Living in Integrity



Most of us probably think of ourselves as people of integrity. 

And for the most part, we ARE, if we’re following any of the most commonly held definitions about what integrity means.

Whenever I begin working with a new client, one of the first questions I ask is “what does integrity mean to you?”  I ask this because invariably, people think of integrity as having a certain set of moral values by which they live.

I’ve heard people define integrity as being honest, telling the truth, living within the “law” (whether that law be governmental or religious in nature), following the rules, playing “fair”. 

Yes, all of these things are certainly aspects of what integrity really is, but they don’t necessarily tell the whole story.




This week, one of my clients gave me what I think is probably the best, most concise and powerful definition of “integrity” I’ve ever heard. 

He defined integrity as “when your internal values and external behaviors are in alignment”.  (Thanks, Chris!)


This was so powerful for me because it clarifies the critical component: that to be in integrity, you have to not only hold a set of values for yourself, you also have to be taking actions (external behaviors) that are in alignment with and that are consistent with what those values are.

If, for example, one of your values is “stealing is wrong; I don’t steal, therefore I am living in integrity”, but when you go to the supermarket, you usually grab a couple of grapes from the produce section and eat them on the spot without paying for them, are your actions in alignment with what you say your values are?

It might seem like this is such a small thing (hey, it’s only a few grapes, right?), but taking something you haven’t paid for is still stealing.




integrity signTruthful assessment

There are lots of ways in which we can be out of integrity, sometimes without realizing it. 

Each time you are operating out of integrity, this is a huge energy drain in your life – energy that you could be devoting to much more healthy and productive pursuits.

The first step to getting back into integrity is to tell the truth to yourself about the ways you are presently out of integrity.




Non-integrity scenarios

As a way of helping you get in touch with this, see if you recognize yourself in any of these common “non-integrity” scenarios:




 You make commitments to others that involve your time and energy because you want to be helpful or because you want to feel needed (someone else is begging for your help and you feel guilty saying no),

Then later you decide you have over-committed yourself, but instead of telling the truth about it, you make excuses (otherwise known as “lies”) to get out of it.


  You are in a relationship with a friend you’ve known for years.  You know in your heart you have outgrown this friendship – this person is draining you of energy, whines, complains, and generally uses you, but never asks how YOU are or supports you when you have problems. 

Nevertheless, you are reluctant to let go of the friendship out of not wanting to hurt the other person’s feelings, so you end up spending a huge amount of energy avoiding the person altogether, hoping the person will just “go away”.





Big spender
Big spender

You are in serious financial debt, yet you continue to act to the world as if you have money to burn.  You know you need to stop spending and create a plan for regaining control of your finances, but you are ashamed to let others know the situation, so you continue to agree to go out to expensive dinners or you spend money on clothes or high-tech “toys”, to maintain appearances.  Financial integrity starts with telling the truth, first to yourself, and then to anyone else who is impacted by it and really deserves to know.  It also means not living above your means and putting up a huge front (again, also known as a “lie”).  Your personal worth has nothing to do with what you earn or own, and it has everything to do with maintaining your integrity.



 gossip 3You gossip with friends, neighbors and co-workers.  Gossiping is a HUGE breach of integrity, and is the mark of someone who would rather focus on someone else’s shortcomings than on fixing their own.  Remember that old adage your mother used to tell you: “If you can’t find something nice to say, don’t say anything at all!”  Well, your mother was right!  Telling other people’s business and/or making negative remarks is a waste of your energy and prevents you from channeling your energy into creating the wonderful life you want.




Keeping promises

You keep making promises to yourself that you aren’t keeping.  You promise to exercise more; get out of debt; spend time in meditation each morning; spend more quality time with your family and work less; follow your dream career instead of plodding along working for someone else in a dead-end job; start a new hobby, etc.  But somehow it just never seems to happen.





denial-edit21You are in denial about any aspect of your life that you don’t want to face, and you keep waiting and hoping the problem will magically disappear on its own if you just wait long enough.






Getting real


If you want to really get in touch with where you may be out of integrity, start right now by thinking about these scenarios, or others you may be experiencing, where your inner values and your external actions are out of alignment.

You can’t fix it if you don’t know where it’s broken, so where are you not “walking the talk” in YOUR life? 

Start living in integrity today, by getting real with yourself and taking decisive actions to stop or change any behaviors that are not aligned with your core values. 

As you move through this process, you will be amazed at how it feels like a weight is lifting from your shoulders, and how much energy you’ve been putting into things that don’t serve your higher purpose.



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