For some people, disappointing others is a regular occurrence, and apologizing—for running late, for being behind schedule on the project, for forgetting to do the thing they said they would—has become a recurring theme. They have become desensitized to the pain causing someone’s disappointment and are able to rattle off an “I’m sorry” in a way that doesn’t carry any real remorse.
I know because I was this person. And I had all the excuses, too: I was too busy, I was overwhelmed, things came up, I had no time, I needed more sleep. I used these excuses to avoid the real reason. And that reason was ultimately that I lacked integrity. Until a point in my life when I realized how much I was hurting the people closest to me.
It was time for a change.
My life is currently busier than ever, but by focusing on developing my integrity and addressing my personal areas of weakness, I’ve been able to better serve the people in my life who I once regularly let down.
The following steps are what allowed me to step up, stop repeating the same mistakes and build my integrity.
1. Be hard on yourself.
If you’ve arrived at a place where you know you need to radically improve yourself because you’ve caused others pain—and are in pain yourself as a result—then you have a great opportunity to get leverage on yourself. This means using the mind’s unconscious but powerful system of motivation that causes us to move away from anything that causes us emotional or physical pain.
By not dodging the pain of your failure but instead allowing yourself to feel it fully and associate it with the behaviors you wish to change, you are programming your subconscious to find a better way, to avoid making the same mistakes.
And with enough programming, it will find a way.
Take some time to reflect on where you have let yourself or others down without the excuse-making you used to rely on to avoid this pain, and then resolve to improve.
2. Apologize the right way.
Just as you must stop yourself from using the past pattern of excuse-making when trying to create leverage against yourself, this is even more important if you have someone to apologize to.
An “I’m sorry, but…” is not a true apology. A real apology is simply and honestly, “I’m sorry.”
Another important part of an apology is to avoid promising the other person that you’ll give them the world to make up for the mistake. If you resolve to show them more respect by being true to your word, then avoid using too many words.
Related: How to Make the Most of Your Mistakes
3. Stop over-promising.
If you lack integrity, one of your defining characteristics is overpromising and under-delivering. And you simply have to stop doing it.
Take note of every time you make promises that are hard to keep and analyze why you need to please people all the time. Practice saying no to things you know you will have difficulty completing. This isn’t about setting boundaries with other people so much as setting boundaries with yourself.
4. Strengthen your decision-making power.
Your personal integrity is defined by the power of your decisions. By power, I mean the capacity to keep the decision you’ve made in the forefront of your mind and keep it a priority. Practice making decisions with the end in mind. Start small.
When you remember that recycling needs to be delivered today, resolve to do that as soon as you get through the door. Then stick to it. Check your emails at a predetermined time and then close your laptop. Set reminders for things. The important part of this isn’t setting the reminder but resolving that when that alarm goes off, you will drop whatever you are doing and do it right then.
5. Develop a routine.
If you struggle to be on time and often find yourself scrambling to finish projects by deadline, you’re weakening your integrity. Time mismanagement causes a vicious cycle of letting people down and failing to stay true to your word. Your ability to maintain a routine tells people you can be trusted.
The best place to start is at the beginning of your day. If you can start your day the same way, then you begin to develop positive habits that will spill over into the rest of your life.
Here are some tips for using your morning to strengthen your integrity:
- Blast yourself with cold water at the end of your shower. It jolts your mind and nerves awake and gets you ready for the day.
- Consume at least one large glass of water and eat a healthy breakfast. You’ll need fuel to keep up your energy and productivity throughout the day.
- Practice gratitude. Take just five minutes to meditate on or list things you are grateful for. It’s an incredibly powerful way to align you with what’s important to you. These thoughts are then reflected in your actions.
So if you want to step up and become a person who people can rely on and you want to stop letting others down, then well done. Just that intent alone is admirable.
Now follow these steps and start living in a way that you can be proud of and positively affects the lives of those you love.
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