Integral Alignment

Article contributed by Amy Sargent.

We are told to be ;people of integrity…but what does that mean?

The Deeper Meaning of Integrity

Integrity, a competency of emotional intelligence, can be defined as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles or moral uprightness. People of integrity do the right thing, even when no one is looking. They adhere to a set of high ethical standards. They are good. They are true. They speak the truth. They are honest. They are a step above the rest. They are trustworthy. They are reliable. Is someone you know coming to mind?

While the above descriptions are accurate, there’s an even deeper meaning which I think speaks best to the true heart of integrity, and it’s this: the state of being complete or whole []. I’m talking about integral alignment: being unified and undivided, all parts of yourself working together as a cohesive whole. People who have integral alignment know who they are, and they like who you are — as do others–and their actions support rather than supplant. They don’t have to hide the parts of them which seem unacceptable, or feel like an imposter. They live in the open, in the light, and their behavior lines up with the words which come out of their mouth — even when no one else is around. They aren’t perfect — they make mistakes like everyone else, but they own their missteps and move forward, without shame. When someone walks in this type of integrity, each component (their values, morals, principals, words, actions, day-to-day behavior) are in alignment with who they are…or, maybe better said, who they aspire to be.

When Integrity is Lacking

When someone struggles with integrity, they are out of this alignment, and don’t behave in accordance with their values. They’ll often say they feel as if they are compartmentalized, with parts of them which need to stay hidden in order to be accepted. They tend to do what is most expedient rather than what is right, because they have not yet sorted out their own opinions and feelings of what is right and what is wrong. They don’t always do what they say they will do, and are unreliable. They tend to be followers, easily influenced by others, showing little independent thought. They will respond to the needs of the moment, often selfish in nature, and behave differently, morally and ethically, depending on the situation. They tend to look out for their own needs before the needs of others, and are apt to be dishonest. Telling little white lies to get out of trouble is a go-to behavior, and their virtues come and go on a whim. Their day-to-day actions don’t match up with the words which come out of their mouth. They are disjointed and others can’t quite get a good read on them.

Is someone you know coming to mind here?

Try, if you can, to not be hasty to negatively judge someone who is out of this integral alignment. Not everyone knows who they aspire to be, nor have they taken the time to establish their tried and true values.

Growing in Integrity

If you would like to develop more of integral alignment, a good place to start is to take the following inventory to gain clarity on various aspects of your integrity. Please complete the self-assessment portion, and then complete it again from the perspective of others with whom you are closest to — at work and at home. Of course, be honest as you respond to the prompts — it doesn’t make any sense to fudge your answers on an integrity inventory!, and remember, no one will see this but you.

Place a check-mark in one of the boxes on the right, with “5” being “I do this ALWAYS,” “4” being “almost always,” 3 being “often,” “2” being “occasionally,” and “1” being “I seldom do this.”

  Aspects of integrity  1  2  3  4  5
If I commit to something, I follow through on that commitment.     
I am truthful at all times.     
I treat people fairly, no matter their place in society or in the organization.     
I am open with others about my values and beliefs, but without being overbearing or preachy.     
I take the tough, principled stand without hesitation, even if it’s not popular.     
I readily admit my mistakes.     
I give true, accurate information in all encounters. I never bend the truth.     
I do what’s right, even if it’s not personally rewarding.     
I know my values and I live by them at all times.     
I “walk the talk” – I demonstrate high ethical standards in everything I do.     
I always follow through on my stated intentions.     
My actions are trustworthy in all my interactions.     
I treat all people with respect, both in my face-to-face interactions AND behind their backs.     
I accept accountability for my actions.     
I give credit to others when deserved. I never present others’ work or ideas as my own.     
I take a stand for what’s right, even when opposed.     
I act in accordance with my own stated values, beliefs and principles.     
I carry out the spirit as well as the letter of formal and informal contracts and agreements.     
I tell the truth without “beating around the bush.”     
I accept conflict as inevitable whenever two or more people are together, and I don’t avoid it, but rather I seek to resolve it to the benefit of all. I embrace the negative and resolve it.     

How’d you do?

Now, ask yourself, how would others — those you’re closest to, and who know you well — rate you on these same items? If you’re not sure, consider having a conversation with several of your colleagues or friends and ask them to share their insights on the above prompts about your behaviors in these areas.

Do your responses match up with theirs? If not, note in which areas there are discrepancies. If you’re really honest with yourself, do you agree with them? Why or why not? Take some time to journal or talk with someone about why the gaps between your responses and theirs may exist –without negative judgment toward either you or them, if possible. Note if these behaviors only show up with certain people, or with everyone you interact with. Decide which of these areas you’d like to grow in — then spend the next few weeks, months, focusing on either doing more of it, as needed.

Identify Your Values

Secondly, to develop more integral alignment, consider doing a values check to determine your top values. What is most important to you? What qualities do you admire most in others? Which attributes do you wish you had more of? Make a list of your top ten values. Then, ask yourself, am I living my life based upon these values?

One way to identify your values is to look at your calendar. What do you spend most of your time doing? How often do these values show up in the activities you choose to spend your time doing?

Another check is to look at how you spend your money. How much of your financial resources do you allot to these values? No shame if there’s a mismatch here, but do take note. Notice the things you are spending your time doing which do not align with the values you listed above, and note the items on which you spend money which do not align with the values you listed above. What could you do more of in each area to come into alignment? What could you do less of?

Moving Toward More Integrity

Again, don’t beat yourself up if you’re not living in perfect integral alignment. Shameful feelings won’t help the situation. Instead, own the areas of your life you want to change. Say them out loud. Write them down. Apologize to those you’ve hurt. Share with a trusted friend or colleague who you aspire to be. Seek the help of a counselor or coach. Create an action plan of things you plan to do more of, and things you plan to do less of. Ask someone to be an accountability partner, a person who will encourage you toward more integral behaviors, and alert you to the times you miss.

Then, get up and get started. Give yourself grace and plenty of room to grow. Forgive yourself of mistakes, celebrate your wins. Remember, the goal is not to be perfect in integrity, but to exhibit more integrity more of the time.

As you progress, pause to notice the areas in which your life feels more aligned, more whole, more complete. How has your integrity contributed to that?

A great resource to further development of your integrity is the book, Integrity:  The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality, by Dr. Henry Cloud.

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