In Taekwondo, the pine tree and rock symbolize your path from a small seedling into a mighty giant: a huge pine tree firmly planted in a foundation of solid granite.
But you can take it a step further. To me, the rock and pine tree also represent the essence of integrity, our life skill of the month. The pine tree symbolizes YOU. As you learn and grow, so does the pine tree. The rock, on the other hand, symbolizes your foundation. And in my view, for a life of leadership, the best foundation is one of personal integrity. And like a building, without a solid foundation you simply can’t rise to great heights or achieve your true potential. That’s why integrity is such a coveted value in the martial arts. So let’s take a closer look at integrity and discover how you can forge your own personal integrity and make it work for you.
What Is "Integrity"?
Integrity means firm adherence to a code of values and acting in accordance with your principles. It also means honesty, keeping your word and speaking the truth. Like many life skills, integrity is a character trait, something that reveals your true self.
Integrity forms the basis of both trust and respect. And I think you’d agree: Without other people’s trust and respect, there isn’t much you can accomplish in this world! No person is an island. That’s why integrity is so important to your success, both in our academy as well as in the future.
I heard a funny quote that sums up the idea of integrity: "The tongue in your shoe must match the tongue in your mouth". In other words, you must walk the talk. You see, when your words and deeds match, you have integrity. But if you say one thing and do another, you’re said to be "out of integrity". Here’s an example:
A student says his goal is to become a black belt by the end of next year. But then he misses classes, doesn’t practice at home and doesn’t work hard during the testing cycle. In this example, he would be "out of integrity". On the other hand, if he attends classes regularly, stays focused on his goal and works hard, he’d have integrity in his actions. Words and deeds match. Make sense?
One of your goals as an authentic martial artist should be to build your own integrity and use it as a foundation to reach your goals and become a leader.
How to Forge Your Own Lasting Integrity
Like any value to be achieved, building integrity requires consistent effort and discipline. But the process also requires knowledge. Here are my six tips for developing your own personal integrity:
Know Your Values and Identify Your Principles:
The first step in developing your integrity is knowing your principles and identifying your values. What are your goals? What do you want? What do you value? If, for example, you say, "I want to be a black belt in two years", be prepared to back that statement up. Attend every class you can. Participate in tournaments. Answer up. Help your juniors. Practice your forms at home. And so on. Once you identify your values, it’s easier exercise integrity.
"If You Mess Up, Fess Up":
Let’s face it: We all make mistakes. However, to improve, you need to admit and acknowledge your mistakes. Doing so takes guts and courage. You must be willing to examine yourself and your actions. You must be honest with yourself. If you make a mistake or violate your personal integrity, admit it and strive to improve the next time around!
Promise Less, Deliver More
We often sacrifice our integrity without knowing it. This is done by over-promising when we commit to something. We have the best of intentions, but unexpected challenges pop up along the way. And before you know it, you’ve broken your promise to someone else. So…protect your integrity by looking ahead and promising what you CAN deliver. Honor your commitments. Be aware of your current commitments and protect your promises. And sometimes it’s a good policy to say "no" up front rather than break your word later.
Strive for Personal Honesty
Don’t expect to receive something of value without giving something in return. Not only is this an example of personal honesty, but it plays a big role in your training here at our academy, too! To reach your next rank, what are you willing to sacrifice to achieve that goal? For most people that would be time, hard work, discipline, focus and perseverance. Yes, integrity means paying the price for what you want. Personal honesty also means speaking the truth in every situation. You can reach a higher plane of personal integrity by striving for honesty at all times.
Don’t Accept Excuses
When you hear yourself inventing an excuse for your behavior STOP! Not only is this a terrible habit that prevents you from improving, but it also lowers your reputation in others’ eyes. Most people can see right through excuses and by making up reasons why you couldn’t deliver on your word, you’re only fooling yourself. Expect high standards for yourself.
Expect Integrity from Others
The flip side of expecting high standards for yourself is that you can now expect high standards of integrity from others. If a friend or violates their own integrity, point it out to them – nicely. Share what you’ve learned about integrity and encourage others to live up to their promises, too!
Keep Yourself Centered and Hold Yourself Accountable
If your goals aren’t written down – you’ll be at the mercy of chance whim and anything that comes your way. But with a firm "center", goal or purpose, you’re more likely to hold true to your word. And above all, be tough on yourself. Hold yourself accountable and accept nothing but the highest levels of integrity in everything you do.
Integrity and Your Monthly Call to Action:
This month, I want you to think through what integrity means to you. Picture all of your many relationships: do you bring a high degree of integrity to them? Do you keep your word? Are you on time and punctual? Can people count on you? Are you truthful and honest? Do you avoid making excuses? Do you hold yourself to high standards and accept nothing but the best?
As a martial artist, personal integrity serves as a solid foundation which you can build upon for life!