Unfinished Business

lone tree with clouds

Standing tall

It is not what we eat, but what we digest that makes us strong.

It is not what we gain, but what we save that makes us rich

not what we read, but what we remember that makes us wise,

and not what we profess, but what we practice that gives us integrity.

Anonymous

In today’s increasingly self-interested world, the word “integrity” is used less and less often to describe the people whom society most admires. Ambition, intelligence, ingenuity and drive are highly valued, while character, morality, compassion and sincerity seem to have fallen from public favor, if not entirely from grace. From politicians to sports figures to the endless parade of “celebrities” who, for the most part, contribute nothing to the human race, public figures who garner our attention and affection are more and more often those who flaunt their indiscretions as a badge of honor and not a cause for shame.

Still, there is no escaping the truth that in the real world integrity is essential to success. Fulfillment requires character: No one can experience contentment unless he knows what he values and makes choices that are congruent with his beliefs. When you break your promises–to yourself or to others; when you don’t say exactly what you mean and mean exactly what you say; when you ignore your instincts; when you fail to speak up or stand up for what you believe, you are out of integrity, and your self-esteem and self-confidence suffer as a result. It is impossible to live a good life if you are living a lie.

Each of us has issues that we are avoiding — amends we need to make, mistakes we need to correct, challenges we need to overcome.  To live with integrity, we need to address those things, and–one by one–cross them off the  list of things we are too lazy, too frightened or too self-absorbed to do. Every night that we go to sleep without doing them, or without making a plan to do them, ensures that we will awaken feeling uneasy and out of synch. Every day that we pretend that they don’t exist is a day that we pretend away a piece of ourselves.

“Human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them…life obliges them over and over to give birth to themselves.” Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Journaling Exercise

Start a new page in your journal and title it “Unfinished Business.” Then, make a list of the issues in your life that you are avoiding. Be honest. Don’t leave anything our because it is too uncomfortable to think about. It will not go away because you leave it off the page.

Now, ask yourself why you are avoiding each issue. Again, be honest with yourself. If you are avoiding getting a mammogram because you are afraid of what the results might show, admit it. If you are avoiding talking with your partner about your sex life because you are too embarrassed or self-conscious to talk frankly about your needs, go ahead and write that down. No one is watching over your shoulder, and no one is going to judge you for how you feel.

Next, ask yourself what you are willing or able to do about each issue. If there are too many to deal with them all at once, choose one and make a plan. Then promise yourself to make a plan for the next issue tomorrow, and continue working on your list every day until you have a plan for, or have resolved, each one.

Make a list of  goals that will address the issues you have identified. Prioritize them and set a date for each item on your list. This will be much easier if you break each item down into discrete, easy-to-accomplish steps. If your first action item is “Get a mammogram” then write each step you need to take to get it done.

1. Check my calendar–when can I take a few hours off from work?
2. Call for appointment:  888-900-1000
3. Get a pre-exam checklist (You don’t want to put on deodorant so have to go back and do it again!!)
4. Go to clinic on 4/1/2014

Finally, write about how you feel after you have completed each item on your list. Getting in touch with what is sure to be a flood of positive emotions will help you to maintain your enthusiasm for the tasks ahead.

 

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