Many of us have to make decisions that define who we are and what we believe in. Most often, the choices we face may seem insignificant. But this doesn’t mean that they’re not essential to us: even the most minor action can have an impact on our self-respect, our integrity, and, ultimately, our reputation.
Integrity is a characteristic that many of us value in ourselves, and it’s one we look for consistency in our leaders. But what does it mean to have integrity?
The Random House Dictionary defines integrity as:
- Adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.
- The state of being whole, entire, or undiminished.
- A sound, unimpaired or perfect condition.
Although the definition is sound, it can be more complex to define integrity in our everyday lives.
You could say that integrity is always doing the right thing, even when no one is looking, and even when the choice isn’t easy. Or, you might see goodness as staying true to yourself and your word, even when you’re faced with severe consequences for the choices that you’re making.
Alternatively, look at the second and third of these definitions. These were likely meant for structures, such as the integrity of a building. But we can just as easily apply this definition to ourselves. When we have integrity, we’re whole and in perfect condition, and awkward “inconsistencies do not compromise us.”
When we live our lives with integrity, it means that we’re always honest, and we let our actions speak for who we are and what we believe in. Integrity is a choice we make, and it’s a choice we must keep making every moment of our lives.
There are several reasons why integrity is so important.
First, living a life of integrity means that we never have to spend time or energy questioning ourselves. Our lives and actions are open for everyone to see, and we don’t have to worry about hiding anything.
When we have integrity, we gain our leaders, colleagues, and team’s trust. We’re dependable, and when we hold ourselves accountable for our actions, we become role models for others to follow.
All of this, in turn, directly impacts our success in life. People who live and work with integrity are more likely to be considered for promotions. Why? Because integrity is a hallmark of ethical leadership, organizations want leaders that they can trust, and when you demonstrate integrity, you show everyone your honesty.
The reputation of a thousand years may be determined by the conduct of one hour.– Japanese Proverb
Your integrity is what determines your reputation, and, just as this proverb states, all it can take is a single wrong choice to destroy a lifetime’s worth of integrity.
So, how can you work on developing and preserving your integrity?
Step 1: Define Your Values
You can’t live by values if you don’t know what you truly believe in. So, start by defining your core values. These are the values that you’re not going to compromise on no matter what the consequence.
Step 2: Analyze Every Choice You Make
Often, people cut corners or make bad choices when they think no one is watching. Having integrity means that, no matter what, you make the right choice – especially when no one is watching!
You’ll usually know what’s right and wrong, although sometimes you might need some quiet time to figure it out. If you’re not sure what the right choice is, ask yourself these two questions:
- “If my choice was printed on the front page of the newspaper for everyone to see, would I feel OK about it?”
- “If I make this choice, will I feel OK with myself afterward?”
Step 3: Encourage Integrity
People with integrity often have the same characteristics: they’re humble, they have a strong sense of self, they have high self-esteem, and they’re self-confident. These characteristics are essential, because, sometimes, you’ll be under intense pressure from others to make the wrong choice.
Work on building and improving these characteristics within yourself to have the strength and courage to do the right thing when the time comes. Build your self-confidence and self-esteem and work on developing character. Spend time getting to know yourself and what you believe in. Develop friendships and work relationships with others who demonstrate integrity and support your decisions.
Having integrity means that you live by your deepest values, you’re honest with everyone, and you always keep your word.
Integrity is a highly valued trait, especially in leaders. You’re more likely to be considered for important promotions and leadership positions when you live with integrity.
To develop and protect your integrity, start by identifying your core values. These are the values you refuse to compromise on, no matter what. Next, analyze every choice you make to ensure that you’re doing the right thing.
Then, develop a culture of integrity around you, work on building your self-confidence and self-esteem, and develop relationships with others who live with integrity. Life becomes simple when we listen to our hearts and do the right thing.