An Integral Observation

Proposed Title for Social –

Social Quote: “There are no “shoulds” and no regrets in life when each choice is made from your place of truth.”

Does this question sound familiar? “I’m doing all the right things, why don’t things work out better for me?” A friend of mine who works a large technology company in Silicon Valley has been asking this very question.

Dan’s an exemplary employee. Over the past several years, he’s gone from managing the development of one product, to several, and then having a whole division built around his work. Customers clamor to stock Dan’s products, which are flying off the shelves. To put it mildly, Dan’s been killing it.

But, if you were to talk with Dan, he would disagree with that statement. He feels like he’s putting all of his energy into his division and his boss doesn’t acknowledge or complement his efforts. Instead, whenever Dan encounters him, he’s only given tighter deadlines and more work to do. Dan feels he has no choice but to say “yes” to everything his supervisor wants and put up with all the crap.

When Dan told me he is “doing all the right things,” what quickly became clear is that Dan is really just doing whatever his boss wants. He believes that being a good soldier should earn him praise and increase his job security while reducing some of the pressure he feels. He’s surprised and upset that the opposite seems to be true. Where another might consider his rise in the company to be a mark of success, Dan only feels more weight on his shoulders. Instead of praise and security, Dan is cultivating resentment.

When you peel back the layers, Dan’s stress has nothing to do with how well his boss thinks he’s doing. Instead, it stems from internal insecurity, which in turn stems from a lack of integrity.

Most people think of integrity as a “firm adherence to a code of moral values,” and that’s certainly one definition. There is another definition that I personally find more valuable — that integrity is, “a state of being complete or undivided.” Simply put, it’s when your thoughts, your words, and your actions are all in alignment — “when the life you are living on the outside matches who you are on the inside,” as writer Alan Cohen puts it. There are no “shoulds” and no regrets, because each choice is made from your place of truth. Integrity, in this sense, is an internal completeness that allows us to better evaluate external forces and discern where to put our focus and attention.

A long time ago I had the not-so-glamourous job of selling furniture in a futon store in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. One Saturday afternoon, I approached a man and women who had just walked into the store. As I often did, I asked them an opening question that helped me to assess who wanted my attention and who didn’t: “Would you like a demonstration on how our furniture converts into a bed, or are you simply interested in browsing on your own?”

The man responded with an angry lecture about how I was being too pushy in my sales tactics. Soon his partner had joined him. Their rant drew the attention of other people in the store and, by the end, it seemed like the man was trying to goad me into an argument. I listened to the couple’s complaints fully, apologized for interrupting their shopping and thanked them for stopping in. They still left in a huff.

After the couple left, my co-worker Shawn came up to me and asked, “How do you do that? How could you just stand there and take that abuse?”

I told Shawn that I didn’t know what kind of day the customers had, nor did I know anything that had happened to them before they came across my path. All I knew was that they felt comfortable enough with me to let out their frustration, and I guessed that they left the store feeling better than they were when they first stopped in.

What allowed me to be so calm in the midst of that storm was the sure knowledge that I had not been pushy in my words or my intentions. I felt entirely clear about how I had shown up in that moment. Knowing this couple’s problem really had nothing to do with me allowed me the freedom to experience the verbal onslaught without being triggered whatsoever.

In Dan’s case, the frustration and resentment he was feeling was a clear indicator to me that his actions were not in alignment with his thoughts. Dan was using a “yes man” strategy to gain recognition and job security, but in trying to please his boss, he was compromising himself. Ironically, this compromise of his internal integrity left Dan feeling less appreciated and less secure.

Ultimately, Dan can’t control his job security. Even if he could, most likely the internal worry of losing his job would shift to another aspect of his life where he didn’t feel in control. What Dan can control is his the quality of his work, and how many projects he chooses to work on — not necessarily in accordance to his boss’s standards, but his own. By digging in and understanding where his integrity is in terms of his career, Dan can establish an internal barometer by which he can measure his own job satisfaction.

It might just be that Dan’s personal truth is to be a powerhouse 24/7/365 and take on all the new projects his boss gives him. I’m willing to bet, though, that dialing back the workload to ensure quality and work/life balance might be closer to his true desires. By understanding what his personal truth is in this area of his life, and making choices that are in alignment with that truth, Dan will come across more confident and grounded whether he chooses to take on more projects or to push back more often.

When you understand what’s true for you it can act like a foundation for your whole emotional experience. Instead of the internal question being, “Is what I’m doing okay with other people?” The question shifts to ask, “Am I acting with my own integrity?” Because you know what’s true for you, it’s easier to decide what types of work to take on, what types of people to spend time with, and what types of change you would like to see in the world.

Life may sling all types of challenges at you. Knowing and standing in your integrity doesn’t mean life will be perfect, but it can help you reframe how you react to life events. If and when “bad” things happen, you’ll find yourself more resilient to handling the challenges and obstacles. And ultimately it’s not what happens to you, but how you choose to respond to it that shows the true measure of who you are.

“Perhaps the surest test of an individual’s integrity is his refusal to do or say anything that would damage his self-respect.” — Thomas S. Monson

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