Integrity is choosing your thoughts and actions based on values rather than personal gain.
We all have values. We’re just not always sure what they are, sometimes, and our values do change over time. Integrity is when our thoughts, words and actions actually match our stated values.
What are your values, anyway? Here is a fine list of 418 values written by Steve Pavlina. You are encouraged to print out the list of values as they are on the web page, or copy and paste them into a word processing document, then copy. Look up any words you aren’t sure of that might apply to you. Some of the words are very close in meaning to others, but with a slight difference in focus or connotation. When deciding which values to include in your own list, think in terms of using values as the basis for your thoughts, words and actions. Most of the words will seem positive, but a few will have a negative meaning, at least to you. If you come across a negative word, it’s not one of your values. When you come to a word that is “nice” but you would never choose A over B because of it, it’s not one of your values. Try to whittle the list down to between 10 and 15 values.
Once you have your list, prioritize them so that the first thing on your list is the most important, etc. This is where it gets interesting, because you could have the same 12 priorities as someone else, but if they listed them in the exact opposite order from your list, they would be a very different person, indeed.
Your values are not set in stone, either. You can change their priorities, or even change the values themselves. Let’s say you’ve been operating with a value called “wealth,” but you’ve realized that wealth isn’t really making you happy. You can opt for another value that means more to you now. Or perhaps one of your values was “adventure” earlier in life, and you’ve had your adventures. Now, perhaps, you’re looking for something else. Keep your values list handy, and feel free to amend it or change priorities from time to time.
One thing to look at is what kind of life you can reasonably expect to have if you actually do live by the values that you’ve listed. If that’s not where you want to go, what values would need to be a priority in order for you to get there? If you want something that you’re not on track to achieve, you have to change your behavior, and for that to happen, you will have to change your values. Here’s where your goals come in. Goals are measurable results that you wish to achieve. List your goals for the next yer or two. Perhaps you wish to lose weight, move to a different part of the country, start a second career, or scratch a couple of items off your bucket list. Once again, you will have to prioritize the list. If you want to achieve your goals, realize that you will have to focus your energies toward these things, probably at the expense of other things. Be sure to put at the top of your list the things you want to spend most of your time and energy on.
Now go back to your values list. Are your current values going to help you achieve your goals? If not, you will need to revise the values list. When your goals and values are aligned, your behaviors should allow you to achieve your goals. Then, in the future, should you have another big decision to make, you can consult your list to help you make that decision. For example, what if you are given a chance to take a new job that will mean a lot more hours of work per week, but also a significant raise in pay? If your values include wealth and success, and one of your goals is to make a million dollars, you will most likely take the job. If your values are freedom and family, and one of your goals is to spend as much time with your kids as you can, you will probably chafe at the amount of time you would be chained to your job.
Sometimes we find that our actions are not in alignment with our stated values. If you value your health, but find that you are eating too much junk food, you can either throw out the junk and buy healthy alternatives, or you can admit that health isn’t as much of a priority as you thought. Are you willing to give that up? If you aren’t willing to put effort and energy into it, then it’s not a priority. The point is to be clear about what your values and goals actually are and how much of a priority they are – in other words, how much time and effort you are willing to put into them? 🙂