Integrity is the seed for achievement. It is the principle that never fails. – Earl Nightingale
What if you were able to not only achieve every goal you set your mind to, you were able to obliterate them and achieve success in a fraction of the time you expect?
What if you were able to live your very best life? Be the very best version of yourself?
How might your life be different? Would you be working the same job or would you switch to a new career that pays more and provides satisfaction and fulfillment? Would you finally pay off that debt, save more money and start building your net worth? Would your family and relationships thrive? Would you finally make it through that 30-days without sugar challenge?
And how might your life change if you realized that all of this isn’t that hard? You really can achieve all of your goals in a fraction of the time. You can live the life you want.
All it really comes down to is self integrity.
After all, you know it’s important to be honest and keep your word in all areas of life, with your family and loved ones, as well as in your career. But what about with yourself?
I would argue that this is the most important, and often most overlooked, form of integrity. With personal integrity you can live a more meaningful life, true to yourself.
With personal integrity, when you tell yourself you are going to do something, no matter how big or small, you follow through and do it. Which means, when you set a goal, you follow through and achieve it.
Personal integrity is the key to achieving the life you want to live.
In this post I’ll review what personal integrity is, why it is so important to achieve, and finally, some ways to develop and practice it.
Contents and Quick Links
What is personal integrity?
According to dictionary.com, integrity is the “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.” Merriam Webster even adds that “integrity implies trustworthiness and incorruptibility to a degree that one is incapable of being false to a trust, responsibility, or pledge”.
In other words, integrity is the stuff of superheroes and famous legends like Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks and Gandhi.
Which implies that to live your life with integrity requires saintly morals and perhaps even sense of purpose bigger than oneself. And that’s just too much to live up to.
So we sprinkle integrity throughout our daily lives and attempt to adhere to a set of moral principles and personal values. This encompasses all areas of life, making us better employees, friends, parents and spouses. We’ve got people to please after all!
So it’s fairly clear that integrity makes us better citizens. Maybe even better role models if you work at it. But that’s all about how your actions affect others.
What about how your actions affect yourself?
It might be a pretty big ask to transform into a modern day Gandhi, but how might your life change if you lived a life of personal integrity? A life where you are “trustworthy” and “incapable of being false” to yourself?
Personal integrity is like the smaller, overlooked underdog component of integrity. It’s the Cinderella of integrity. An overlooked and mistreated step-child that’s actually about to transform you into a sovereign power to be reckoned with.
But if that visual isn’t enough, here are some additional ways to define personal integrity:
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Be honest with yourself
Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people. -Spencer Johnson
Honesty is not telling a lie, right? Well, it can be quite a bit more than that.
It takes extra effort to engage in self-reflection in order to decipher what you are feeling and why you are behaving or reacting a certain way.
Being honest with yourself is having the strength to recognize the real reason behind why you aren’t making progress. It’s foregoing confirmation bias and honestly accepting that the real reason you aren’t losing weight is because you are still overeating, not because your genetics are working against you.
Personal integrity is being honest enough with yourself that you can ditch the excuses and accept your reality.
Accept your limitations
We all have certain strengths. So naturally, we also come with a host of weaknesses. It takes strength of character and personal integrity to accept our limitations.
As an example, within my society organization for my profession, I was placed into a leadership role and have the responsibility to recruit volunteers and organize new committees. This isn’t something I have experience with. And apparently, this isn’t something I have a strong interest in. The result is that nothing has happened over the last two years.
Sure, I had a grand vision of what could be. However, it’s time to accept that this is personal limitation for me. I can hide from it and hope that no one notices that progress isn’t being made, or I can accept that I’m not ideal for this position and either find appropriate training and mentoring, or delegate the task to someone better suited.
In all honesty, I’m downright embarrassed by my lack of progress. It’s much easier to ignore the issue and wait until the end of my service and hope that the next person in line will do a better job.
Or, I can accept my personal limitations and brainstorm how to overcome them.
Follow through on your word
What is the single best gift that you can give to yourself?
Give yourself the gift of follow through. If you make a promise to yourself, keep it.
What might you have accomplished by now if every time you told yourself you would do something, you actually followed through with it? How many goals would you have crushed by now?
When you tell yourself you will do something, you need to find the inner strength to actually do it.
Why is personal integrity important?
So we’ve reviewed what personal integrity is. And even hinted at what you can gain by practicing it. But is it really that important? Here are three reasons why personal integrity will help you.
Ability to follow through on your goals
If you’re able to be honest with yourself about what it takes to achieve your goals and use self-reflection to adjust your actions, and you follow through on your word, what’s to stop you from achieving your goals? Nothing!
Develop self awareness and confidence to achieve big goals
Again, this ties in the ability to self-reflect and stay true to your personal commitments. As you practice self integrity and start making progress, you gain the experience and confidence to keep going. One small success will lead to another, larger success. Pretty soon, you’re ready to take on bigger goals.
When things don’t work out, using personal integrity will also help you understand why, stay honest with yourself and your limitations, and find a way to make adjustments to keep going. Once you develop this skill, giving up is unnecessary. If you want to achieve that goal, you will.
Live a life of meaning and purpose
This is my favorite reason of all to practice personal integrity.
As you develop your personal integrity, you become a stronger individual. You become capable of achieving what you put your mind to.
You may start out with personal goals like paying off debt or losing weight. But once you finally achieve these goals, and learn how to tackle even bigger goals, a whole new world of opportunity becomes available.
If you don’t love the life you live right now, you know you can change it. That is very empowering. Change is difficult and scary. But when you know you can achieve the things you put your mind to, you grow as an individual and start striving for more. That need for more brings meaning and purpose to your life, and even better, the lives of others.
11 ways to develop personal integrity
Be honest with yourself
Step one is to be truly honest with yourself. Are you really putting in the effort necessary to achieve your goals?
If you feel like you are stuck and you aren’t making progress, or feel that progress is just too slow, you probably aren’t really putting in the full effort necessary.
Ask yourself: “Am I really putting in my best effort? Is there something more I need to do?”
Then be really honest about that answer.
Keep in mind that you aren’t accepting defeat or failure. If you aren’t putting in the full effort, why is this? Is it not your skill set? Did you set an unrealistic goal? Do you need more outside support or motivation?
Once you accept the honest answer to these questions, you can empower yourself to make small changes that will finally drive progress.
Stay true to your word
If you have that inner conversation with yourself that today is the day that you give up sugar for a week, or start walking 10,000 steps every day, or simply won’t spend a single penny, do yourself the favor of staying true to your word.
Even if no one else knows about the commitment you made to yourself.
Give yourself that precious gift of follow through. In return, you develop personal integrity and actually achieve the goals you set for yourself.
Write a personal mission statement
If you feel like you are coasting through life without any particular direction, it may be beneficial to write your own personal mission statement.
Think about the principles you wish to lead your life by. Do you want to contribute to a cause? Teach and mentor others? Single handedly take on global warming? Maybe you just want to be an amazing and supportive partner and raise your children to be strong and confident adults.
Whatever is important to you and provides purpose, write it down. Turn it into a statement by which all decisions you make and goals you set will work towards fulfilling your personal mission statement.
Even better, use this statement along with your long term 10-year goals to build the life you want to live.
Strive for personal development
I have to admit, I love a good personal development book. There is just so much to learn from other people! I can’t be great at everything, but I can certainly learn from someone that’s great at their one thing.
Sometimes I get so excited about a new skill that I’m learning that I tell anyone and everyone about it. And then I’m surprised that my conversation is met with disdain! All I can think is “but this is a super cool technique I can use to be better at crushing my goals!” and all the other person seems to think is “I’m already awesome and you don’t need to teach me how to be better”.
Sorry to break it to you but we all can strive to be better people. We can learn to treat ourselves better, be better partners, parents, sons or daughters, workers and citizens. Most people don’t bat an eye at the thought of taking a class to learn how to speak another language or cook an amazing meal. But the thought of reading a book on communicating better with your partner is overlooked and viewed as an admission of failure to communicate in the first place.
If you strive to learn a new skill, you are not admitting failure! You are simply honing a new skill.
And becoming a better person.
Sure, it takes time. And effort. Start small by reviewing what you like, and what you don’t like, about yourself and your life and then think about ways you can make a small improvement. Add these to your goals and work on them daily.
Think before you commit
If you’ve read this far and feel overwhelmed by all the things you have to do to develop your personal integrity and change into this new and improved individual, this step will help!
Think long and hard before you make a commitment to yourself. Before telling yourself that you’re going to do a 30 day no-spend challenge, be sure you don’t have any unexpected expenses coming up! Or if you agree to give up sugar for a month, be sure someone isn’t throwing you a big birthday party tomorrow and expecting you to appreciate your favorite cake.
Before you commit to something, Ask yourself the following questions:
- Is this a reasonable commitment?
- Do I have time to fulfill this commitment?
- Do I have the skills, support and resources to follow through?
- Is this really important enough that I will move heaven and earth to follow through on?
If you encounter a lot of inner opposition to these questions, break your goal down into something smaller and more manageable so that you can actually follow through.
Learn to say no
Sadly, you can’t do it all. Don’t even pretend you can.
Every day we have to prioritize goals and tasks. Protect your time and learn to prioritize your personal commitments. Learn how to say no to everything that isn’t essential. It doesn’t have to be a permanent “no”, just a “no for now”.
You may even find that you can minimize overwhelm and be more productive in all areas of life once you learn how to prioritize your top tasks, protect your time and say no to everything else.
Surround yourself with role models
If you want to soar with the eagles, don’t slum it with the ducks.
No, that isn’t an official motivational quote. I did hear it on a podcast at some point though. Regardless of who said it or how, the point is clear. Surround yourself with people you want to be.
If you want to be successful and rich, start networking with successful business owners and start learning from them. But if you continue hanging out with friends that don’t motivate you to do better and be more, you won’t actually be motivated to make progress. You’ll continue to stay a duck.
Reflect on your growth
As you make progress, take a moment to look back and see how far you’ve come.
This is one step I struggle with the most. My personal goal is financial independence. As a widowed single mom that started with nothing, I have made so much progress over the years. Every single time I feel overwhelmed, that I’m not making progress fast enough or that I’ve somehow failed because I’m still working away at my goal, I remind myself of just how far I have come.
Acknowledge each success and be proud of your accomplishments.
This can be very motivating and provides reassurance that you will eventually get where you want to be.
Reflect on your failures
Admitting one’s own faults is the first step to changing them, and it is a demonstration of true bravery and integrity. – Philip Johnson
You may have noticed by now that many of these steps intertwine together. Being honest with yourself and being open to self-reflection opens the door to accepting your weaknesses. But that’s okay!
Recognizing a weakness, or even a failure, is an opportunity to learn, make adjustments, and strive to change and become better. This adds to your personal development and only makes you stronger.
Seek counseling when needed
Recognizing a failure does not make you a failure. While the process of developing personal integrity makes you stronger overall, you are likely to encounter emotional roadblocks along the journey.
Allow yourself the grace to address larger personal fears and emotional challenges that prevent you from making progress. Seek support, be it from friends, family, your church or professional counseling. Again, this is in no way an admission of fault or failure, it is accepting help where needed so that you can be the very best version of you.
Research demonstrates a clear relationship between volunteering and level of self-reported happiness, regardless of socio-economic background.
Giving back helps provide the purpose and value in life that makes you feel connected and happy. This in turn builds upon personal integrity and enables you to embrace challenges, achieve your personal goals and live your best life.
How to maintain personal integrity
Developing personal integrity is a lifelong pursuit. It doesn’t happen overnight and it isn’t a trait that you either have or you don’t. Being human, mistakes happen and we fail from time to time. The amazing thing about personal development is that mistakes are learning opportunities and failures make you stronger.
As you develop your personal integrity skills and become better and setting and achieving the goals you set for yourself, it will become easier to maintain those qualities. However, there are a few things you can do to keep up the momentum and progress.
Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not. – Oprah Winfrey
Even if no one sees or knows the effort you put behind your actions, be consistent.
There will likely be so many times that you just want to quit and go back to doing what is easy. It could be that no one seems to know what you are doing and you don’t feel supported or acknowledged. Or, you just want to take a break and go back to Netflix binging. Perhaps worse, you could be feeling the high of success and not feel it necessary to keep plodding on with another goal.
Just like a tough workout at the gym, real progress is made when you’re exhausted and just want to quit, but you keep pushing through anyway. So just keep going. Keep pushing to be the best version of you and consistently strive for progress.
Keep a scorecard
Recently I listened to an interview with Sean Covey, the author of The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals. He was telling the story of how you can tell if basketball players are merely practicing or playing a game, just by the sound of their shoes on the court.
When players are keeping score, you hear more running, scuffing and frenzy because the team is playing with intent. There is more meaning, drive and effort behind every single move.
This applies to your own efforts as you go through life. As you make personal commitments and goals for yourself, track your progress in order to stay motivated and consistent. Better yet, make it a game with a score. You become more intentional in your actions and driven to succeed.
What does a scorecard look like? It could be as simple and crossing off days on the calendar every time you complete your daily tasks. When that calendar is posted on the refrigerator and everyone in the house can see whether you followed through on your tasks or not, you have more incentive to consistently cross those days off. Or, it could be a spreadsheet with a chart that tracks your progress.
The key is that your scorecard is easy to see and easy to use. And you have to know, with one glance, whether you are winning or losing.
Putting it all together
Integrity is the ingredient that will enable you to forge rapidly ahead on the highway that leads to success. It advertises you as being an individual who will always come through. Whatever you say you will do, do it even if you have to move heaven and earth. – Mary Kay
Personal integrity is that magical skill that will enable you to achieve your goals and live your best life. It is the ability to be honest with yourself, accept your limitations and follow through on your word, no matter what.
With personal integrity, what’s to stop you from living your dream?