You can’t choose some things in life but you can choose your integrity

Recently, I attended a day conference where all members in the meeting were asked two simple things. We had to raise our hand and promise we will:

A. Come back on time after breaks

B. If we have a question or a point to make that we don’t shout it out. But raise our hand and wait to be chosen to speak

Seemed kind of childish to me. Isn’t this something we use to do as children in a classroom? Did I go through many years of working in corporate life as an adult to only be treated as a child again. I wasn’t having any of it.

On the next break, I enjoyed my tea and biscuits and was in some engaging conversations about the weekend and what was in store for us in the day ahead.

When we were asked to return to the room, I went to use the toilet. As you do. There, I had a great time talking with more friends.

When I returned to the conference room, it was filled with an aura of awkward silence. I squeamishly found my seat, looking at the ground hoping not to draw attention as more members fluttered in to the room feeling anxious from the same imbroglio.

Then we were asked in one of those ‘I’m angry but I’m not going to show it’ voices, “what did you all promise this morning?”.

Come on! Couple of minutes is not the end of the world I thought as I looked around at all the smug faces who actually made it back on time with their necks tall and their chest out.

But the rule was deliberate. It was almost a test. For then we discussed integrity. What is it?

I realised that day that being two minutes late is not the end of the world. But being two minutes late when you say you are not going to be is a whole different experience for your character.

“You can break a promise. But the promise can break you”

Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching. It’s a promise to yourself based on your beliefs and values.

I realised I had strong values on the big things in life but being two minutes late or for example cancelling plans with your friends after agreeing did not seem that big to me. In fact, my values had helped to justify this as being polite (!) since I had the courtesy to let them know in advance.

However, when you live a life of integrity at all times, in everything you do, you will see a whole different change in your character. Your confidence increases and people start treating you with more respect.

If you say you are going to do something, do it. Try it for a week with every little thing you say. Some may be promises to yourself that no one else knows, and therefore if you break the promise no one else will know. This becomes tempting. But keep them. A promise to yourself is worth much more than a promise to someone else.

This builds a lot of character and people start to trust you when you say something, because you trust what you say.

Try it for the next seven days and see how it makes you feel. I guarantee you will feel very different.

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3 thoughts on “You can’t choose some things in life but you can choose your integrity”

  1. Thanks for sharing a great post. It must have been tough to be shown up in front of everybody. But I guess a powerful message was shared. Sometimes all we have is our word. And if we give that up then we are left with nothing. It’s a shame that this ideology of trust does not extend to business. It seems people are usually very prepared to abandon their word if it means making more money for themselves. It’s quite upsetting that we constantly need to be on our guard there.

    1. Thank you Khalkinised. It was an awful experience to be shown up. But that helped me realise it’s not what I want to be like, it builds character. Your point about businesses is very true and is an area I am currently working on, to reintroduce trust and purpose over profitability and dominance in organisations.

  2. Definately a valid point prabhmeet. Too many people in this day and age make excuses for not sticking to their word most commonly: ‘I was busy.’ Well in fact if you time manage correctly and prioritise properly everything is possible and your promises will not be broken and people will start looking at you more seriously 🙂 Change starts with the man in the mirror!

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