Here’s my simple definition of integrity:
Integrity: The act of doing what you said you would do when you said you would do it.
It is a yes or no scenario- you either did or you didn’t. Missing a deadline, skipping a scheduled workout, or eating something I said I wouldn’t are all examples of integrity lacking. When it comes to developing a new habit, eliminating a bad habit, or developing a daily discipline, keeping your word isn’t always easy. In striving to live a life of integrity, I have noticed the way in which I do so is not always the same. In evaluating patterns in my life and others, I have distinguished four distinct ways in which integrity occurs. I call these the four levels of integrity.
Level One Integrity- The Carrot and The Stick
“The secret of success is learning how to use pain and pleasure instead of having pain and pleasure use you.” –Tony Robbins
Level one integrity is externally motivated and primarily driven by the desire to avoid (external) pain and to gain (external) pleasure. Consciously setting up a structure which rewards desired behavior and discourages unwanted behavior is a critical success skill. Here are a couple of examples:
In my second year in as an agent in the insurance business I set 2 records within a 3 month period. One of the disciplines I engaged in was a minimum of 25 prospecting calls each business day for 11 weeks. My carrot: the coveted President’s ring. My stick: I had to work Sundays if I did not reach my weekly sales goals.
In 2010 I accepted Scott Goodknight‘s 30 day challenge. I took on exercising at least 30 minutes per day for 30 consecutive days. Scott recommended a daily pain if I did not honor my commitment and a 30 day reward if I completed the 30 consecutive days. Since at the time money was tight I made the daily pain monetary. My 30 day reward was a nice dinner with an important person in my life. Scott also became my accountability partner; I reported in daily when I completed my exercise. I found this to be a very important structure in encouraging my desired behavior.
“What gets rewarded gets repeated” -Brian Tracy
- April 15th
- Obeying the speed limit in an area known to have cops
- Depriving yourself of something fun (TV, internet, recreation) until you have fulfilled your daily commitment(s). Brian Tracy calls this “dinner before dessert.”
Examples of (external) pleasure:
- Showing up on time or early to impress your boss
- Pushing to qualify for a company trip, President’s club or other incentive
- Buying a new dress if you reach your intended weight
The power of the carrot and the stick is available to us at any time. You can create incentives for yourself for sticking to your daily commitments and reaching milestones. You can impose sanctions for not honoring your word or not reaching a goal.
The major drawbacks of relying too heavily on level one integrity fall generally into two categories:
- Getting hit with the stick may at times feel better than honoring your commitment.
- You may decide your carrot is not worth the effort and break your commitment.
Choose your carrot and stick wisely, as well as the structure in which it is enforced. Be careful not to put too much stock in the carrot or the stick. It is your personal integrity, not external forces, which must reign supreme, which brings us to: Level Two integrity.