Integrity is a Verb

“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is looking.” CS Lewis

This quote is one of my favourites, and one that I thought I was trying to live by. However, I’ve been reading the excellent ‘Legacy’ this week, which is a book about what we can all learn from the New Zealand All Blacks. It’s a really good read, with plenty of practical advice, and an inspiring section about what integrity means to the All Blacks.

Looking again at the CS Lewis quote, I’d never really paid much attention to the third word before. The ‘doing’ part of the equation. I’d been thinking of integrity as connected to my values – as part of how I make decisions, which of course it is. In the book however, author James Kerr explains that the All Blacks think about integrity “not as morality, as many people do, but as workability. It is not about being pure, or noble – it’s about getting stuff done.”

Once I’d thought about it like this, it seemed pretty obvious: to have any sort of integrity, we all need to do the things we say we’re going to do. If I say I will be somewhere at this time, or finish something by that time, and don’t, then how can I be acting with integrity?

Then I listened to Tim Ferris interviewing Seth Godin, and the same idea comes up. Seth is talking about how he motivates himself and keeps deadlines. In the end, he says, it’s quite simple. “I made the decision a long time ago (that) I’m going to be the person who never misses a deadline.” In other words, he is never going to let anyone down – including himself. He is a man of integrity.

Living life with integrity isn’t just about having high morals and clearly defined values. It’s about taking action.

As my old English teacher used to say, “a verb is a ‘doing’ word.”

Integrity is a verb.


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