Integrity was one of the most challenging chapters to write in my first edition of 7 Skills for the Future and we have noticed that on our experiential learning workshops it is also often the hardest one for participants to actually conceptualise and make sense of.
This is because integrity is not straightforward to define and will vary from person to person, often significantly so. What you value and the principles you hold may not be the ones that I value and uphold. You can think of integrity like a moral compass, holding true to your values and beliefs and choosing to live by these in your day-to-day life. In many ways integrity is about character. It is what you do when no one else is looking, and all is of course heavily dependent on a combination of the following: specific circumstances, what we believe to be right, our values and how we choose to behaveconduct ourselves. congruent words, actions and thoughts and, therefore, congruence between what you say and what you do
Why it’s a “must-have” skill
We live in a world of fake news, in a world where we can reinvent ourselves online and fabricate our lives however we want to. If you are authentic in your actions and words, keep your commitments, take responsibility for your choices and are sincere this makes you stand out and it builds TRUST. Just a simple example – we use technology a lot to get out of
commitments we might have made or to cancel a meeting or appointment and we probably don’t tell the truth about why. A life with integrity is an examined one. There will be times when we behave with what seems to be a lack of integrity or acting in our own self-interest. Sometimes that may be down to reacting to circumstances or lashing out because of pressure we might be under. Our ability to act with integrity may well be better demonstrated by our subsequent actions, such as learning what triggers stress responses and developing the self-awareness to look after ourselves, or by our ability to be honest, apologise swiftly and put something right. If we are stressed it might be difficult to act with integrity because our actions and behaviour are likely to be heavily influenced by stress factors. Under those circumstances it may feel we have no choice.
If acting without integrity, such as deliberately stealing, lying or hurting others, is a choice, then what underlies that choice is how we justify the action. Today’s choice for honesty seems to be ‘it’s OK as long as you don’t get caught’, or ‘it’s not that bad, everyone is doing it’.
Why you need to identify and live by your values
Integrity is about character. Can character be developed? Certainly it can! Being consistent, honest and doing what you say you will do, and practising this, is a great start. Have an opinion and stand up for something, don’t sit on the fence. Think about what you value and the principles you hold dear and where these have come from. Some of these may be a product of your upbringing or conditioning and may not be traits or characteristics you want to keep. So knowing yourself is important. How can you be true to yourself and keep your side of the street clean if you don’t know yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, what makes you tick and what you are accountable for? If you observe negative behaviour in others, you do not have to emulate it. That is always a choice.
It is a really good idea to spend some time identifying your own values and on our workshops this is one of peoples’ very favourite exercises to do.
In terms of your professional life, what sort of work do you do? Is this in line with your values and beliefs? If not, it’s probably not the right environment for you. And in your personal life, what sort of relationship are you in and does it enhance your life and bring out the best in you, and vice versa? These, too, are connected with integrity because it will be easier to live a life of integrity if how you live and work is aligned to your inner compass.
Here is our values exercise here to try it for yourself!
Listen to the podcast – Series 1 Episode 7 is all about integrity.