NaBloPoMo 2018: What I’m Learning
Last day! I’m feeling a little elated. Not sure if it’s Day 30 relief and success, the abnormally large caffeine load I had today, or my awesome breakfast date…
I wish you all to have a friend like Donna. She is one amazing woman. A leadership coach, wife, mom, and fellow cosmic journeyer, I count myself infinitely lucky to know her this time around on earth. I bet we’ve known each other longer than that, though. We met in this life about 9 years ago. I can count on one hand the number of people I remember propositioning for a coffee date on our first meeting, and Donna is one. We meet every two or three months to commune, share, and grow. I consistently experience two or three separate intellectual and spiritual epiphanies each time.
Today was no exception, and possibly even an exponentially positive anomaly. Like I said, I’m caffeine loaded and coming off a 30 day freestyle writing challenge—I was primed! The conversation was so profound I had to type out some notes afterward, as I sense future writings to spring therefrom. Day 30 was the perfect day to meet her! I have synthesized and integrated deeply this month thanks to this daily blogging discipline, and sharing with Donna was the quintessential culmination of it all. I now share with you my favorite segment from our egg-and-toast-laden love-in.
I described a values exercise I did reading Dare to Lead by Brené Brown. From a list of over 100 words including accountability, courage, faith, openness, respect, and truth, I had to choose two core values, or think of two of my own. Brown writes:
The task is to pick the two that you hold most important. …almost everyone…wants to pick somewhere between ten and fifteen. But you can’t stop until you are down to two core values.
Here’s why: The research participants who demonstrated the most willingness to rumble with vulnerability and practice courage tethered their behavior to one or two values, not ten… and when people are willing to stay with the process long enough to whittle their big list down to two, they always come to the same conclusion that I did with my own values process: My two core values are where all of the ‘second tier’ circled values are tested.
I listened to this book twice before I received my hard copy from Amazon. I could. not. Wait! In anticipation of doing the exercise, I thought the whittling process would take a long time—that I would agonize over it. But as I skimmed the pages approaching the list, in a cosmic flash, I realized my two: Honesty and Integrity. It was one of those ‘you just know’ moments, but I had to check in. Really? Was I sure? How did I know? How could I prove it? I turned the page and scrutinized every word, comparing it in importance to these two. Accountability? Yes, but not as much. Equality. Fairness. Gratitude. Learning. Openness, Optimism, Stewardship, and Wholeheartedness: all important, but not nearly so much as Honesty and Integrity. I was done. As surely as I felt self-actualized in seventh grade, I am sure these are my core values. A few days later, I was describing this moment to another thoughtful and astute friend. She mulled for a moment and said, “Yes, I agree, I see these as your core values, too.” Wow, I cannot think of a higher compliment.
Today when I told Donna, her first response was, “Honesty and Integrity… What is the distinction between the two?” What a great question! I had a vague, intuitive idea, but had never taken the time to think it through. As happens so easily when I’m with Donna, and as a person who talks to think, the answer poured forth after only a few seconds. I used a real life example:
Let’s say my friend asks me, “Does this dress make me look fat?”
Honesty compels me to answer truthfully. Yes. Honesty keeps me from lying. That is outside of my core values, no can do.
Integrity helps me choose my words. This dress does not flatter your figure the way a different style would. We are here to choose the dress that makes you look positively stunning and we will not leave until our mission is accomplished! Integrity frames my response in line with all of my other, ‘second tier’ values: kindness, diplomacy, empathy, love, loyalty, and all the rest.
Thus, Honesty tells me what I cannot do. It gives me constraints and standards. Honesty is the guardrail, the floor for my code of conduct. Integrity then tells me what I can and must do. It defines the realm of possibility, meaning, and purpose—the Why, How, and What. How can I be the best friend, mom, doctor, wife, speaker, and leader? It is the accelerator and steering mechanism that keep me in the lane of who I am. Or, Honesty is the launch pad; Integrity creates the universe of potential. I swear I got goosebumps.
Phrases that recur often in my speech and writing are “walk the talk” and “lead by example.” I always ask myself if I exemplify these, and they are the yardsticks by which I measure all those who lead me. One cannot do either without Honesty and Integrity at work all of the time. Brené Brown calls integrity “living into our values rather than just professing them.” Hallelujah. I feel the most at home, confident, and grounded when I know I’m living deeply in my Honesty and Integrity. When I’m outside of these, I feel viscerally uneasy. I cannot tolerate it, or I can only with great suppressive efforts to manage the dissonance. I lose sleep; I get irritable and restless.
Practicing Honesty and Integrity is not always easy, though. Facing the ugly and disappointing truths about myself and my dysfunctional patterns, and then holding myself to a higher standard of conduct—internal benchmarks of behavior and relationship—these aspirations create stress and tension on multiple levels of consciousness.
In the end, though, I know that as long as I hold these two values in front, they will light my right path. I know I will make mistakes. There will be times when my behavior absolutely does not exemplify these values. I wanted to write a blog post right after my A-ha! moment reading the book. But I was afraid someone would recall a time they witnessed the opposite of these values in my actions, and call me out on it. But I’m not afraid anymore. I’m not perfect. And I’m striving every day. That’s good enough, because it is my best. Honest—I swear on my Integrity.