines of being in integrity. In her book, Caroline shares what happened at one of her workshops when she asked the question:
‘How do you act unconscious—in other words, how often do you pretend to be unaware of the consequences of your actions and their incongruity with your beliefs—when you are really quite aware of what you are doing?’
One brave man admitted that he didn’t live his life consciously as he knew he could/should because it wasn’t fair. Asked to expand, he said:
‘Well, since I’m learning about the power of positive attitudes and how we need to forgive in order to heal, it seems I’m always the one who has to do all of the forgiving. Everyone else gets to stay resentful because they are not as conscious of the toxic health consequences of being unforgiving or angry. So I’m always the one has to be more giving and more understanding. I’m always the one who has to see things as illusions and symbolically, while everyone else gets to take them literally and stay bitter or greedy or lustful or angry or whatever.’
‘It seems that the more unconscious you are, the more fun you have. I am not ready to be as forgiving as one is supposed to be on the spiritual path. I’m not ready to be compassionate toward everyone. I just don’t feel that way and I can’t fake it. I still need to feel superior to others for me to keep my world in order. I do feel better than people who refuse to go to work. I feel superior to rapists and murderers and no one can convince me otherwise. I’m not prepared to see the goodness in these people. They are not good people and some are unredeemable. I am more conscious of deliberately choosing to not be conscious than my commitment to maintain a conscious life. It’s just too hard sometimes and, it doesn’t seem fair to work harder than other people who are just so unconscious.’
Whether you are spiritually inclined or not, I think this shows very much the dilemma that a lot of people, including me, struggle with in terms of how to be in integrity in your life. Being fully authentic to who you believe you are and being the best you can be at all times is challenging. It appears that much of the developed world is not ready for this level of integrity—BUT none-the-less I also know that many people are becoming increasingly aware, and they are choosing to walk along this path despite its challenges, for the rewards are (at least to me) worth it.
Stepping into integrity
As your own integrity is unique to you, there are no hard and fast rules about what is right or wrong, nor which is a better or worse way to live your life. You need to choose what’s right for you – and then be responsible for those choices. I think that as people begin to work on themselves through coaching, healing or other self-development methods, then living in integrity will increasingly crop-up. If you choose to work on your integrity, decide which area of your life to work on first and focus on that as trying to do too many things at once usually ends in failure and beating yourself up, taking you further away instead of closer to your goal. Be gentle, but persistent with yourself and you will find yourself more and more in integrity with yourself.