Monday, June 1, 2015

The Math Behind Integrity

How Value Propositions Really Work in Relationships and Success

When I was a kid, my parents always told me integrity is "doing what you say you will do." 
When I was in basic training, I remember the Drill Sergeants insisting integrity is "doing the right thing, even when nobody is watching." I'd ponder this sentiment as my cohorts and I stared down at the puddles of sweat forming below while we collectively did push-ups in penance the impudent act one of our own committed.
Neither definition is wrong. But, I've always believed both left some important questions unanswered, like:
  • Do I really know the right thing to do in every situation?
  • Do I even know why it's the right thing to do?

What the Dictionary tells us:

 1. adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character, honesty
2. the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished
3. a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition

What does it mean?

It's simple: The only way to have integrity, to achieve a state of being whole, is to consistently personify each of your values (a.k.a. virtuous, "moral and ethical principles").
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 being knows who they really want to be. That ideal person is defined by a specific set of values, each of which have meaning and together make up a potentially 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. 

Our Biggest Challenge

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

The Simple Solution: Expand Your Definition of Success

Expand your definition of success.
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.

The Problem Begins With the Least-Best Question

Our problem with integrity happens when we ask ourselves, "How can I get what I want?"
The question, itself, directs us away from the direct path to the person we really want to be. It begins to divide our thoughts, decisions and actions from the words we would love others to use to describe us. It creates the least amount of value for us, especially in our relationships with others.

The Best Question 

"How can I get what I want and be the person I want to be?"
The secret sauce is to consistently choose to do things that reflect every one of our values. I call it Values-Driven Thinking. Add a dab to every decision and the results will taste much better.

Why Values-Driven Thinking is So Critically Important

  • Values-Driven Thinking helps us to consistently prioritize values over results: the person we want to be is more important than the things we think we want to get.
    • Potential results (rewards or punishments) either motivate or coerce.
    • Values inspire!
  • Values-Driven Thinking provides an indestructible foundation from which we can always build.
    • Conviction will drive us to keep working at getting the results we want. Getting what we want, in and of itself, is not the problem. 
    • Results are temporary and can be changed if we keep trying.

What the Math Looks Like

Let's break down the equation:

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. These words represent the value proposition you promise.
Acts = The things you do. How you create and deliver value for yourself and the people who are important to your success.
Nothing Zero distracted thoughts + Zero divisive decisions = Zero compromising actions.
You cannot be "whole, entire, or undiminished" if anything divides your values from your actions. People see the gaps between the value proposition you promised them and the value you deliver. So can you, my friend, let's be honest. You're not hiding anything from anyone.

It Appears We Need To Be Perfect. That's impossible!

It truly is impossible. So, let's look at the solution to this problem in terms of whole and partial numbers. Math has a solution for less-than-whole numbers- it's called the decimal.
If perfection = 1, then any solution less than perfection is a part of one. So, we may be 0.82, 0.25, or even 0.98 of the person we really want to be.
The question is, could we even round-up to get to 1 from where we are today? And, how far is the distance between the person we are and the whole definition of who we want to be? 
Don't get confounded. The important question here isn't, "How can I be perfect?" That question has way too many rabbit holes. The critical questions are:
  • "How close am I to the whole? How far away from 1?  
  • That question leads to to the next, "What do I need to do now that I know I'm not equal to 1?"
Rounding-up is a neat trick, but it's not the solution you really want.

How to Make the Math Work

Nobody is perfect. Perfection is not possible. But, we can keep driving toward it.
  1. Identify and define your own values. Answer this question:
    • What words do I want to use people to use to describe me and my actions?
  2. Ask yourself the one question that will lead you toward values-driven success:
    • How can I get what I want and be the person I want to be?
  3. Check your math afterword:
    • Did I get what I want?
    • Was I the person I want to be?
      • This answer tells you if anything divided your words from their actions.
      • Can you round-up to get to 1 and what is the value of the gap?
  4. Make incremental changes. Remember, nobody's perfect and it's a journey. So, when you recognize the gaps, make a plan for the future. Don't beat yourself up. Look ahead. Ask the question.
    • What can I do differently next time to get both?
    • How can I decrease the gap between me today and 1?
Do you believe others recognize can gaps between the value propositions you promise and the value you create and deliver? If so, do you think it helps or hinders your relationships with them?
What does "driving toward perfection" mean to you?
Can you close the gap without assistance and guidance from other people?
Become a part of the conversation! Share your thoughts and responses to these questions! Or, maybe there's something I've missed here, you can help me become a better communicator.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tom Eakin is the author of Finding Success and the Success Engineer at BoomLife. LEARN MORE ABOUT TOM...