Living In IntegrityNov 01, 2022
“If you have integrity, nothing else matters.
If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.”
Here are some words I never imagined saying: I recently attended a conference for entrepreneurs. I was surrounded by impressive individuals putting themselves in the proverbial arena with the goal of disrupting struggles and pain points for their future customers. An entire afternoon was spent on the concept of integrity. I thought I understood integrity before this conference, but I was taken aback by the realizations that came to me as the conversation unfolded.
What is integrity? Simply put, integrity is your word. It is the things you said you would do, what you know to do, what is expected of you, and what you stand for. It is abiding by moral, ethical, and legal standards. As physicians, we pride ourselves on integrity. Our integrity is everything. Trust is inherently linked to integrity.
As the topic of integrity was explored, the speaker asked a vital question: “Where do you lack integrity in your life?” My initial thoughts were: I’m good. I am true to my word. Next topic, please.
As if the speaker knew I needed to dig deeper, she told a story involving being two minutes late to work. No biggie. Two minutes. Who cares? While processing the conversation with her boss, she asked herself an important question: Am I not on time because I don’t think it matters if I am here? My heart stopped as my thoughts were immediately directed to my family.
As I wrap up patient care each evening, I text my wife. I let her know that I am finishing up and when I intend to leave: “Just finished my last case. Hopefully, leaving in an hour.” She usually texts back: “Sounds good.” I text her my ETA two hours later as I walk out the door. If you asked my wife if she ever fully believes that the first text is accurate, she would surely respond: No. Why? Because I am out of integrity. I have been out of integrity so many times that she essentially ignores that first text awaiting the more credible later text: “Leaving now.” But my wife isn’t the only victim of my being out of integrity. My children also suffer.
This realization was a mic drop. Until now, I always made working late about misaligned priorities. I judged myself for prioritizing my work and not my family. But if I am speaking freely, this has always been so hard to reconcile because I absolutely prioritize my family—100%. I just can’t get home on time. So, where is the disconnect? The answer lies in my integrity.
I know how to be on time. I am in integrity when I show up early for procedures and clinic. I am ready to go at least 30 minutes before my official start time. I am “in integrity” at work. To my great dismay, I am not in integrity with my family. Which, if you are connecting the dots, means that I don’t think my presence at home matters. I spent some time examining that thought and found some truth in it. I stay at work because it matters. I am solely responsible for the care of my patients. If I don’t do it, it doesn’t get done. Home is another story. My wife takes impeccable care of our children. She dotes on them and attends to their every whim. I know she would like my help, but she doesn’t need my help. I have complete confidence that she can do it without me. Yikes. I am cringing as I write this and read it back and imagine my wife hearing these thoughts for the first time.
Some might choose this revelation to judge or criticize themselves. However, I saw this as great news. Why? Because I am a person that prides himself on his high level of integrity. The idea that my priorities were out of line never sat well with me, and trying to figure out how to align my time and priorities was a constant struggle. Alternatively, knowing I am out of integrity with my wife and children feels different. It is a different problem to solve, and I am incredibly motivated to fix it. It fascinates me that the solution is the same, but a slight shift in perspective provides all the motivation needed to enact a much-needed change.
I am not under the false assumption that I will enact a change tomorrow that will entirely place myself in integrity with my family. I will, however, be better about recognizing when I am in or out of integrity. As with all problems, the first step is recognizing the issue. Once I see that I am out of integrity, I can learn to communicate better. When I realize I will not be leaving at the expected time, I will immediately let my wife and kids know. I can then communicate a plan to do better next time and how to address the failure: “Daddy is so sorry he won’t be home to read a chapter of that book at bedtime, so tomorrow we will read two chapters.”
When thinking about integrity, consider: What have I said I would do that I haven’t done? Dig deep. Some of the most impactful areas are the hardest to recognize. When you find an area of your life that is not in integrity, do not add shame or judgment. It is okay that things don’t happen as you said or thought they would. This is the point to identify and communicate. What will you do in the future to prevent this from happening again? How will you address the impact of the failure on others?
Your word carries weight to the degree that your word carries truth. You are your word. Be impeccable.
Have you made a promise to yourself or someone else? Did you keep it? How does that make you feel? Do you feel more or less empowered? Is it possible to honor your word without keeping your promise?
Are you interested in creating more balance in your life? I want to invite you to check out my FREE TRAINING. Click here to get: How Busy Physicians Can Stop Trying To Escape Medicine And Start Living Their Best Life Today.
This training will teach you the five essential techniques physicians need to stop feeling stuck, burned out, and trapped in medicine. You will also learn how to discover what you truly want in life and how to get it!
PS. I get a lot of inspiration from music lyrics. Many people use inspiring quotes (and I do, too), but music really speaks to me. I hope you find inspiration in the songs too.
Neil Diamond - I Am...I Said
Click here to read the lyrics.
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