On Integrity

I take integrity very seriously. This is partly as a practical matter for collaboration, and partly as a spiritual practice.

Practically, integrity means that you are trustworthy. Others can trust you to do what you said you would do. Perhaps even more importantly, integrity means that you can trust yourself to do what you say you will do – including living out your highest aspirations and visions for participating in and serving the world.

Spiritually, integrity is a clean fuel for clarifying our perception and improving our behavior.

At various points along the spiritual path, we will want to make commitments to ourselves and know that we will keep them. This is true for large and small commitments.

The classic example in the Buddhist tradition is the Buddha’s commitment to sit under the Bodhi Tree until he found Awakening – the end of suffering – or until he died. Many other Buddhist practitioners have made similar commitments, from the time of the Buddha until our own time.

Buddha Statue Under The Bodhi Tree – Nithi Anand (CC-BY)

The Buddha’s commitment, and others like it, are very large commitments. It requires a tremendous amount of integrity and courage to make such a commitment. Until we are ready to make such a commitment, we should practice establishing a track record of making and keeping smaller commitments.

Even if we are not yet ready to make such a large commitment, we should take smaller and even very small commitments very seriously. This is of tremendous value in itself, but also for our spiritual path.

For both practical and spiritual reasons, it is important to Do What You Said You Would Do (DWYSYWD).

How I DWYSYWD

If I make a commitment to you, I will do it, and by the time I say I will. If a difficulty arises, I will propose an amended commitment, which will only be active if you agree.

I expect my collaborators to do the same for any commitments they make. If you do not honor a commitment that you made to me, I will call you on it. This is partly out of practical necessity, but also to support you in your own cultivation of integrity.

How You Can DWYSYWD

As individuals: implement a productivity system like Getting Things Done (GTD) so that you have a high degree of trust in your ability to DWYSYWD.

In meetings or with teams: Commit to doing something specific by a certain time. Have good answers to the question, “Who does what by when?” Write it down and hold people accountable by setting reminders in a software tool.

Conclusion

Integrity is an ongoing practice, an ideal. It’s not easy to have integrity, or to hold others to acting in integrity. Rather than striving for perfection, seek to practice integrity in your own life. Take steps to set yourself up for success in the future, and take responsibility for your own past actions that lacked integrity. Seek to have more and more integrity, and to be more and more trustworthy, as time goes on.

Further Resources

Thank you to Alexandra Heller and Thomas Bonn for editing this post.

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