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How to Stay in Integrity with Yourself

Often times when a client of mine is struggling, it's because something is out of alignment. In some way, they have fallen out of (or never really got in sync with) their integrity.

But what is integrity, really? The word is derived from the Latin word integritas which means whole or complete; it is related to integrate, or bringing together. Thus, integrity is a psychological process, an integration of your outer life and inner life— two sides coming together, creating a whole, consistent you. In our society such integration can be hard to come by. Many of us are disconnected from our true inner core, while others of us rarely reveal it. And without our integrity, it can be very easy to fall into old habits, to lose sight of what is important to us, and to never reach our goals or achieve our dreams.

Luckily, there are ways to discover and hone in on elements that will lead you to becoming your most authentic self and leading a life of integrity, which will allow you to achieve any and everything you could want in this lifetime.

1. Find and define your sense of purpose.

"Being a human being is the greatest opportunity you could have. Other forms of life don’t have what you have— namely, the ability to control their lives, to make choices, to set their destiny; only humans do. Being human is a gift, one that we need to appreciate and grasp. Take advantage of this time and opportunity in the cycle of life; act, and act boldly." - Buddhist monk

With this unique ability to choose and control, what do you truly want to do with the opportunity and time that you have? To figure this out, you must take action. Explore, try things, fail, try again. Discover what excites you most, and then do that thing as much as you can.

2. Don't settle.

Set high expectations for yourself. Don't push issues to the back burner of your life. Don't allow yourself to get so busy running your life that you don't live your life. Intentionally sort through and set priorities. Decide what you want, what is important to you, and go after it! Don't simply take what you get.

3. Sort out your shoulds and wants.

Instead of only listening to your gut, consider your heart: This is where passion and a sense of purpose come from. Listen to your wants and desires and bursts of excitement, not the shoulds that society or your peers might be telling you.

4. Rewire your brain.

Change where your information about you comes from. It requires that you keep your ear close to your heart, and then, take action.

5. Be courageous.

Each time you listen to and act upon these gut and heart impulses, however faint, this source of information about you becomes ever-stronger in your brain and life. But this requires courage— the essential ingredient of integrity— to step away from the crowd and listen to your own inner voice.

6. Define your values and visions.

What is your vision of a “good” life, a "good" person? How do your gut and heart impulses align with your values? The key here is your values, not merely copying those of others. Intentionally decide what it is you want those values and visions to be.

The challenge here is shaping blunt values into clear behavioral principles: Saying, for example, that health is important to you may be a value, but it is too murky. What does it mean to you to truly value your health? Where does your health fit into the other priorities of your life? What does valuing your health mean in terms of your daily actions, how you treat yourself, or how you spend your time, both with yourself and others?

7. Make clear decisions and be intentional about it.

Think of your inner life as the foundation on which you build your outer life. Build is the operative word, because it is about being intentional: through the filter of your values, your sense of purpose, your gut instincts and desires you want to make clear decisions. That does not mean the decisions are easy. For example, do you take a less-stressful job so you have more time to spend with your kids, or do you take a more stressful job but one that pays more and allows you to provide more opportunities for your kids, like a college education? Not an easy decision to make.

Again, sort through your priorities and vision. Take your time.

What you don’t want to do is drift, to not be intentional, or to let life and circumstance carry you along. Integrity requires that you avoid automatically falling into the easy or popular path.

8. Stay committed to what you believe.

This is about being aware and diligent, about checking in with yourself and asking, Am I living a life that I am proud of? This is about having "the courage of your convictions" as they say— the willingness to speak out. Though difficult at first, it gets easier with practice. You'll notice that what you feared would happen rarely does.

9. Stay open to change.

Keep your ear close to those inner voices, and when your inner life changes, as it probably will, take the time to sort out and sift through what to keep and what to let go of. Then integrate, be bold, and bring this redefined version of you into your daily life. Acknowledging and adapting to change is what keeps your inner and outer lives in alignment.

Creating integrity is not a forced march through life, and it's not about not being better, trying harder, and following yet another should. It’s about self-honesty and having the courage to hear and accept what your heart and life are telling you so that you can more fully become who you already are.

It’s about connecting you to you.

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