To Begin Living Intentionally First Focus on Integrity
As kids we’re told that integrity is doing the right thing even when nobody is watching, which of course is a good thing. And as kids it was relatively easy to know what the right things to do were, as they were in stark contrast to the wrong things.
As adults discerning between right and wrong actually becomes much more challenging.
When we were kids we dealt with “Right” and “Wrong” – see how I capitalized the words? As adults we’re faced not only with judging between universal Rights and Wrongs, but we must also judge between individual rights and wrongs.
This is where integrity comes into the equation. My definition of Integrity is living your life according to your own personal truths – the things that are true for you as an individual. In this post, I’m going to cover how you can define your own truths and why it is critical for you to live according to those truths.
Start With Integrity
As I introduced the idea of integrity above, I used the capitalized versions of the words “Right” and “Wrong”. Similarly I believe there are universal “Truths”, and individual “truths”. What I mean by this, is that there are things that apply to you as an individual that don’t apply to anyone else, they are true for you, while not necessarily being true for those around you.
Discovering these individualized truths is something to be embraced, for it is only when you understand your true self and begin to live according to that self that you will find peace, contentment, and happiness. This is why integrity is the foundation of living an intentional life.
For more on integrity and discovering your true self you can ready my post: How do You Know if You’re Living with Integrity?
An Example of What Not to Do:
I happened to be in college back in 2007 during the financial collapse that led to the largest recession since the Great Depression. I was studying business because I didn’t know what else to study – truth be told I should have been studying journalism or Korean.
I looked around at the market and what people were doing coming out of school, and decided to pursue accounting. Why? Because it was the safe option.
I got a job coming out of school and it was fairly easy. The problem was that I didn’t care about accounting and I absolutely hated my job. I let fear tell me which path to pursue and not the voice in my head that was telling me, “This sucks”. I didn’t act with integrity.
Identifying the Need
The canonized definition of integrity is being honest and having strong moral principles. The challenge is that when we’re not dealing with something that requires strong moral principles – such as a career choice or our goals to be healthy – we can often be dishonest with ourselves without even knowing it.
Have you ever experienced feelings of discomfort with a decision you’ve made? Have you ever been dismayed with where you are in your life? Do you have a nagging feeling that you’re headed in the wrong direction?
These feelings can be the symptom of a much deeper problem – not being honest with yourself in relation to your individual truths.
The truth is that we don’t need money, fame, success, or possessions to be happy – research has shown us that. So its likely that those feelings of discomfort in relation to your life are coming from something else. I’d wager that they are coming from a disconnection with your true self.
Discover Your True Self
Integrity starts with identifying your individual truths – who you really are and what you really value. Here are some questions that can help you discover whether or not you are living according to your personal individual truths.
- What is my dream job? What interests me to the point of obsession?
- Am I pursuing the type of work that will make me happy?
- Am I passionate about my subject?
- If money were not a selection criteria, would I still pursue this path?
Relationships (romantic or otherwise)
- Are the patterns in my relationships healthy?
- Do the relationships I have with others give me the freedom to be myself?
- Have I set appropriate boundaries within my relationships?
- Do I live according to the things I truly believe?
- What tenants of my faith are misaligned with what I truly believe?
- Have I done enough to know whether or not I believe the things that I practice?
Of course the BIG question to ask in any situation is – are my actions and choices making me happy or are they causing negative emotions?
Some other good questions to ask are – What does my ideal life look like? What is my ideal image of myself as a person?
Note of Caution:
Just because something is hard in the moment, does not qualify it as being misaligned with your true self. Often times when working towards a goal or a dream, you will feel discouraged and experience self-doubt. That is part of the journey. Embrace it and move forward.
Integrity is a Journey
The next step in living an intentional life, is to align your behaviors with the truths you have discovered about yourself. This requires change, which for some people is an intimidating idea. It can bring up all sorts of negative feelings inside of us; such as anxiety, panic, or even apathy.
If you need help overcoming negative feelings or self doubts here are some helpful tips for re-framing the experience in your mind.
- You don’t have to boil the ocean. Pick one thing to focus on and then narrow it down to an even smaller thing.
- Set a time frame for yourself and treat it like an experiment. If it works stick with it, if not try something else.
- Understand that life is a journey and change takes time. In reality there is no achievable destination, but we can make the journey an amazing experience.
- Another tactic, which I rely on almost every day, is to use Affirmations to rewire the way your brain thinks about the difficulty of the change. Here is a Huffington Post article that explains the science behind affirmations and provides some really good ones as well.
An Example of Living with Integrity:
I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to be a writer, but for some reason I never wrote. Why? Because I’m wired to think about the financial results of my endeavors and didn’t see dollars signs.
Deep down I always knew that writing would make me happy, but I let life get in the way of that.
It wasn’t until I had reached the point where I had personal issues that were affecting my marriage that I was willing to really turn to this personal truth. It was in therapy along with my wife that I learned of the importance of connecting with myself. It didn’t take long for me to realize that writing was something that I could do to connect with my true self.
The results were pretty immediate. I began writing short stories from my life and felt an immediate change in my level of happiness. It gave me energy. It helped remove negative feelings I was experiencing. It made me feel like I was living with integrity, because I was doing something that I had always associated with who I am.
Why Integrity Matters
Integrity matters, because you can only live so long as somebody else. Eventually the foundations begin to shift and the cracks begin to show. Its exhausting trying to be somebody else’s version of you.
Now imagine the life you could enjoy as the person you’ve always wanted to be. What if you started training for a marathon? What if you aligned your finances so you could launch a company? What if you started writing your novel? What if you actually traveled the world?
One big take away that I’ve learned is that fulfillment does not have to be tied to money. There is joy in simply living as your true self. There is joy in achieving the things you’ve always wanted to do. For me, there is joy in putting words to a blank page, even if I give it away for free.
Thanks for reading. I hope this has been helpful, if so please leave me a comment below.
Pacific Swells is a collection of short stories and helpful articles about finding happiness through intentional living.
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