How to Preserve Your Integrity & Consistently Make the Right Choices
Sometimes we get stuck in an uncomfortable situation when our moral consciousness is being tested. We get to make hard decisions, often losing more than winning.
Just think of how many times you broke your promise. How many times did you risk the friendship? Did you put one thing at risk just to win another?
We are not always 100% honest to ourselves and to others. We are not always aware of what we lose and what we gain. We don’t tend to make the right choices all the time.
Something gets left out eventually.
But the question is – are you ready to make a change?
What does integrity even mean to you? Do you accept it as a measure of honesty with yourself and the others? Or does it represent ethics?
Integrity is connected to the moral values, to our behavior and actions in difficult situations.
It reflects ourselves as we really are, including our best selves – most sincere and trustworthy versions.
Integrity can stem from different things. For some people, it’s the personal highest goal.
For someone else it could be the religious belief it comes from.
While working on integrity improvement, it’s important to look for its roots and bonds.
WHAT AFFECTS OUR INTEGRITY
No matter how small, the little steps we make on a daily basis count too.
All these little decisions we must make reflect a lot on our integrity. It’s the things we often do unconsciously, things we’re already used to.
Is it so wrong to keep the money you found without reporting it?
Is it wrong to spice up the resume so you could be able to get your dream job? Is it wrong to lose the borrowed clothes and blame your sister instead of confessing?
Should you feel bad for downloading music from pirate websites or using ad blockers while browsing every day?
We can all judge, but many of us understand the situation because we’ve been through it too.
This weird behavior has been studied for a while now. The opinion about the real origins of our actions has changed over time.
People thought at first that every decision was driven by our rational side, the one that analyzed the benefits and costs of the potential choices.
It was thought that those who tend to cheat, lie and stick to their unethical behavior first count the chances of being caught and punished, and only then get busy doing the real work accordingly. On the other side, there were some people who highly disagreed.
One of them, Dr. Ariely started an experiment to prove the statement wrong and to prove that people actually act spontaneously when it’s necessary. His experiment has been done to show where the dishonesty really comes from.
Ariely’s study has been done with college students and math tasks, for which they had around 5 minutes. They were offered 50 cents for each of them if the tasks get solved correctly.
In the conditions they got, participants finished approximately 4 tasks before the time ran out.
But when the cheating was allowed, they increased this number up to six. Many of them cheated, but “just a little bit”.
The second stage had different conditions – students were allowed to cheat since It was clear that they cannot be caught.
The payment was different too. Instead of waiting for results and taking cash from a person, students were free to take money from the bowl right after they finish the tasks.
The outcome was unbelievable. The cheating rate was not increased at all.
Even if they had a chance to roam around the classroom and speak with their friends, do each other’s tests and get consultations, they cheated just as much as they needed the same as with the previous test.
In the next step, dr. Ariely increased the amount they would earn to the maximum. He wanted to see if their behavior was initiated rationally, based on the incentive.
The results of this part were even more shocking. The cheating rate decreased. How did that happen?
Dr. Ariely explains that students probably felt bad about their sense of integrity and wanted to earn the money fairly and on their own. It’s not the 50 cents anymore. It’s a higher gamble, which made them feel as they need to deserve it.
Everyone wants to see themselves as honest, sincere and kind people.
To be able to look at the person in the mirror without wishing to look away is one of our greater pleasures. We love being proud of ourselves.
On the contrary, cheating in this situation gives more benefits, because in real life money can buy things, honesty not. This rational side tends to outshine the other one, making it harder for us to decide.
Naturally, this leads to a logical question. How do we get what we want and still keep the respect for ourselves? How do we believe we’re nice persons if we keep reaching our goals the easier way? We certainly can’t accept both of our sides equally.
In addition to the previous example with students, we have another one showing how integrity affects our choices. This time we have two students who were allowed to take a look at a friend’s paper.
They both hesitate at first, but after some time one of them decides to check his answers in order to get a better grade. The other student risked getting lower grades just to save his own integrity.
They both gain and lose something, but their self-image and respect change according to their decisions.
The one who gave up his integrity for a higher grade will struggle to maintain his feelings towards himself, doubt his honesty and competency, leading to a feeling of discomfort, depression or anxiety.
To get rid of that feeling, he would simply assume that everyone else cheated as well.
The other option is to convince himself that the test wasn’t fair at all because he wasn’t prepared for the given lessons. He’d use any excuse to explain his choice as nothing important.
However, the other student will question his decision as well as the first one. He would keep asking himself “what if…”, wondering if it was actually necessary to cheat to get the higher grade.
This student could think of what could have happened if he chose another direction, but there are more chances he’ll be proud of his mental strength and the ability to avoid the wrong choices.
These are the small steps we spoke about. Every one of them does matter.
The choices will always be affected by the previous ones, leading to some serious changes in one’s attitude about self-esteem.
The more our second student makes the wrong choices, the harder it will become for him to understand when to stop and when it’s bad to do it.
Eventually, he would not see that there’s something wrong dishonest and morally wrong about his choices. Many people get stuck in this stage of life without knowing when and how to stop.
Furthermore, the first person can feel proud of saving his own integrity and feeling much stronger, sincere and optimistic.
And they both started the same way but ended up being totally different people with different moral values.
It’s a small single decision that separated one from another – it’s what makes us all different. After the experiment, they are the same people physically but so far away from their first principle, rule or decision.
Just a single act of dishonesty can change a person’s behavior for better.
To simplify, the best way to manage our integrity is to manage all our decisions more carefully and take some time to think before acting.
Every choice can easily bring down our moral values and cause serious problems in the future.
IMPROVING PERSONAL INTEGRITY
Before we start, the most important thing to understand is that nothing said will work without honesty. It’s the key part of integrity – it defines integrity as we know it.
Those who are being dishonest with themselves and others for most of the time can’t expect to lead a life of integrity. This includes promises which, if broken, turn out to be a lie.
The lies are not consistent with the life of integrity.
Integrity demands honesty and truthfulness even if the truth isn’t nice or others wouldn’t like to hear it. Because living in lies is like living in deludes.
And if honesty is going to hurt others, better say nothing than make up something that it’s not true. And most importantly – be honest to yourself and your actions.
Choices can get us overwhelmed, making us rethink again before taking any action. Bad decisions can lead to a feeling of mistrust and guilt which will decrease the confidence and affect our behavior. We’ll struggle to meet the expectations, personal or from the family and friends.
Some people tend to think that passion forms from one’s desires. They explain how preserving personal integrity means finding what you truly care for and love doing. According to this, step number one is thinking of all your passions.
There is always something important to us at a certain point in our lives.
And passion could stem from different values (moral, religious, artistic).
Otherwise, it’s probably based on what needs to be fixed and corrected in life.
Determine what life means to you, the way you see it. Every person sees the world from its own perspective, so the two of us can never see things around us the exact same way. This is why you can’t automatically take someone else’s lifestyle and apply their habits to your life.
Spend some time thinking and find what moves you towards your goals.
Find what makes you get up every morning, look for the purpose of your life.
Some of us appreciate moral purpose more, while some people prefer to rely on their religion. Still, none of these is necessary to live a healthy, meaningful life.
Life has countless meanings, and the good news is that they’re different for every person.
You’re able to dedicate yours to anything you like. Maybe you want to start your business in the future? Maybe you’d like to help others reach their goals too?
Or do you believe that strong integrity and moral character are the meaning of life itself?
If so, and if you found what your opinion about life and its purpose is, it’s equally important to check if your previous lifestyle and choices match that way of thinking. Are you going in the right direction?
Be honest with yourself. Maybe there’s a need for improvements and changes in your current lifestyle. The sooner you notice the better for your career. It’s absolutely okay if your previous way of living doesn’t match this new way of thinking at all.
If you start spending enough time and effort working on reaching the purpose of life you want, you are on a good way to find the meaning of life. Remember not to look back too much.
But, what if having a purpose itself and willingness to change things is not enough? It could easily happen in the process to become a greedy and impulsive person rather than someone of strong integrity.
The process of discovering yourself requires one key step. It’s your values. They need to match your own vision of a good person, not someone else’s. Values, just like purpose, need some extra time to be found and accepted and then followed by actions.
They will evolve and change you, which means being careful when deciding which values you’re going to pursue.
They’re basically a guideline that needs to be followed but will probably need some modifications as you enter new stages of life.
Your new experiences and thoughts will shape your values, but be careful when you choose. Values require serious commitment and persistence over time.
Determine where you are right now and where you want to be a few years from now. Your integrity should lead you exactly there. If you notice you’re going in the wrong direction, revise your current values.
Don’t forget that personal development can take a lot of time, effort, persistence and dedication. No high goal was ever reached easily.
But there are smaller steps you can take on a daily basis to complete your mission faster. Make a plan, write down the ideas and work on their realization.
This will also help you get back on the road whenever you lose your direction.
Make sure that you understand clearly what you write since it’ll guide you through life in the future.
Also, keep the writings where you’ll be able to look at them every day.
It’s necessary to stop and check every day that you’re going towards your goal, not in the opposite direction.
SHOW COMPASSION FOR OTHERS
Everybody deserves to be treated the same way we treat ourselves. And if you successfully pursue your goals, maybe it’s time to give a hand to those who might need your help as well.
The integrity itself is also described as a willingness to be there for other people no matter your lack of sympathy for them or disagreement with their actions.
Being able to help and not doing so is considered to be selfish and can ruin many relationships.
To show good integrity, we must not harm others. We must also take full responsibility for the mistakes we make in the process. And we all make mistakes. If you want to be understood, show some empathy to other people as well.
Being kind fits the idea of integrity too. You never know how bad was someone’s day so don’t judge by one wrong decision or poor mood. If you are able to offer a helping hand in these situations, then do so.
However, try to avoid people who lack integrity as they can have a negative impact on your integrity as well. You shouldn’t work or associate with them.
They’ll judge your character and make you revise your decisions in a manner that ruins your confidence.
HOW INTEGRITY AFFECTS OUR CHOICES
The truth is – no matter how it looks like, everyone faces tough choices.
From friends and family members to highest business executives, everyone struggles with hard choices every day.
Our decisions can reveal what we truly appreciate in life and what matters to us the most.
These decisions often determine if we’re going to succeed or simply fail. Here are some benefits of integrity:
- Following your heart with passion and encouraging yourself to do so is what increases self-esteem and confidence. By doing so, you allow yourself to move towards your goals faster and more easily.
- The confidence you gain affects others as well, helping you find support from friends, colleagues, alliances and more.
- You start enjoying your life, feeling that you’ve done something important and you weren’t worthless at all.
Do you think you’re acting with integrity? If you’re not absolutely sure, ask yourself these questions:
- Am I able to say what I think?
- Am I okay with being wrong?
- Are my decisions making me a better person?
- Would I let someone I care about do the same things I do?
- Am I a good example of the loved ones?
- Am I responsible enough?
EXAMPLES OF PEOPLE WITH INTEGRITY
Read some good examples of people from our everyday life with lots of integrity.
– Parents who apologize to the children for being wrong (Children, especially at a young age, are very vulnerable and can easily get hurt. Being overwhelmed is not an excuse to make them feel bad.
So if you did hurt them by what you said or did, the only logical move would be to apologize and explain where you were wrong.)
– Managers who appreciate their employees’ work (The proof of integrity among bosses is when they’re not using the power they have to make others feel not good enough.
They should keep everything organized and handle every situation with patience and prove integrity without power.)
– People who treat their partners with respect (There are countless ways to treat a partner wrong, but even more ways to treat them nice.
Start by simply showing empathy and support for what they do and love. Everything can be solved by a nice conversation so there is no need for insulting.)
– Drivers who respect other drivers (Often it gets annoying to share the road with the rest of our planet, but driving doesn’t necessarily have to become a nightmare if we all show some understanding for other drivers.
For instance, if it seems as someone is in a hurry, let them pass instead of competing who’ll go faster, it’s not a big deal.)
– People avoiding arguments (We live fast and tend to suffer from lots of stress every day.
But if every one of us just stood for a second and realized that all other people are probably going through the same, we would have avoided many unnecessary arguments or fights over unimportant stuff.)
– Volunteers (A very small number of people in our society accept to volunteer and help others with no expectation of getting something in return.
And there they are, a group of very selfless and generous people who decide to spare some time to see what is going on with the lives of others and help if there is a need for it.
The world would make a better place if everyone decided to sacrifice some time to do the same.
Even treating volunteers with respect and decency is a good start.)
Integrity has already been defined properly, but it can vary from one person to another.
To truly succeed in life and feel as we did so, we must find our own way of understanding integrity and act according to that.
Because no one else can decide better what a moral life means to us and how it should look like in our case. Worry less about how others perceive integrity, and work more on improving your own.
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