Integrity – My Other Favorite Word

I am sure that I learned the meaning of the word integrity when I was growing up. But it was my drill instructor in basic training that preached and drove home the importance of having integrity in everything that I do.

Of all personal traits, habits, behaviors, modes of being, etc. nothing beats having integrity, ever. Essentially, to me, integrity means this… saying what you are going to and doing just that. Your words and your actions are 100% in line. It also means doing the right thing whether someone is watching or not.

Integrity is probably the most important quality to practice in all of your relationships with others be it your coworkers, family members, friends, and really anyone else in your life. Most importantly, it is crucial to always practice integrity with yourself, be true to your word but also, if you make a mess, own it and clean it up.

Striving always to have integrity in everything that you do you can prevent you from creating a lot of chaos in your life; but even then, mistakes can happen. The past two weeks I had two very huge foul-ups. One of them on a professional level and another on a personal level and it wasn’t a lack of integrity that got me into trouble but it was definitely integrity that got me out of it and enabled me to fix things.

The first error was on a project that I was working with and had a sub-contractor helping me. There was a part of the job that “we” innocently overlooked and was not done that the customer found and questioned. Instead of pushing back on the customer, as the work was not part of the bid or contract, we did quite the opposite. We owned it, apologized, mobilized and got back in on the site and spent another two days “making it right.” By exhibiting the highest level of integrity, we took responsibility, fixing the problem at our cost on our end, and in the end we have a very happy customer who respects us and wants us back for more work.

On a personal front, I failed to be there for a friend in need. Without going into details, I failed my friend by not being “present” when that was exactly what was needed. I own the fact that at some level I chose not to be there and to let my friend sort out the issue independently. The result was that my friend felt hurt, a little abandoned, and in truth shocked that I did not lend my support when needed. After the fact – my friend pointed this out to me and I realized just how big of an ass that I had been. This prompted me to immediately apologize in the form of a hand-written note accompanied with a personal face to face apology that was an effort to make, and the gift of a 12-year old bottle of Scotch. I messed up, damaged a relationship, but when given the chance I took the opportunity to own it, take responsibility, make amends, and thus repair a friendship that is very important to me.

In both cases, thankfully I was able to clean up both messes. By practicing integrity, I can now feel at ease and sleep at night with my peace of mind as a pillow. If I had chosen to go the other way, the costs down the road could include losing a customer and losing a dear friend in the process.

Integrity, like effort, does not come easily. I think that everyone struggles at times admitting being or doing something wrong. Admitting you made a mistake can be hard to do but once you make that admission, you are then able to take the next step to make things better.

Integrity can keep you out of many of life’s dramas but if you do foul-up, be contrite and own it. Don’t make excuses for your behavior or actions because when you do that you tell others that they are not important and never try to hide or secret what you did as that is the complete opposite of having integrity.

Choose your thoughts and actions based on what is right rather than what is in it for you or what is convenient for you. Everyone makes mistakes from time to time, but a person with integrity will always own up to them. Be that person… have integrity. It might not always be easy but it will always be right.

Andy Wooten M.A. Counseling – Certified Life Coach – Aspen, Colorado

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