Have you ever done or not done something and then felt upset with yourself about it? Did you make a note to yourself that you will choose differently the next time round, only to repeat the same pattern, feel lousy about yourself… entering into a cycle of feeling bad and making choices that you know you will feel bad about later on?
I definitely have. If that sounds familiar, welcome to the world of Integrity.
Integrity as a word has been in my vocabulary since I was young, and I knew it to be in the family of words like honesty and truthfulness. It was only in the last 2 years that I began to experience and understand the essence of the word. As much as it is related to our interactions with other people and the world, it is really about our relationship with ourselves. The word stems from the Latin word integer (whole, complete) and refers to the inner sense of “wholeness” that results from acting in consistency and congruency with our highest values and principles.
For many of us, however, we find it challenging to ascertain whether we are living with integrity as we don’t even know what we truly value, to begin with. That’s why we have these wonderful things called feelings and emotions. They are like the signals on your car dashboard to tell you that something is wrong inside. Each time you compromise on what is truly important to you, e.g. in a moment of mis-choice or in an attempt to fit in with your environment, you feel a sense of dissatisfaction nagging at you. For some, it shows up as frustration and anger toward self. Feelings are essentially a call for action, and the more you ignore or snuff them out, the stronger they show up later, in different ways.
I thought I knew my values, until an insight yesterday which gave me a deeper distinction.
I have consistently been working on incorporating habits and making changes that I believe will make me a better person mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Some of these include
- Fulfilling a childhood dream (which I will write about in a later post)
- Starting a project that involves marrying my strengths and passion to design a work and career that I love (this, I may possibly write about too)
- Doing my yoga practice every morning upon waking up
In the last few days, I have also started to make changes to my diet in response to research findings on a skin allergic reaction that involves cutting down on dairy and wheat products. These changes have reflected positive impacts for my skin and body – skin acne recover, I feel lighter, less sluggish, have more energy and get better sleep. Of course, this is complemented by a few other lifestyle changes.
There were some sandwiches and candies available in the office kitchen yesterday from an event in the morning, and I found myself eating the cheese-filled wheat bread for lunch, with a grand finale of a piece of milk chocolate for dessert (Think dairy + wheat combo). Later, I wondered what made me choose to eat that, and to save for dinner the food which I had initially prepared for lunch.
I then realized that this is just one small incident that reflects something else that has been consistently playing out in my life – the war between 3 dominant resources: Energy, time and money. In this particular example, as with many other decisions I have made before, I have compromised on my health and energy in an attempt to ‘save’ time and money. For example,
- Working till late and going to bed later than I had wished to, not getting enough rest
- Skipping yoga on some mornings in exchange for extra time in the office
- Buying processed food, some of are cheaper than the whole foods
Consciously, I would place health and energy as the top of these priorities, but subconsciously, I have been acting in ways that are incongruent with that value and ideal. It was so liberating to lay these 3 resources out in front of me and to see how I have been relating to them my whole life!
Today, in my moment-to-moment decisions, I am making a conscious effort to choose Energy.
Each of us has quite a few things that we value, some of them potentially in conflict with each other. For example, I value interpersonal relationships, and I also need a decent amount of personal time and space. I have said ‘yes’ to gatherings after gatherings, and ended up regretting it when I realize that I do not have enough time for my personal well-being or to complete some projects that I have promised myself. I have also readily given up me-time so as to fit in with others, only to feel upset about it later on.
Of course, this does not mean that you should expect the whole world to accede to your demands. It means to know your boundaries – which are the ones that you can compromise on, and which are the ones that you absolutely need to stand by? I have learnt that integrity, boundaries and assertiveness are good friends. Add in an elegant sense of balance, and you’re ready to surf the waves of your internal world and external environment!
How do we, on a moment to moment basis, make choices that bring us happiness, peace and satisfaction?
P.S. Check out Brian Johnson’s great video +1 or -1? (3mins)