Self-Integrity Can Change Your Life
Scott D. Clary | Mental Models, Performance, Business & Entrepreneurship
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Self-Integrity Can Change Your Life
"It was character that got us out of bed, commitment that moved us into action, and discipline that enabled us to follow through." - Zig Zigler
To all my friends with a gazillion ideas but no action, this one's specially for you!
We've all been in that spot, right? Our heads are jam-packed with cool business ideas, plans to become better versions of ourselves, and all sorts of creative ventures. We're so pumped about the future that we can almost feel it in our bones.
But when it's time to walk the talk – to actually do the things that'll bring us closer to that awesome future self – we suddenly hit the brakes. What's our go-to excuse? "Life just gets in the way."
But here's the thing: life's never been about the daydreams, it's about actually making things happen. That's why most of us have a tough time turning our dreams into reality. We have to face being uncomfortable, worn out, challenged, and even afraid. We have to do things we might not really want to do, all for the sake of that amazing future we envision.
And guess what? It all starts with self-integrity – keeping our word and taking responsibility for the promises we make, whether they're big or small.
Life According to Kettering
So, you might know about a few smart people that basically championed the Industrial Revolution era, right? Well, let me introduce you to Charles F. Kettering. This guy had 186 patents under his belt and is pretty much the reason a) cars have electric starters, and b) we can chill out with air conditioning.
But it's not just his inventions that make me a fan of Kettering. He said something super insightful:
“My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there."
Kettering totally got that our ability to stick to our word – to see things through, no matter how tough – would shape our lives down the road.
He realized that, when you think about it, the future is already here. We're living it! Because every single day, all those 24-hour chunks of our lives add up to create the big picture of our future.
Why Do We Neglect Our Future?
If Kettering's first quote wasn't powerful enough, here's another gem:
"It is the 'follow through' that makes the great difference between ultimate success and failure, because it is so easy to stop."
It is so easy to stop.
I used to spend so much time wondering why I couldn't just get myself going. I knew what I wanted. I was aware of my potential and all those talents I hadn't even tapped into yet. I had all these ideas for businesses I wanted to start and the community I wanted to build. So, what was stopping me?
Well, like Kettering said – it's just too darn easy to take a step back and stop trying. Giving up and settling for just "okay" is way simpler than pushing yourself towards something amazing.
But, you know, it's not just black and white. There's more to it than that.
The Pressure of Perfection
You know what's a huge obstacle between us and our true potential? This idea that everything has to be flawless. What if you try to start that business and it doesn't work out? Does that mean all your effort was for nothing?
Not even close!
The reality is, most of the changes you wanna make or ideas you wanna try will probably turn out different from what you first imagined. Maybe you start a new workout routine and instead of going all-out, you discover a love for yoga. Or you launch that business, and it's not quite what you pictured – but you learn so much from the experience.
I'm really into this quote by Dr. Brene Brown about perfectionism:
“Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of blame, judgment, and shame.”
Failing is just a part of life, so don't sweat it if your original plan doesn't pan out. What matters is that you gave it a shot – and you keep trying – to make those changes. That's integrity: sticking with something, through thick and thin, no matter how many bumps you hit along the way.
The Awareness of Life's Futility
Along with the weight of perfection, a lot of us (depending on your beliefs) are pretty aware that, in the grand scheme of things, what we do here might not really matter. We could leave this world as a genius or a couch potato, and it wouldn't make a difference. We're all headed six feet under.
This harsh truth keeps many of us from even trying to make changes. It's like getting a free pass. If living a just-okay life is way easier and comfier, why put in the effort?
The answer: because we can.
The beauty of living lies in being both conscious of our smallness and amazed that we're even here, experiencing life. It's about cherishing and enjoying every hour of every day. Sure, you'll eventually pass away and none of this might matter – but right now, you're alive and kicking, and you have the chance to create something incredible for yourself.
Habit, Routine, and Hardwiring
There's something way more powerful than perfectionism or pessimism that keeps us from taking action, and that's the incredible wiring of our own brains.
Believing that 'motivation' alone is enough to change our lives is a bit of a fairy tale. Imagine this: for the last five years, you've come home from a job you can't stand, plopped down on the couch in your work clothes, and drifted off to reality TV until the glaring screen wakes you up at 9 pm. It's almost like a miracle to expect that you'll suddenly wake up one day and turn your life around for good.
(Not entirely impossible – but let's be real, it's highly, highly unlikely).
Why's that? Well, we're creatures of habit. The more our brain travels down the same neural pathways, the stronger and more deeply ingrained those pathways become.
That's exactly why we struggle so much to make the changes we swear we're gonna make. Even with the best intentions, we fall back into our old patterns – and just like that, our ability to 'follow through' vanishes into thin air.
What's the Solution?
So, I'm here to chat about self-integrity. We know integrity is kinda interesting – it's about being "whole," having all the pieces in place. We use it to describe something solid and dependable or someone with a strong sense of right and wrong.
Self-integrity is all about constructing and strengthening your own inner foundation. For me, it comes down to centering my identity around one key behavior: follow through.
Following through is just sticking to what you say. When you promise yourself that something's gonna change, you take specific actions to make that change happen.
How Follow Through Changes You
You might be wondering – how does this get around the barriers and mental blocks I mentioned earlier? Isn't "following through" just another unrealistic goal that won't come true?
Here's what sets it apart: with follow through, you're creating a behavior pattern that shapes your identity. Let me break it down.
Every time you consciously decide to make a change – like getting healthier or learning a new language – and then actually follow through on it, you're forming a little neural pathway in your brain. Plus, you're giving yourself real evidence that you've got self-integrity.
But it's a two-way street. Every time you talk big but don't follow through, you're identifying as someone who's all talk and no action. You start to subconsciously see yourself as someone who can't make changes – and that's a dangerous mindset to fall into.
How To Begin Embracing Self-Integrity
One issue we often run into when committing to something new is that we think about the whole process all at once, which can be super overwhelming. Here are a few rules to live by when becoming a person of self-integrity:
Don't say you're gonna do something unless you're ready to fully commit to it.
Once you decide to make a change, create something new, or step out of your comfort zone, start by making a plan.
Pick just one action step you can realistically take each day to bring you closer to your goal. If it helps, grab a wall planner and write down exactly what you're gonna do – but don't set an "end date" since that'll just add too much pressure.
Self-integrity isn't only about following through on your word – it's also about fully committing to your own vision. When we take control of our lives, our brains form new pathways and habits, setting us up for a healthier, happier future.
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