How to Clear up your Integrity (and Why that Matters)

In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, March Hare told Alice ‘You should say what you mean.’

‘I do’, said Alice: ‘at least – at least I mean what I say–that’s the same thing, you know.’

‘Not the same thing a bit!’ exclaimed the Hatter. ‘You might just as well say that ‘I see what I eat’ is the same thing as ‘I eat what I see’!’

Hatter is talking about Alice’s relationship with her word – her integrity. 

Wait – what? What does that mean?

Integrity can be a slippery sucker. So let’s consider what it isn’t for a second.

Integrity isn’t about having morals and doing virtuous behaviour. In theory, a serial killer could possess higher levels of integrity than you.

Having integrity is about lining up your words and actions with your inner self and intentions. So sort of like being consistent. 

Having integrity is lining up your words and actions with your inner self and intentions Click To Tweet

What do people know that they can rely on you for? How regularly to you break your word – to yourself and others? That’s your integrity.

Making integrity a priority in life involves constantly evaluating your actions for discrepancies between what you are saying and doing and what’s important to you. It’s freaking challenging. And there is nothing more worthwhile.

This article is about how to create a highly accountable relationship with your word – and why that matters.

Why bother living a life of integrity?

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Your integrity defines you. 

It’s what governs your ability to achieve the things that matter to you. It allows you to find the right relationships with people with whom you connect meaningfully.

Having integrity makes you more attractive - from a business and personal perspective Click To Tweet

It magnifies your attractiveness and personal gravity from a personal and business perspective.

How do I know what mine is like?

Some questions to help you gauge your integrity levels:

  • Are you willing to say what you are thinking?
  • How do you behave when no one is watching?
  • Are you willing to risk being wrong? Can you admit it when you are?
  • How sincere, humble and transparent are you?
  • Do you take 100% responsibility for your actions?
  • Do you talk to people or about them behind their backs?
  • Are you accountable to at least one person for what you think, say and do?

How to become a dude with integrity – 3 steps 

It all starts with a choice. The prerequisite being that you can see the value in this.

Step 2 is the not-always-funsies work of radical self-confrontation. To be in integrity in all aspects of daily pursuits, we need to take inventory of everything from our routine, our relationships, our work and how we spend our free time. The idea is that you identify behaviors that you need to drop and create new ones that match up with who you are more.

To have integrity, you've got to examine your daily pursuits for incongruous behaviors Click To Tweet

(Here is a cool example of how to do that for one area of your life – your health.)

Step 3 – is the ruthless examination of the words you are using. That’s because…

You build integrity through language 

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One of the first places integrity issues show up is in our language patterns. When we are ‘in integrity’, our words match our actions.

Monitoring my language and promises to others has been where my integrity gets tested the most. I have found that my language sometimes takes me down roads I’m not willing to follow. I know I’m not the only one. 

The main ways we use language to rob ourselves of personal power:

  • Agreeing to things without following through.
  • Gossiping or saying dis-empowering things about ourselves and others. 
  • Saying things we don’t really mean.

But….I can’t say that!

Actually, it’s surprising how often you can.

If you commit to being both compassionate and truthful in your communications, you will find that you do not upset people nearly as much as you imagine. (It is in fact much more damaging not to speak your truth).

People that are offended by your truth

If you constantly fear that others will be offended by your truth, it might be time for some housecleaning. Of your relationships I mean.

Do you really want to be spending time with people to whom you have to lie on a regular basis? I don’t. 

Letting some relationships fall by the wayside when you build integrity creates room for relationships with people you can be honest with.

Other ways to build integrity

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These things are good too:

Work on humility

I am not sure a person can have integrity without this. Having humility means you are ‘coachable’ and willing to see where you might have messed up. You can cultivate humility

Fulfill on your promises

When you don’t, apologize – but try not let it become a pattern. 

Reflect before making appointments and commitments

(I need to write this one out a few times.) A good friend of mine treats this so seriously, that he literally avoids making small commitments. I know that when he says yes, he really wants to do something – and I can rely on him 100% to show up. 

You don’t want to be too afraid to make promises; that’s no life. Just pause a beat before you do it. 

Get comfortable saying no

I don’t know about you, but I have found that the world has an endless supply of strangers with tequila. 

To safeguard our integrity is knowing how to say no and being willing to suffer the consequences. 

When you are working at improving integrity, you are going to find yourself saying no a lot Click To Tweet

Kevin Ashton, the co-founder of the MIT Auto-ID Center says: ‘No’ makes us aloof, boring, impolite, unfriendly, selfish, anti-social, uncaring, lonely and an arsenal of other insults. But ‘no’ is the button that keeps us on.’

Get familiar with how you react in knee-jerk situations

Do you have a tendency to rush to agree to something when put on the spot? The more you bring your awareness to that, slowly you can begin to break the habit. 

Polish your communications skills

Monitor your language for ambiguity.

Recognize that you might need to change certain current behaviors 

Your character traits aren’t fixed, you know. Unhelpful behaviors – speaking impulsively; sugar coating responses – might need to be swapped out for something a little more higher-self-serving. 

Avoid people who lack integrity

I repeat this often on this site: Jim Rohn says you are the average of the five people you hang out with. 

Be personally accountable to others 

If you are working on improving integrity in one particular life area, it can help to bring in an ‘accountability partner’ – both for the encouragement and a reality check.

Prioritize activities where your integrity is particularly at stake

It’s always important to keep your word – but it is particularly important for some things. Be clear on what those are. 

Regularly review all your commitments 

Keep yourself and your environment organised

I don’t know why this helps, but it does.

Find a mentor that can model consistent behaviour for you

Have at least one person in your life that has a strong relationship with integrity.

The most important relationship of your life?

Hopefully you agree with Mad Hatter and I that this is a pretty critical thing to master.

Your relationship with your word might be the most challenging relationship of your life. I know that whenever I think I am doing okay with integrity, a situation or a circumstance happens to illustrate that I have progress to make. 

But then part of living with integrity is noticing where you mess up and clearing it up as you go along.