3 Steps to Living with Integrity
Imagine being so clear and honest with yourself that the words you speak honor who you are at all levels of your existence, the intellectual, the physical, the spiritual.
Now imagine forming such a clear connection between your actions and who you truly are that each action you take is a tribute to the wonder of your existence and the existence of life itself.
That, to me, is the power and possibility of integrity, and I want all young people to learn integrity as a foundational tool in creating a world that works for all of us.
In my last post, Empowered and Unbounded, I shared my perspective on what integrity is and what it makes possible. In this post I share three steps to support you and your students in living life with integrity:
Get profoundly related to the present moment
Set an intention
Align your actions with your intentions
This post is longer than usual, and I hope that you'll hang with me until the end.
Step 1. Get profoundly related to the present moment: be honest about what’s actually happening.
Our experience in the present moment comprises two major parts: thoughts and sensations. Getting profoundly related to the present moment means separating what's actually happening from how we're interpreting or judging what's happening.
Getting profoundly related to the present moment means noticing whether we’re interacting with the person actually in front of us or if we’re interacting with our thoughts, judgments, expectations, or fears about that person.
It means noticing whether we’re responding to our kids, spouse, siblings, or students from a place of self-righteousness or a place of compassion and understanding.
It means being honest with ourselves about the pains, discomforts, desires, joys, and fears that we’re feeling in the different parts of our bodies and minds.
Integrity means staying in touch with what’s actually happening, inside and outside ourselves, here in this moment.
When I'm about to walk into class, I'm usually bringing in feelings and emotions either from my last activity or from my memory of how this class went last time. If I don't take a moment to feel out what's happening physically and to observe my thinking, my students are going to get a teacher grounded in the past, and my best teaching happens when I'm grounded in the present.
Step 2. Set an intention: give your word to something you care about.
Our word can be given to something big and global, or it can stay close to home and be very personal. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that we have identified an intention for ourselves, something worthy of our attention, focus, and energy.
Broad commitments to give our word to:
Who or what do you care about?
What matters to you?
Or short-term intentions that we could give our word to:
How do you want to grow today?
What are you intending for today for yourself or for others?
Just prior to class, once I've gotten connected to my present experience, I can now pick a couple words that serve as my intention for the class. Recently, I’ve been using the words engaged, compassionate, and at ease, or relaxed, curious, and in love. Sometimes I’ll focus on my broader commitments or goals: the well being of life. With students, unbreakable, untarnishable, and perfect has also been coming to mind for the last year.
Setting intentions is also a powerful thing to do before entering conversations or meetings. I don’t do it nearly as often as I could, but when I set intentions before specific conversations, those conversations always go better.
By the way, to give our word to something, we don’t actually have to speak our word for someone else to hear it. It can be in a journal, on a sticky note, or even just clearly in our minds. However, speaking our word to others can really add to our ability to honor it.
Step 3. Align your actions with your intentions: honor what you’ve given your word to.
Wherever I end up in class, it's so helpful to get back in touch with what matters, that thing that I gave my word to. When we have integrity, we treat the word we've given as a touchstone, a reminder of who we really are and what we're really committed to in this moment.
Acting with integrity means that our actions are consistent with the intention or goal that we've spoken. In this way, we honor our word, what we’ve given our word to, and the people and creatures whose lives will be impacted by it.
Following through and aligning our actions with our intentions can be really tough though. There are shelves of books at the library focused on habits and diets and motivation and goal setting and mindset and communication. That's so much more than we can explore in what I already hoped would be a shorter post! Fundamentally, though, living with integrity requires us to align our actions with our intentions and what we've given our word to.
Integrity can be a heavy term for some of us, one that implies discipline, sacrifice, service, and doing the right thing no matter what. When I remember that integrity is an access to well-being for me and others, though, the load really seems to lighten.
I LOVE teaching Physics and Computer Science, but I can think of few lessons more valuable than integrity for high school students to integrate into their lives.
Thanks for reading ❤️.
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