Integrity is a value, like persistence, courage and industriousness. Even more
than that, it is the value that guarantees all the other values. You are a good person
to the degree to which you live your life consistent with the highest values that you
espouse. Integrity is the quality that locks in your values and causes you to live
consistent with them.
Integrity is the foundation of character. And character development is one of the
most important activities you can engage in.
Working on your character means
disciplining yourself to do more and more of those things that a thoroughly honest
person would do, under all circumstances.
To be impeccably honest with others, you must first be impeccably honest with
yourself. You must be true to yourself. You must be true to the very best that is in
you, to the very best that you know. Only a person who is living consistent with his
or her highest values and virtues is really living a life of integrity. And when you
commit to living this kind of life, you will find yourself continually raising your own
standards, continually refining your definition of integrity and honesty.
You can tell how high your level of integrity is by simply looking at the things you
do in your day-to-day life. You can look at your reactions and responses to the
inevitable ups and downs of life. You can observe the behaviors you typically engage
in and you will then know the person you are.
The external manifestation of high integrity is high-quality work. A person who is
totally honest with himself or herself will be someone who does, or strives to do,
excellent work on every occasion. The totally honest person recognizes, sometimes
unconsciously, that everything he or she does is a statement about who he or she
really is as a person.
When you start a little earlier, work a little harder, stay a little later and
concentrate on every detail, you are practicing integrity in your work. And whether
you know it or not, your true level of integrity is apparent and obvious to everyone
Perhaps the most important rule you will ever learn is that your life only becomes
better when you become better.
All of life is lived from the inside out. At the very core of your personality lie your
values about yourself and life in general. Your values determine the kind of person
you really are. What you believe has defined your character and your personality. It
is what you stand for, and what you won’t stand for, that tells you and the world the
kind of person you have become.
Ask yourself this question: What are your five most important values in life? Your
answer will reveal an enormous amount about you. What would you pay for,
sacrifice for, suffer for and even die for? What would you stand up for, or refuse to
lie down for? What are the values that you hold most dear? Think these questions
through carefully and, when you get a chance, write down your answers.
Here’s another way of asking that question. What men and women, living or
dead, do you most admire? Once you pick three or four men or women, the next
question is: Why do you admire them? What values, qualities, or virtues do they
have that you respect and look up to? Can you articulate those qualities? What is a
quality possessed by human beings in general that you most respect? This is the
starting point for determining your values. The answers to these questions form the
foundation of your character and your personality.
Once you have determined your five major values, you should now organize
them in order of importance. What is your first, most important value? What is your
second value? What is your third value? And so on. Ranking your values is one of
the very best and fastest ways to define your character.
Remember, a higher order value will always take precedence over a lower order
value. Whenever you are forced to choose between acting on one value or another,
you always choose the value that is the highest on your own personal hierarchy.
Who you are, in your heart, is evidenced by what you do on a day-to-day basis,
especially when you are pushed into a position where you have to make a choice
between two values or alternatives.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Guard your integrity as a sacred thing.” In study after
study, the quality of integrity, or a person’s adherence to values, ranks as the number
one quality sought in every field. When it comes to determining whom they will do
business with, customers rank the honesty of a salesperson as the most important single
quality. Even if a they feel that a salesperson’s product, quality and price is superior,
customers will not buy from that salesperson if they feel that he or she is lacking in
honesty and character.
Likewise, integrity is the number one quality of leadership. Integrity in
leadership is expressed in terms of constancy and consistency. It is manifested in an
absolute devotion to keeping one’s word. The glue that holds all relationships
together—including the relationship between the leader and the led—is trust, and
trust is based on integrity.
Integrity is so important that functioning in our society would be impossible
without it. We could not make even a simple purchase without a high level of
confidence that the price was honest and that the change was correct. The most
successful individuals and companies in America are those with reputations of high
integrity among everyone they deal with.
This level of integrity builds the confidence
that others have in them and enables them to do more business than their
competitors whose ethics may be a little shaky.
Earl Nightingale once wrote, “If honesty did not exist, it would have to be
invented, as it is the surest way of getting rich.” A study at Harvard University
concluded that the most valuable asset that a company has is how it is known to its
By the same token, your greatest personal asset is the way that you are known
to your customers. It is your personal reputation for keeping your word and fulfilling
your commitments. Your integrity precedes you and affects all of your interactions
with other people.
There are several things you can do to move you more rapidly toward becoming
the kind of person that you know you are capable of becoming. The first, as I
mentioned, is to decide upon your five most important values in life. Organize them
in order of priority. Then write a brief paragraph defining what each of those values
means to you. A value combined with a definition becomes an organizing
principlea statement that you can use to help you make better decisions. It is a
measure and standard which enables you to know how closely you are adhering to
your innermost beliefs and convictions.
The second step to developing integrity and character in yourself is to study men and
women of great character. Study the lives and stories of people like George Washington,
Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Florence Nightingale, Susan B. Anthony and
Margaret Thatcher. Study the people whose strength of character enabled them to
change their world. As you read, think about how they would behave if they were facing
the difficulties that you face.
Napoleon Hill, in his book, The Master Key to Riches, tells about how he created an
imaginary board of personal advisors made up of great figures of history. He chose
people like Napoleon, Lincoln, Jesus, and Alexander the Great. Whenever he had to
make a decision, he would relax deeply and then imagine that the members of his
advisory council were sitting at a large table in front of him. He would then ask them
what he should do to deal effectively with a particular situation. In time, they would
begin to give him answers, observations, and insights that helped him to see more
clearly and act more effectively.
Source: Excerpts from Brian Tracy's Book: Principles of Success