Perhaps an investment stock is a great metaphor for your integrity—one day up, the next day down and over time trending in one direction, and then another. People buy the stocks consistently trending up, and sell the ones trending down. They do the same with you based on the trend of your integrity. Your integrity—as I define it—is less about adhering to society’s morals and values and is more about being true to the commitments you make to others, and more importantly to yourself.
As a human being, you will break your promises and fail in your obligations and duties—that’s part of being human—but every time you do your personal integrity slides. Some describe this by saying you “lose” your integrity, or your integrity goes “out.”
Leaving your integrity “out” by ignoring your broken promises, obligations and duties will, in time, diminish your personal worth.
You can choose to restore your integrity, but choosing not to comes with a cost.
If you choose not to, the longer it stays “out”, say by not exercising, eating badly, or sleeping with your secretary—when you said you wouldn’t—the steeper your stock declines, with fewer and fewer people inclined to invest, i.e. by willingly wanting to work with, or be in more than a superficial relationship with you.
Your trending integrity is positively correlated with your financial, relationship and spiritual health. They go up or down together.
Why do we let our integrity (stock price) slip?
We lose our integrity—break our commitments, and leave them shattered on the floor— because we often don’t feel an
immediate negative consequence. The immediate impact of breaking our word feels good even, like smoking a cigarette, and it may take years, or decades before the impact really hits home. But there comes a time when we feel the consequence and we have a chance to restore our integrity by re-committing. The game is to shorten the time between our integrity slipping and restoring it.
Noticing when it’s slipping
Sometimes we need someone else to tell us when our integrity is slipping,—or “out” altogether—someone to point out our hypocrisies, and then it’s up to us to acknowledge the truth and choose to restore our word, or not.
For some time now I’ve noticed my integrity—with acknowledging the people in my life—was out. I wrote a book about the subject and wasn’t practicing it in my daily life. Then my woman pointed it out to me and it felt … well … icky; which is how being out of integrity feels … slimy … not a feeling you want to have.
Restoring your integrity
The trick to restoring your integrity, to get your stock price back up, is simply to re-commit to whatever commitment you abandoned in the first place, your ideal physical self, your marriage, your friendships, your education, your career, your declaration to be or do. To acknowledge that your daily practices don’t include anything that fulfils on any of these commitments, and to declare that you’re going to make a change.
Yes, this should be more than a journal entry, or a note to self.
You’re more likely to take required actions if you publicly declare your commitments to the people who can help you notice when your integrity slips.
Of course, you’ll also need to repair any damage your wayward integrity caused, to your colleagues, your boss, your partner, your friends, or if you’re an elected official—your constituents. Apologize to them and do whatever necessary to make them whole, but then begin living up to your commitment.
Every time it goes slides
But the funny thing is that for most, integrity is often sliding “out,” yet we can keep our integrity stock price trending up, even if it goes down on any particular day.
By noticing when it begins to slip i.e noticing when we’ve not taken the action consistent with our commitment, and immediately making up for it at the next opportunity. The rate at which our integrity (stock) trends up or down depends on how quickly we notice it slip and restore it. Committing to exercising at the gym, and then letting one day slip, but going the next and keeping it up consistently after is different from missing one day, that becomes two, then three or six …. months.
The game of integrity is all about getting better at noticing when it’s about to slide, or already gone out and taking swift corrective action.
My acknowledgment practice
I’m back to acknowledging someone in my life every day now. Big or small and I feel so much better. Having that book out there is my public declaration about who I say I am in the world and I’m officially re-committing to being that person.
Where in your life do you need to restore your integrity? As a husband, wife, mother, father, brother, sister, business partner, friend, boss, colleague, citizen? Is your stock trending up or down?
The daily volatility doesn’t matter so much as long as you’re actively managing the trend, and that my friend requires taking swift action when your integrity goes out. Soon you’ll notice when it’s about to go out and you won’t let it happen.
Then grasshopper, you can leave the temple.