Many respected people are known to value integrity as one of their most important traits. Integrity is defined as making decisions based on values, not personal gain.
If my values are fairness, and I work at a club that shares the tips, and a customer gives me large tips and tells me to keep them for myself, has integrity been demonstrated by me taking my tip without telling my coworkers?
Another way to look at it is: Would I behave the same way if someone was watching me? You would act with integrity regardless of whether you were being watched because you believe it is the right thing to do. People with integrity don’t always do the right thing. They admit to their mistakes and make amends.
A decision to live an integrity lifestyle will impact all aspects of your day, including your relationships with family, friends, and business.
If integrity is lacking in our relationships, leaders, or ourselves, there’s a risk of support being lost. It sounds simple, but it can be difficult to put into practice.
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What is integrity?
Integrity can be defined as adhering to moral and ethical principles; having sound moral character; being honest.
So what does this really mean? Integrity is a way to be respectful of yourself and others. Even if you have different views, others know your position, and you know theirs. You can live peacefully together. Integrity is a sign of reliability. You are trustworthy when you promise to do something, and you do it. You are honest, and you will correct any errors you make. It is not just about being right but about knowing yourself and what you stand for, even when no one is looking.
Don’t let others coerce or force you to do something that doesn’t “feel” right. Your actions are a reflection of your inner values.
It is difficult to align your values and actions when you say one thing but do the other. You lose credibility over time with both others and yourself. Although it may not be something you realize, you begin to doubt the things you say you will do deep down. You might tell yourself you will stop drinking, get fitter, spend more time with your loved ones, read more, and save more money. These things sound wonderful on the conscious level. Your mind is thinking, “Yeah, right.” This is not the first time you have heard similar statements and failed to follow up on them.
Suppose you break your promises to yourself and others or act in ways that are contrary to your values; this is basically saying to yourself that it’s OK to say one thing and do another; this can happen to anyone at times, but it is possible to cause damage if it occurs repeatedly.
Integrity is also defined as “what it takes to make someone whole and complete.” It means your actions align with your thoughts; this is great because you are aligned, and it feels great!
How to Develop and Preserve Integrity
Your integrity determines your reputation. Sometimes, all it takes is one bad decision to ruin a lifetime of integrity.
Know and Keep Your Values
If you don’t know your core beliefs, you can’t live by them. Start by defining your core values. These are the values you will not compromise on, regardless of the consequences. List the things you hold dear and what you believe in. It would help if you made a list true to you and not what you think it should be—examples: love, respect, kindness, health, etc. Next, define their meanings and describe what it looks like to have them.
Be aware of your thoughts.
Your thoughts are very important, be aware of what you think. If your thoughts drift from your values, you can change your thinking. If you find yourself thinking negative thoughts, stop it! Remind yourself of your values.
People often make poor choices or cut corners when they don’t think anyone is watching. Integrity means that you will always make the right decision, even when no one is looking!
Most of the time, you will know what is right and wrong. Sometimes it may take some time. These are two questions to ask yourself if you aren’t sure which choice is best:
- “Would I be OK if my choice were printed on the front page of the newspaper, for all to see?”
- “If I make that choice, will it make me feel OK with myself?”
Honesty and integrity are not values you should only live by when convenient; they should be values you live by daily. This applies to both the big and small choices and the ones that are not obvious to everyone.
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Keep your promise or give your very best.
A promise is the first step in a decision or a responsibility you have taken. If you don’t keep your promises, it can cause you to lose focus and make it difficult to fulfill your obligations. You must be sensible about ensuring that you keep your promises and complete them promptly.
When you commit to something and do it completely, you might fail. It is OK to fail if you try your best. Do not commit if you don’t feel capable of following through. Don’t make any commitments based on guilt or fear. Tell yourself and others what you can do.
Be an example of integrity to others.
Your morals and ethics should be consistent, clear, and open to scrutiny. Ask others around you to question your morals and ethics, especially if you don’t seem to be acting with integrity. Suppose a colleague suggests an approach you find questionable regarding your ethics around inclusion. In that case, you might say, “Tell me about how this fits in with our values around inclusiveness?” this is a curious, collaborative approach rather than one that is conflictual.
Stand up for what you believe in
Standing up for what you believe is important and will make you feel better. This can be done positively and respectfully. Ask yourself, “How can I satisfy my ethics while still accommodating your outcomes?” Use positive and creative thinking to achieve a win-win situation.
Keep your environment and yourself clean and tidy.
Recognizing that you are the heart of your business is key to this realization. If you are not aware of your surroundings, it is difficult to influence other areas of your life.
Do the little things you’ve been meaning to do. What is the most recent time you read a book? Is that the same project you started three years ago but never completed? What will happen to the one thing you are passionate about but have been too busy to do while earning a living?
Clear your desk and get rid of clutter that distracts you from your focus. Take a look at your papers and mail, and clean up any extras you don’t want in your home.
Keep your eyes on the prize.
Did you ever notice that everything around you begins to fall when you lose your personal care? It can be difficult to find the right balance in your life for your family, business, and yourself. Making lists and setting alarms on my smartphone or online calendar helps me stay on track, even when the clock is ticking. It is important to notify people important to you, such as family members, friends, and colleagues, about your commitments; this will keep you accountable.
Let the right influences influence you.
Surround yourself with people who inspire you to increase your integrity. You don’t have to be able to interact with influential people personally. Read books and listen to motivational seminars; your mind is a reflection of your actions. Your inputs can affect your integrity.
Forgive yourself and others.
All of us are human and will make mistakes despite our best intentions. We all have different beliefs and values; this can lead to miscommunication, which can cause anger, frustration, and other negative emotions. It is important that you forgive yourself and others and respect each other as they are.
These are the things that will help you build integrity. This is not a call to judgment but to self-scrutiny. It doesn’t matter if you are not perfect. You can make mistakes, but you should commit to fixing things or starting again. You’ll be able to improve your integrity and strengthen relationships by making these commitments.