Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Teaching Children the Math Behind Integrity

When I was a kid, my parents always told me integrity is "doing what you say you will do."

When I was in the Army, I learned it was "doing the right thing, even when no one is watching".

Neither definition is wrong. But, I believe both always left some important questions unanswered, like:

  • What if what I say I will do is not what I want?
  • Do I know the right thing to do in every situation?

What the Dictionary tells us:

What does it mean?

It's simple: The only way to have integrity, to achieve a state of being whole, is to personify each of your values (a.k.a. virtuous, "moral and ethical principles") consistently. 

Think of your values as pieces of a puzzle and "of your life as a puzzle. You create and form the pieces that fit together to create the whole. If you don’t give each piece the attention it needs, it just won’t fit into the others. You may have the pieces, you may understand that you need them, but because they don’t fit, they leave empty spaces in your life until you give them the needed attention." (From Finding Success)

The point is, every human knows who they want to be. That ideal person is defined by a specific set of values, each of which have meaning and together make up the integrated whole.

In any situation, when our decisions and actions are focused on personifying each of our values integrity is sustained, regardless of the results. 

Here's our biggest challenge

The external results we seek have a tendency to distract, or divide, our actions from our values. When that happens, we cannot have integrity because the person we want to be, is compromised, the ideal whole person becomes disintegrated to some extent.

Here's the deceptively simple solution

When making a decision, always remember that there is a difference between success and values-driven success.

Success is getting what you want (desired external results).

Values-driven success is getting what you want and being the person you want to be. Here's the catch, you can't really get what you want if you are not first the person you want to be.

Your children can always have integrity if they answer this question and then do what it tells them to: 

How can I get what I want and be the person I want to be?

The secret sauce is to choose to do things that consistently personify all of their values.

Why Teaching your children this way of thinking is important to parents who care

  • Helps them consistently prioritize values over results: the person they want to be is more important than the things they want to get.
    • Potential results (rewards or punishments) either motivate or coerce.
    • Values inspire.
  • Provides a values-based foundation upon which they can always build.
    • Conviction will drive them to keep working at getting the results they want.
    • Results are temporary and can be changed if they keep trying.

What the Math Looks Like

Let's break the equation down:

Words = The words you want people to use to describe you and the actions you take; your values and the "moral and ethical principles" they represent.
Acts = The things you do.
Nothing = You cannot be "whole, entire, or undiminished" if anything divides your values from your actions.

How to Make the Math Work

  1. Identify and define your own values then help your children identify and define theirs. 
  2. Teach your children how to define the person they want to be. Answer this question:
    • What words do I want to use people to use to describe me and my actions?
  3. Teach your children to find the answers to the question that will lead them toward values-driven success:
    • How can I get what I want and be the person I want to be?
  4. Teach your children to always check their math:
    • Did I get what I want?
    • Was I the person I want to be?
      • This answer tells them if anything divided their words from their actions.
    • What can I do differently next time to get both?

Tom Eakin is the author of Finding Success and Success Engineer at BoomLife, he helps
people achieve values-driven success. Through his writings, workshops and inspirational speaking, Tom helps people find and expand the sweet spot between what they value, what they’re good at, and what their situation requires so they can exceed even their own expectations. Tom is a former U.S. Army Ranger-qualified Combat Engineer officer with a Master’s Degree in Business Administration and Master’s Certificate in Executive Coaching from Bellevue University and has created stellar performance in teams in a wide range of environments. Originally from the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York, Tom lives in Jefferson, South Dakota, near his three children with his wife, Julie. He is an active and passionate advocate for veterans and entrepreneurs in his community and region.