When no-one is looking

Jan Aitken
Jan Aitken
In the fourth part of our personal foundation series, integrity moves centre stage, writes Jan Aitken.

Isn’t it great when people do what they say they will, when people can be relied on and trusted. You don’t have to guess what they mean when they speak and there’s never any back-stabbing or gossip. They are straight up and down. In my mind they have personal integrity.

"No matter how educated, how rich, or cool you believe you are, how you treat people tells all. Integrity is everything" — unknown.

I love the quote. When I first stumbled on it I found myself saying "Yeah, absolutely!". Then I found myself thinking about integrity and contemplating what it was. What was I so enthusiastically agreeing with?

I’m sure you’ve heard people exclaim "they’ve got no integrity" usually after someone has just let them down, been unpleasant or gone back on their word. It’s not a great thing to have said about you and lack of integrity is not usually something we strive for!

The Oxford Dictionary defines integrity as "The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles".

Definitions can be pretty dry and don’t really help us to understand how things affect our lives. So let’s look a little deeper. What is integrity? How does it apply to our lives?

You may hear people talk about integrity as "doing the right thing even when no-one is watching". That’s not a bad starting point for getting a handle on integrity.

When we live our lives with integrity it means our words and actions match our beliefs and values, we are honest with ourselves and others. We’ll do what we say we’ll do and we’re consistent with it. I believe having integrity incorporates being responsible for ourselves and accountable for our actions, even if it’s a hard or unpleasant choice we’re facing. We have standards and we apply them equally to ourselves and others.

Having personal integrity is a choice we make on a day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment basis. An old Japanese proverb says "The reputation of a thousand years can be determined by the conduct of one hour".  Drop your integrity even for a moment and your world can change in an instant. I’m guessing we could all name a few high-profile people or celebrities who have felt the sharp teeth of this bite them!

Why is having integrity important? People trust those who have integrity. If we are honest and we live our life according to our values and beliefs we tend to make good choices. Life becomes a lot simpler and we don’t have to worry about hiding anything. We don’t have to worry about who got what story, who we told about "a, b or  c". That can suck your energy up and push your stress levels through the roof!

By being responsible and accountable for what we do and say we have control over our lives, we don’t blame others for what happens to us and so we avoid living life with a "victim" mindset.

All in all it’s pretty empowering!

Here are my top tips for developing integrity:

Firstly, work out your core values, they are the foundation of everything. Check the core values article on the Fit for Life website as a reminder.

• Be aware of all you say and do. Do your words and actions match? Do your words and actions reflect your values?

• Look at every choice you make. Do you do the right thing even if no-one is looking? If others knew about what you’d said or done would you feel OK about it?

• Take responsibility for your actions. That includes owning up to mistakes.

• Only make promises you know you can keep.

• Be honest, use tact and assertiveness rather than aggression and bullying.

When the pressure’s on it’s easy for integrity to fly out the window: stay strong, show people what you really stand for.

• Be humble, integrity isn’t something you shove in someone’s face.

• Pointing out you’re acting with integrity probably means you don’t have any!Integrity isn’t something just to whip out when it suits. It’s something worth striving to maintain on a daily basis for the big decisions and the little decisions, for when others are looking and for when they’re not!

- Jan Aitken is a Dunedin-based life coach.

For more go to www.fitforlifecoaches.co.nz.

Twitter:@jan—aitken

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