Five steps to reclaiming your professional integrity.

My 8-year old daughter is going through a phase of feeling embarrassed by what her loved ones do…which led to my dressing up as a vampire for Halloween, in the ONE costume she said would not embarrass her too much. I hated the costume, and I spent much of the day on Halloween, mentally going back and forth between my desire to please my child and my desire to exchange the costume for something that would be more me.  I was cranky. I was resentful.

I was out of integrity. 

The dictionary has two definitions for the word integrity. One has to do with morals. The other one, and the one I am talking about here, is “the state of being whole and undivided” ( To be in integrity in your life is to be whole, to be your authentic self. And you, alone, define your integrity, based on your core values.

Being in your integrity in life is important. It allows you to feel at peace, empowered, energized, free to express yourself, free to grow. To be fully present – in your work, at home with your children, loved ones, friends. 

Unfortunately, at one time or another, all of us will find ourselves out of integrity in some aspect of our lives. Sometimes, it happens on a Halloween night. Most often, it happens in how we show up at work – when we keep saying yes when we mean no, when we listen to others give us advice we do not need, when we quieten the voice inside that knows what is right for us. When our actions/ behaviors/ words do not align with who we are, with what we value. And being in that space creates dissonance and tensions that leave us drained, angry and sad.

Fortunately, the discomfort we feel in that state creates an opportunity to adjust, to “show up differently.” How? By following these five steps:

1. Be Aware– First, become aware. Identify a place where you feel out of integrity in your life (it might help to close your eyes and take a few deep breaths so you can really “find” the place that feels most misaligned for you). What “costume” are you wearing that is not you? How do you know? 

2. Know the Cost– What is being out of integrity costing you? Emotionally and physically? How is it affecting your ability to do the kind of work you want to do? To be the kind of person you want to be?

3. See the benefits– Imagine what being in integrity in that space would look and feel like. How would that benefit you, professionally and personally?

4. Take action– What would need to happen for you to create this result? Identify 2 or 3 actions you could take to create the new reality you desire. Think big and small. Think about what is actionable.

5. Get support– Actions are useless if you don’t take them. Hold yourself accountable by enrolling support. 

One way to get started is to get out a journal or simply a blank piece of paper and write down the answers to each of the questions raised in 1-5. It’s often easier to really “get” the costs and opportunities when you see them in black and white.

In the end, I wore the vampire dress. But I decided to drop the blue wig and wear a funny stabbed-through-the-head headband. It made me and others chuckle. It felt more like me.

How will you change your costume?