By Sarah Richards, for publication by PACE Partners: The Current, The Splash and Valley News Herald and Cheney Free Press
I enjoy working out. The benefits are numerous, but I’ll give you my top three:
1. I look and feel good
2. I get to test my mental and physical limits
3. I’ve made friends with some amazing people who inspire me
Now you may be wondering, “What does exercise have to do with integrity?” Aside from enjoying the three aforementioned benefits, integrity, like exercise, requires consistency and alignment.
The definition of PACE’s June Character Trait, Integrity, is “Living a set of values which includes honesty, respect for others and a sense of personal responsibility.” Integrity encompasses all other PACE character traits, and how consistently and genuinely you apply them in your own life.
Integrity is the bond made up of your beliefs, actions and words — all of which work together to build a foundation of your character. When those three elements are in alignment, you have a sense of wholeness. When one or more of those three are out of sync, there’s usually a feeling of uneasiness or unsureness, or even discordance or chaos.
Consistently tuning your integrity
Have you tried to work out when you felt “out of alignment,” or haven’t properly warmed up for the task? You just don’t feel like you’re accomplishing much. It’s true for integrity too. Fortunately, you can fine-tune your integrity a lot like you can fine-tune your body.
It all begins with belief.
Frank Outlaw, founder of a southern grocery chain, Bi-Lo, said it best,
“Watch your thoughts, they become words. Watch your words, they become actions. Watch your actions, they become habits. Watch your habits, they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
Integrity, like exercise is an active concept.
So here’s an exercise in integrity, along with some measurable results. First, write down character traits, values, and beliefs you already hold, and those that you want to embody. There’s magic in the written word. It’s a tangible reminder of who you are and where you’re going. Next, along with those beliefs and values, write down the words and phrases you catch yourself saying frequently, and the actions you take every day. Do your words and actions seem aligned with your beliefs, character and values? Take inventory of it, make connections, or note any disconnects. If your words and actions don’t line up with your beliefs, then perhaps you hold a different set of beliefs than what you thought. That’s OK. However, it’s important to be true and aligned. If you are seeking change, play “one of these things is not like the other” with your list, and embrace the antithesis of the belief, words or action that you seek to change. Rinse and repeat until your beliefs, words and actions align.
At the end of the day/month/year, you can check in and refer to the first benefit mentioned earlier. Do you look good to yourself and others? Do you feel good? Do others feel good about you? How well you align and exercise your integrity will help you find that answer.
Another resulting benefit is the opportunity to test your integrity’s limit. There will be times when belief wavers, and situations get challenging and uncomfortable. If you can remind yourself of why you are here on this earth and how you want to be, you can see what your integrity is made of, and flex those integrity muscles. You’ll remember these times always, and will be stronger for it.
Lastly, but certainly not least, when you exercise your integrity, you make like-minded friends who inspire you and who help to build you and your character up.
We all make decisions about integrity every day, whether we’re conscious about it or not. It’s deciding to “live a set of values” daily. Exercise your integrity daily, as the little day-to-day decisions you make set your course for your destiny.
Sarah Richards is the PACE Coordinator and Public Information Specialist with the Central Valley School District, a founding PACE partner.