In reply to my last email, men said things like, “My life is so chaotic I don’t even know what’s important anymore.” “I feel like I’m juggling so much that I can’t keep up – I’m dropping more and more things.”
At the root of your comments and questions was, “How do I make choices with integrity?”
Definition of Integrity
Sometimes I hear integrity defined as doing what I said I would do. I don’t use that definition. Because we live in a fast-paced, ever-changing, and uncertain world. The meaning I use for integrity is when my choices and actions are in alignment with my values and priorities.
The first definition assumes that the best course of action is to stick for our first commitment. Of course, that’s not possible all of the time because we are always getting new information and can’t predict the future with 100% certainty.
For example, if I committed to meet a friend for coffee at 9:00 am and at 8:50 am – just five minutes away from the coffee shop, I see someone collapse on the sidewalk. Do I keep my agreement to be there at 9 am, or do I stop to help and arrive late?
The definition, I do what I say I’d do, implies that I have to keep my agreement to be on time. I’m guessing you’d stop help too. That’s why we have to make decisions that honor our highest values and priorities, but be accountable.
Accountability: I’m willing, to tell the truth about my choices and take responsibility for the impact, whether intended or unintended. So it’s possible to be in integrity, but still, need to account for my choices.
Accountability isn’t for keeping our options open. I’m not suggesting we say, “yes” to all of our options, then pick the one we feel called to at the last moment. That would be self-centered and destructive to relationships.
Instead, integrity starts with proper agreements. Knowing your values and priorities gives you the discernment to say, “no” in advance and to be accountable – tell the truth, before we break an agreement. It might seem hard to say “no,” or to decline invitations. Negotiating when you’d be willing to do something can feel like conflict. But when you do these things, people will trust you more than when you say what you think they want to hear and making promises you can’t keep.
Hit reply, Where are and aren’t you making good agreements?
The “Ethics Sage”, Dr. Steven Mintz, a Professor Emeritus from Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo, says, “Values describe the personal qualities we choose to embody to guide our actions; the sort of person we want to be; the manner in which we treat ourselves and others, and our interaction with the world around us. They provide the general guidelines for conduct.”
The Results of My Values Clarification
I used the online Life Values Inventory to see where I’m acting, over-acting, and under-acting on my values.
These values are essential to me, and I frequently act on them.
- Quiet time
- Time alone
- Healthy and physically active
- Financial prosperity
It surfaced that I focus on these values more than I would prefer.
- Being independent
- Giving my opinion
- Having control over my time
- People pleasing
Lastly, I’m not focusing on these values as much as I would like.
- Being in nature
- Protecting the environment
What Are Your Values?
If you are sure about your values and what is most important to you, I suggest grabbing your journal, a notebook, or stack of Post-it notes and write down the six to eight most important ones. Seven is an ideal number because it’s a manageable size list to remember – think phone number length, and therefore, you can use it daily to guide your choices.
If you are uncertain about your values or want to clarify them, here are four options:
- Consider the qualities you’d like to embody and the impact you’d like to have on yourself and others. Make a list of the words that describe your ideal way of being in the world, then pick the six to eight that are most important to you.
- If you are like me and prefer to see a list of value words, go here for the Ultimate List of 400 Values.
- Pick ten people that you admire and list their qualities, how they treat people, and how they show up in the world. From your list, pick the words that represent your values.
- Go online to the Life Values Inventory. Scroll to the bottom of the page to click “start clarifying your values.”
Hit reply, What are your values?
With our values in focus, we can make better agreements and commitments, stop doing some things and start others, and live with integrity.
I can see that I’m going to start saying “yes” to spending more time in nature, writing and creating, determining what spirituality means to me, and deciding how I will support the environment more. I’ll be saying “no” to independence and control over my time where doing so causes me to be less financially secure.
Also, I’m going to observe myself opinionating and pleasing to see where these behaviors are getting in the way of my higher values.
Go Answer the Call