Last week was full of milestones. Not only did I turn 38 but I also had the opportunity to complete two decades as a full-on contributing “adult” by attending my 20 year high school reunion.
Facing the people from high school was in many ways a last frontier for me. I think I turned out pretty well and at some point it seemed important that those people who knew me back then get to see who I had become.
How refreshing to find that when the moment of truth came I realized that I had nothing to prove.
I enjoyed people and we shared our stories but I did not feel the need to be witty, interesting, or the life of the party.
There were no airs to put on and no one to impress. When I was tired I left early for bed (YUM!) and when I needed solitude I did not hesitate to leave the fray for the comfort of a book (DOUBLE YUM!)
The young woman who was once so desperate for attention and approval is no more. In her place stands a person I could not have imagined back in 1990.
With external standards no longer binding me, the only standard that matters is my own and of course those standards will determine the height, depth and quality of my life.
And so, for my 38th birthday I am giving myself 30 days of living to my highest ideals. I will live it, document it and at the end of 30 days see where it takes me.
Will I feel more enlightened? Vibrant? Accomplished?
Will my marriage reach new levels of bliss?
Will I lose that last 5 lbs?
Who knows? But what I do know is that I am going hard core for 30 days and then and only then can I make a new choice.
Care to join me?
This week’s article guides you through the process of identifying, choosing, and sticking to your own highest ideals through something I am calling The Integrity Experiment.
“When you reach for the stars you may not quite get one, but you won't come up with a handful of mud either.” Leo Burnett
Living to your highest ideals: The Integrity Experiment
What would your life be like if you spent it living up to your highest ideals?
What would become possible?
What are those ideals?
Perhaps you aspire to living with compassion or acting courageously. Maybe your best self would go heavy on the greens and give up the caffeine. Do you aspire to becoming a non-smoker or making yourself available for quality time with your children?
When I think about living to my ideals it means living into and acting in accordance with the highest version of myself; physically, spiritually, mentally, relationally and professionally and reaping the rewards in my life.
What’s not to love about that?!
Why would we do anything else?
Hmmmm … How about comfort, laziness, fear, discouragement, being too busy and lots of other really great reasons with which we are all too familiar.
Let’s face it, sometimes that chocolate bar looks so goooood and sometimes that extra couple hours of sleep is so much more appealing that heading off to the gym in the dark. Can you relate?
Often our reasons for not being our best selves are disguised as the “noble option”. We skip lunch to meet with that new client or stay up extra late to deal with things that seem pressing and urgent.
Whatever our excuses, no matter how valid, every time we consciously or unconsciously choose to violate our own standards we are making a statement to ourselves and the world about our priorities.
Would it surprise you to recognize that you have made work a priority over your family or smoking a priority over your living a long healthy life? What if I pointed out that your desire for that fabulous new blouse or your daily $4 latte wins priority over financial stability or the ability to retire?
When we get down to it, every time we act out of alignment with our standards we are in effect telling ourselves it is ok to go half way. It is ok to not go after what I want fully. It is ok to wimp out on myself and follow my values only part of the time.
Every time we lie to ourselves and every time we bend our own rules we whittle down a little piece of our strength and our faith in our own ability. We weaken our word and in doing so we are creating a watered down version of what our life could be and pushing out the arrival date of our visions and dreams.
So that’s the downside of not living up to our ideals but the good news is, the upside of being our best self is nothing short of miraculous.
The world lines up at your door when you line yourself up with what is right and true for you.( Note, I said right and true for YOU, not for anyone else – the only standards to consider here are your own.)
In the coaching world we call this alignment “integrity”.
When you operate with integrity, life works, serendipities abound and you achieve a new level of freedom and flow.
For my birthday I am saying Sign Me Up for more of that! And that is why I am giving myself the exceptional gift of consciously living to my highest ideals for the next 30 days, even when it is uncomfortable, unpopular and annoying.
I will be documenting my experiences, how it feels to live this life and whether it makes the difference I imagine or not.
I won’t kid you, this may not pretty. In fact, I am already a little terrified of putting it all on the line for 30 days but I know that a great prize waits on the other side of my resistance.
I am calling it The Integrity Experiment and you can play too.
Join me in your own integrity experiment.
1. Define Your Ideals
Set aside 30 minutes today to write about your highest ideals.
What do you value? What would raise your quality of life? What are the things you know you need to make time for but have not?
What are the thoughts you want to nurture and practice on a daily basis?
What version of you do you want to be?
What are the things that you know you have been doing part way? What would “all the way” look like?
What are the things that have been hanging around, dragging you down and limiting your life that you would like to clean up?
2. Make a commitment
It’s one thing to write it all down but another thing entirely to commit.
Take a look at what you wrote and see if you are ready to take on the whole enchilada or a part of it.
Give yourself a timeframe. Will your integrity experiment be for a day, a week, a month, six months? Whatever you commit to, do it fully and honestly.
Don’t set yourself up for failure with unrealistic expectations but be sure to take on the things that are really important for you, that are worthy of your time and that will raise you in your own estimation of yourself.
3. Create a system of accountability.
DO NOT ATTEMPT TO DO THIS ALONE. Seriously, left to ourselves it is way too easy to try it for a day or two and give up on ourselves. By sharing your commitment with someone else you are building in an essential support system for your integrity experiment.
If you have a spouse or partner, ask them to hold you accountable. If you have a blog, say you are going to blog about it and then blog about it. If you have a friend who will share your journey, invite them to make their own commitment and give each other permission to challenge and support.
4. Plan it out
Be sure to take the time to plan where necessary to support your success.
Some things you commit to may require a reshuffling of your schedule – like daily meditation – you already have a full and busy life so where do you fit that extra 30 minutes?
Others may require a prolonged process and would be served by an action plan -like a comprehensive smoking cessation plan or a plan to grow your capacity for optimism over time.
5. Record Your Experience
Every day, possibly multiple times a day, record what you are experiencing.
Celebrate where you have made choices in alignment with your ideals, notice where have you given in or gone half way or where you outright chose to break your commitment. All is valuable in your process.
Notice where your current life circumstances and present choices stand in the way of you operating in integrity with your commitment and then without making yourself wrong, or beating yourself up, ask how you can adjust, learn and move forward.
6. Remember It’s a Process
If you think you are going to launch out the gate with a 3 page document detailing your highest self and never ever falter, you may be in for a harsh awakening.
This is a process. In making your commitment you will learn about what it really takes to live that commitment. Sometimes what it takes is far more than we imagined.
You will stumble, you will resist and sometimes your best will not be good enough. Your setbacks are not a sign to quit – it is simply time grab on tightly to your commitment and seek out additional information, different resources or greater support.
Whether you envision your best self as a non-smoker, a parent who is around to make a difference in the lives of your children, or someone who acts courageously in spite of fear, remember that if it is a worthy ideal for you then some way, somehow you can live it.
Use Your Coach
I encourage you to take on your own integrity experiment and if you do, let me know. Send me an email or comment on the blog below and I will check in on you.
Be sure to share what you are committing to, why it will matter for you, the length of your experiment (3 days, 1 week , a month?) and who in your life will be supporting you and providing accountability (besides me.)
Along the way, if you find yourself in a difficult spot or at an impasse, post a comment here and I’ll give you what I’ve got to get you back on that horse and moving forward.
You can read all about my personal 30 day declaration right here tomorrow. (Eeek!)
Alright! We are off to the races.