Integrity rules

My Uncle Joe gave me some great advice as I pondered throwing my hat into the ring for municipal council in 2010:  stay true to your word; if you say you're going to do something, do it. If you screw up, own it.  Integrity is everything.

I'm a big fan of integrity.  I see it all around me, in my family, in my workplace and in my community.  People who have integrity are imbued with an energy, spirit, and essence that draws me right in, brightens up my day, strengthens and encourages me.

I was overwhelmed and inspired by the integrity of the people who traveled with us on the Journey to Hometown.  Writing 27 blog posts over those three months was incredibly easy because there was so much to share and celebrate.  Some of those wonderful people were leaders, others were professionals, many were young people, and more than several had survived the wringer and come out the other end completely intact and infinitely stronger.  Integrity is not the domain of the intelligentsia, creative or business classes, or people who have achieved seemingly important things in their lives.  Integrity is available to us all; the question is whether we choose to seize it or skirt around it.

The thing I find most challenging in my life is managing my response to people who have lost their way, people who are no longer living a life of integrity. In one moment they make me incredibly angry, the next, incredibly sad.

We have all lost our way at one time or another.  At least, I know I have, more than once and stretched out through an entire lifetime.  I have made poor choices, hurt people, chosen the path of least resistance, and screwed up royally more times than I can count.  I found myself wandering in life's forest feeling trapped, alone, scared, and resentful.  Who hasn't?

Let's be honest though, when you're not living in a state of integrity, you're often the last person to realize it, to recognize that the path through the forest has disappeared and that you're desperately lost.  It begs the creation of an integrity stop-check, a set of diagnostic markers that you might consult from time to time to make sure that you're heading in the right direction.

Marker One - Sleep

Are you sleeping at night?  Can you cast aside the cares of worries of the day and melt into the welcoming abyss of dreams?

Marker Two - Stress

How are your stress levels?  Are you aware of your body's stress signals?  Are you paying attention to them?  Stress manifests itself differently for all of us.  When my eyelid starts twitching, I've got problems.  If the thought of eating is unfathomable, look out!

Marker Three - Adding Value

Are you adding value and energy to those closest to you, or are you doing the opposite?  When we're lost in the forest, we so very easily knock others down in trying to find our way out, usually unaware that anyone has stepped into our path.

Marker Four - Gone Tomorrow

If you were to be hit by a bus and shuffle off this mortal coil today, could you live with it?  In other words, are you ready to meet your maker?  If not, there are some things to attend to.

Marker Five - Times of Trouble

What happens when things don't go so well?  When you fall down?  When something unexpected slams you upside the head or heart?  Two quotes pop to mind that help me in these situations:

"When you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you" - Rudyard Kipling

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy" - Martin Luther King Jr.

Marker Six - Recognizing It

Can you see the integrity that surrounds you?  Allow those beacons of light to warm, inspire, re-orient, and re-energize you.  They have been placed on your path for a reason; welcome them, embrace them.

Marker Seven - Why

Ask yourself why.  Why are you reacting the way that you do?  Why have you made that choice, statement, action?  Has your own self-interest gotten in the way of doing, saying, or thinking the right thing?  'Why' could quite possibly be the most powerful marker of all.

Marker Eight - Love of Self

Do you feel an overwhelming love for yourself?  If you do not, if you are cynical, suspicious, agitated, uncertain, then you may have lost your way.

Marker Nine - Truth

Can you live with the truth?  No matter what the situation or circumstance, can you speak the truth and be OK with it?

Marker Ten - Courage

Do you recognize the moments that require courage?  Acting with integrity often requires grit, fortitude, determination.  Often we have to face fear to take the right path.

Whether the mother advocating on behalf of her autistic children or my colleague who is intent to finish a feat of endurance or that athlete who has overcome tremendous odds to be battling for a championship, I am in the abundant presence of people of integrity.  I try my best to model myself after them, stopping every once in awhile at one of the markers and making sure that I'm heading in the right direction.

I have no intention or interest in being the best in the world, but with every ounce of my being I want to be the best for the world.

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