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How & Why You Should Live A Life of Integrity

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Have you ever stopped to assess how honest you are? Most people lie almost every single day, or at least omit the truth, and hide their real thoughts and feelings about what is happening. Why do people do this? Let’s explore that in an open and honest discussion, including what it’s like to live with integrity at all times… to be genuine and real.

Most people consider themselves to be “good”. After a career of working with dangerous and recidivist offenders, I have had some of the most dishonest and selfish people in New Zealand tell me time and time again that they see themselves as basically good people. And a huge majority of the non-criminal friends and associates I have had also indicate that they see themselves as people of integrity… “I only lie when I have too”.

So what is integrity? In my opinion this concept requires a best-effort attempt to at all times be transparent and honest. A person of integrity is, in my mind, someone who is the same person in all situations, from the boardroom meeting, to a funeral, to breakfast with their family. They do not hide their reactions or opinions, they do not manipulate others through deception, and they do not pretend.

Very few people I have met fit this strict criteria, because most people I know (including those I would put into the “good person” category) at least omit their view of the truth regularly. Think about yourself during a normal week; how many times do you:

  • Tell someone you feel “fine” when really you feel otherwise?
  • Smile and nod in agreement with something you do not agree with?
  • Compliment someone to make them feel better, rather than because you feel a genuine impulsive desire to compliment them?
  • Help someone out without asking for anything in return, but secretly make a mental note of the favour because they now “owe you one”?
  • Allow someone to inconvenience you, frustrate you, or get in your way, just to avoid conflict?

 

Hey, we all do these things, so don’t beat yourself up! You may consider dishonesty to be limited to deliberately deceiving someone in a malicious way for your own benefit, when actually it goes far beyond that. You may find yourself being dishonest with the best of intentions. If you are like I was, you hide your feelings or tell lies for any of the following reasons:

  • To keep a situation stable
  • To avoid confrontation and conflict
  • To prevent someone’s feelings from getting hurt
  • To keep information confidential to ensure someone’s privacy
  • To avoid hassle, including having to explain yourself or defend your actions

So what’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with being “nice”? I used to believe that there was nothing wrong with this, that in fact I was being a noble person with high social intuition and emotional quotient (EQ) by keeping the peace and facilitating a happy atmosphere. But then as time passed I realised that I was actually only creating short-term positive outcomes; that unbeknownst to me I was causing long-term negative consequences. By not honestly presenting my feelings about things each and every time I had the opportunity to, I had set some precedents that ended up with something negative I had to overcome later on.

 

Some of the negative consequences of telling “good” lies

Hiding your negative feelings in reaction to something someone does or says may seem like a legitimate strategy to keep the peace and avoid unnecessary conflict. However, what you are actually doing is condoning an idea or behaviour that you truly believe is negative, and therefore giving the person who is doing it unhelpful feedback. If, for example, a friend starts going on a racist rant and you don’t argue with him, just to avoid conflict, then you are giving him feedback that it is OK to be racist. You are setting him up to reinforce his own skewed views. Later on, he assaults someone for being a different race to him, all because no-one ever challenged his distorted views.

Helping out someone without asking for anything in return, yet secretly thinking that this person now owes you a favour, may feel like you are reducing their guilt in receiving your help. Think about it: you are actually increasing guilt! They now feel vaguely indebted to you or, more likely, they feel like they are imposing on you. If instead you tell them honestly that you will ask for their help for something in the future in return, not only will they feel totally guilt-free about the exchange, they will also get a better understanding of how valuable your time is. This way you don’t set a precedent of them under-valuing you and abusing your generosity.

Put yourself in the position of someone asking for help: doesn’t it feel better when you can offer them something back in return? Doesn’t something feel more valuable when it is not completely free?

Integrity Picture Quote

 

Can you be honest in a safe way?

Yes, if you take the time to present your views and feelings appropriately. Obviously, if your boss says something you disagree with and you shout out “That’s ridiculous, don’t be such an idiot, I want you out of my life you moron!” then you put your job on the line. It’s all about how you present your feelings. There are many different ways to be honest, and being diplomatic and respectful can also have integrity. Showing respect for someone because of their position or relationship with you does not override honesty.

The only way to learn how to be genuinely honest in all situations is to practice it. You don’t have to dive straight into removing all dishonesty from your interactions this very instant. Once I realised I wanted to make this change, I started off gradually, with only observing my dishonesty at first. For a couple of weeks I didn’t try to be more honest, I just tried to catch myself out when I was lying or hiding my true feelings. I tried to analyse why I did it, and what the outcomes of doing so was.

Only after that did I start expressing my feelings more honestly, dishing them out over time in a controlled and experimental fashion. I would set mini-goals, like “today I will answer every question honestly”, or “in today’s team meeting I’m going to express that I think there could be a better way of doing x, y or z”.

So being honest is not about being brutally critical. If that’s how it comes out, then maybe you need to learn how to look for the positives in people rather than just the faults. One way of doing this is following the management practice of giving five positive feedback comments for every negative one. Don’t just express those negative feelings you hide, but also expand and increase your expression of positive ones to balance them out. There’s a lot of great things happening out there once you open your eyes by trying to find them.

One way of delivering feedback is to follow models of effective reflection. My favourite is the “BEID” model, which stands for:

Behaviour / Example / Impact / Do

Basically, to avoid personally attacking someone when you are trying to express a feeling, try following a template that clarifies what exactly you disagree with. If, for example, someone regularly makes you look bad in team meetings, you could pull them aside after one and express yourself using this model:

“I just wanted to give you some feedback on something you keep doing. I feel that you often undermine me in team meetings (behaviour), like today when you said that I didn’t get my report in on time (example). It makes me look bad in a situation where I’m not able to explain myself or the context (impact). What I would prefer is that you take me aside and discuss these with me before team meetings, so that we can look at alternatives to improve how I work (do)”.

This is much more effective than saying that he’s a jerk behind his back to your colleagues!

 

“The foundation stones for a balanced success are honesty, character, integrity, faith, love and loyalty.” – Zig Ziglar

 

 

Conclusion

There is a lot more required to the practical aspect of living a life of integrity, and it’s all about having control over how you express yourself. But it’s also about being honest with yourself first and foremost; admitting to yourself that not only can you be dishonest, you do it because you are afraid of the consequences of being honest.

I can tell you from personal experience that the transition to a life of integrity is nowhere near as hard as it seems to be. You’ll find people respect and trust you more, that they start seeking your feedback because of your integrity. One of the best things I noticed was that I felt much more comfortable and guilt-free in more situations, because I had nothing to hide. It made me feel like more of a real man.

I look forward to your honest feedback! Have a great week (and I genuinely mean that). Thanks for reading.

Dan is a lifestyle and success coach, with his own company The Inspirational Lifestyle Ltd. He lives in Auckland, New Zealand, and loves to share his advice and opinions on how to attain success. Make sure you checkout more of Dans articles at: TheInspirationalLifestyle.com

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When you look back on your life, what do you want to think about? Do you plan to reminisce on all of the good things that have happened and how they shaped who you are today? Or would you rather remember all of the bad decisions, challenging experiences, and mistakes made that hurt or wasted a portion of your life?

In my opinion, I think it is important to reflect on both. While it’s important to remember the hardships we’ve been through in our lives – without them we wouldn’t be where we are now. There are 3 very specific areas that I feel have helped me grow in a personal sense more than anything else in my life so far. 

These aren’t simple lessons in a book or a lecture that you can just absorb and apply to your life. These are things that I’ve learned through experience and reflection, and I’m still learning and growing today.

1. We determine how much we’re worth by what we think about ourselves, others, and life in general.

This might seem like a pretty obvious lesson in life but it’s actually one of the most important because we can determine our own worth by how we think about ourselves and the world around us. If you’re looking for success in any kind of business or social setting (dating), then I’ll tell you right now that it doesn’t matter if you have 10 billion dollars or not – people are still going to judge you based on your thoughts and beliefs alone.

What determines our value isn’t necessarily what we do with our lives (which is often based on luck) but whether or not we believe that ‘our work’ is worthy or not in some sort of grand scheme or universe. We may not always be able to control what happens in our lives, but we can always control how we value ourselves and others.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou

2. You don’t have to change your habits or personality just because someone else doesn’t like it – their opinions are THEIRS alone.

This is another one of those lessons that people tend to pick up on a little bit late in life, but if anything that makes its importance even worse! Basically, there’s going to come a time when you’re going to meet someone who has certain expectations of you as a person…but these expectations might not be realistic due to their motivations and personal beliefs. For example, sometimes parents might expect you to be a lawyer or doctor because that’s what they believe is best for their child.

However, this isn’t the case for everyone and so maybe your passion lies in music or writing novels. In this example, if you were also pressured into becoming a doctor – then there would obviously be some kind of conflict going on within yourself as a person. You should never have to give up something that you want to do just because someone else doesn’t like it! The reason why we’re put onto this Earth is to make our own choices and go after our OWN dreams instead of letting others determine what we can and cannot do with our lives .

3. You can’t change your life until you accept that you need to make a change.

When I was younger, I thought that this lesson would be pretty obvious – but as I got older, it really made me appreciate the fact that there are always different ways of perceiving our lives. For example, if someone wants to become rich and famous one day – their mind might simply overshadow any other possibility in their head because they feel like this is what they NEED to do right now.

However, this isn’t always true within our own lives because we think about things too literally instead of having an open mind. If you want to achieve success in any kind of business or social setting (dating) then you should be willing to try out different things instead of staying in your comfort zone. If you want something, then it’s up to YOU to actually go after it – nobody else is going to give it to you!

The three lessons above are some of the main things I want to pass on to everyone because they’ve come at an important time in my life where I need to start thinking about others instead of only myself. It’s great if we can learn to love ourselves first before anything else, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect everyone around you even though they might be your friends and family members!

If you enjoyed this article on the 3 most important things I learned about personal growth, then please share it with your friends and family! Also, check out my other articles on success & motivation as well as life lessons that could help people who are struggling with their life right now on lifengoal.com. Thanks for reading!

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