Living with Integrity – Are you choosing what’s important to you?

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)

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How to always Win in a communication.

Have you ever ended a presentation, wishing that you had said something more intelligent or wondering if the audience liked it?

Have you ever experienced coming out of a conversation feeling empty and dissatisfied, as if it was something which had barely scratched the surface of what you inherently wished it to be?

Have you ever wondered how it would be like, to feel totally satisfied, enough, and complete at the end of every communication, no matter how it turned out? If you have experienced this before, you know how big a Win it is for both you and for the other(s) involved.

The key to always winning in any communication is to be authentic. Quoting Dr. Brené Brown:

“If authenticity is my goal and I keep it real, I never regret it. I might get my feelings hurt, but I rarely feel shame. When acceptance or approval becomes my goal, and it doesn’t work out, that can trigger shame for me: ‘I’m not good enough.’”

Authenticity is a buzzword that many of us seem to know and yet not know fully. I will be sharing more stories about it as we go along. Hopefully, as we learn together, you will discover it to be an insightful journey that is serving you well.

Winning does not mean that the other agree with you; Winning does not mean that the other believe you; Winning does not mean that you have impressed the other; Winning does not mean that the other will now act according to your wishes.

It simply means that you were true to your own experience at the moment of interaction, and that you expressed what is true for you, releasing the need to control or manipulate the outcome, however necessary that might seem in today’s world.

And that makes you present. And that makes your energy flow. And that connects you to your audience.

Last weekend, I delivered a short 30mins presentation to a group of AIESEC youth leaders in Finland. It has been a while since I gave a presentation to a group. I spent the first few years of my career delivering trainings and talking in front of a large audience, often numbering in the hundreds. Those years have been as damaging to my soul as much as they have been useful for my growth. Those were heavy days of uncertainty, rejection, self-doubt, fear, withdrawal, egoism, pleasing. I have, however, been blessed to have many great teachers along the way. They have helped me to come through these perturbations instead of getting lost in them.

On hindsight, I now see how that was a process which was necessary for me to go through in learning to stand in my own power. This power comes from a source of love and self-acceptance, not from force. It carries strength beyond what force can deliver.

In preparing for the presentation last week (yes, it is still critical to prepare even though we are talking about being present in the moment), I felt the familiar sense of anxiety creep up on me. Would I be able to inspire them? How would they see me? A part of me wanted to deliver something which will inspire and impress them, but a part of me felt uncomfortable about that intention. I decided to just tell my story, and to enjoy the process.

When I stepped onto the stage, I took a few moments in silence to check-in with myself and to connect to the audience. The fear and anxiety somehow dissolved away, and the rest of the presentation just flowed along. I think I missed out on one-third of what I had planned to share, and I added in stuff which I did not plan, but it didn’t matter. I was enjoying myself, and the audience looked hooked.

At the end of it, many came forward to share how they felt inspired by the story, and one mentioned that she was getting goosebumps a few times during the presentation. Hmm… I don’t think I talked about any spooky tales! It surprised me to hear from another that I had strong ‘stage presence’, and I definitely take that as a compliment. It was a very heartening moment, considering my multiple wounds from past experiences of speaking to an audience. I guess I have since evolved.

By the way, I hope you noticed the title. There is a world of difference between ‘winning a communication’ and ‘winning in a communication’.

Don’t wake up for your job. Wake up for your work.

The alarm rings, you silence it, and then try to get out of bed, sometimes unsuccessfully. You wash up, change into your work attire, have a quick breakfast, and hurries out of the house to head to where you will spend a good part of your day. Or maybe you will even skip the breakfast.

Sounds familiar? I’m sure it is for the most of you. At least it was true for me, until a few days ago when an expansion in perspective and understanding led to a significant change in how I view my work and my life.

A big part of it came from the distinction between my definition of a job or career and that of work, much of which is inspired from David Allen and Alice Sommer Herz (by the way, I would give anything to have dinner with her!).

To me, work is anything and everything that I set out to do. It can serve a multitude of purposes. My job is my work; my projects are my work; my interests and activities are my work. We all have work to do on this planet that we live on called Earth, and we need to see how it is playing such an important role in our life – because it is through our work that we excel and thereby tap into our magnificence. It is through our work that we serve this world.

Reclaim your purpose.

I realised that I was waking up the wrong way, literally. I was waking up so I could be in office by 9am, and it was a have-to thing. I was waking up for the job. I was not waking up to my best, and that needs to be changed. I decided that I would rise a few hours earlier, daily, go for a morning walk, come back for a shower, have a good and proper breakfast and then head off to the office.

It was easier said than done! Friends who have tried to fix morning appointments with me, and colleagues who have worked with me before, would tell you that I am not what you would call a ‘morning person’. While I am still working on getting to a 100% success rate with the new daily morning routine, I have been impressed at my own progress and at how much energy-giving it is to function at that level of purposefulness.

Habits are sticky; they win leeches hands-down. In changing the old habit and creating a new one, it is critical to take care of the following:

1. Address the barrier to success

I sleep late, and the lack of sleep was making it difficult for me to climb, or even roll out of bed in the mornings. A key change is to start sleeping much earlier, simple as that! Once it is time for bed, even though there are still many things which I want to complete, I put them down and head to bed. It is only when I take care of my well-being that I can better accomplish all that I want to.

2. Set yourself up for success: make it easy and convenient to change

I strategically laid out the clothes, shoes, and water (to wake me up), so that I can jump into them and head out as soon as I am awake. Well actually, they are to silence the excuses that creep in… ‘I’m tired’, ‘it’s cold and dark outside’, etc. We humans are such amazing creatures when it comes to generating of creative excuses!

3. Have a clear and strong Why

There are two big ‘Why’s for me changing.

One, there is a kind of magic in the morning air which I absolutely love. It feels very special and sacred to be out in nature in the mornings, peaceful and quiet, watching and listening to the world wake up little by little, and catching a beautiful sunrise on good days. Missing the window of dawn often results in a feeling of pity and regret.

Two, I want to take care of this body; it is what allows me to do what I want to do and go where I want to go. My body houses my soul and essence. It is the best vehicle that I have.

It helps too, to have a source of inspiration. For me, this source comes in the form of a quote: No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, and show up.  Show up to the world, and more so, show up to yourself.

And the payoffs for my job? What used to be sluggishness and fatigue have now given way to alertness and increased focus and productivity. It was amazingly ironic how I have been waking up earlier, and yet, it has brought me a lot more energy throughout the day!