Thoughts of value

Photo by SK Yeong on Unsplash

“Integrity can involve choices which alter our entire lives.”

A discussion about integrity frequently includes a few words regarding being right or wrong. Last week’s article triggered comments from some who lost lifelong friendships over having their personal integrity questioned. When these situations occur, it can be a difficult time for either person, wondering if someone whom you’ve cherished for years may now only exist in your memories.

Rarely is it something we plan for or even expect. Nonetheless, maintaining one’s integrity may compel us to make these kinds of difficult choices.

There are countless reasons why friendships end in this way but the question we should ask ourselves is: “What were my intentions”? Was I flaunting my moral proclivity while criticizing my friend’s (or the other way around)? Did I ridicule the other person and listen only to find the absurdity in his or her argument? Often one or both sides feel their opinion only is right and any consideration of opposing ideas is a complete waste of time. This is a recipe for disaster and nothing can be done to remedy the situation or the relationship.

It’s ironic that the consideration of right versus wrong is the divisive factor in terminating any friendship. But determining what is right and what is wrong is not as black and white as we think it ought to be. The world would definitely be a much less complicated place if there were a list we could refer to when confronted with difficult choices. Yes, it would be less complicated but also a lot more restrictive as well.

Our diversity and differences enhance the unexpected episodes in life and while some are frustrating, many can be seen as opportunities for growth and development. Growth is constantly happening around us and we can do our best to influence that growth to our advancement or let life happen and thus dictate it for us.

Continually scrutinizing our own integrity is the best way to preserve and magnify it. Pointing out where it lacks in others may indicate a weakness or be a sign of doubt about our own. While it may compel us to do what we believe is right, it does not demand that we compel everyone else to do the same.

Integrity is not an easy subject to corral since so many of us have different values. While there are some basic principles upon which we can all agree, certain topics, and especially those of a political or religious nature, have totally opposite opinions; even though both sides use the exact same texts to rationalize and state arguments with entirely contrary outcomes.

But one thing which is hard to argue, is how much does our integrity negatively impact the lives of others. It is never an excuse to dupe someone for your benefit nor to usurp control over them. More importantly, it’s something that needs more proof than someone simply declaring you possess it.

Integrity complements other principles like honesty, sincerity, and compassion. I believe that these values all help raise a person’s awareness which ultimately motivates one to become mindful of the world around us. It compels us to encourage these traits in others and inspire them to do the same. For this reason alone, it behooves us all to continually examine our own ideals and principles to make the world a better place now and for the future.

My thanks to S.K Yeong for the beautiful photograph and I look forward to your comments.


Truthfully speaking

Photo by Peter Lewis on Unsplash

“Choosing to have integrity may cost us all that we have.”

Truthfulness, honesty, integrity, and other words which speak to upright living, are ones which ought to be encouraged for every human to possess. In last week’s article, the importance of integrity, being something for which we should continually strive, was the focus. The other point, and certainly no less compelling, was that while it seemingly appears to be disintegrating just about everywhere we look, endeavoring to maintain and cultivate our own was more imperative than denoting where it lacks in others. Truthfully speaking, there are complex and multifaceted issues when trying to define the true meaning of integrity.

The dictionary uses terms such as “having strong moral principles” and “moral uprightness,” and the moment the word “moral” is introduced into the conversation, there is no way to continue without raising red flags or opening the proverbial can of worms. My intentions are never to be construed as a commentary on what is right or wrong, or even moral or immoral. I have no desire to induce, encourage, or even prove that my perspective ought to be anyone’s sole criteria.

Nevertheless, there are some acts which uncategorically signify the nature of true integrity.

When a person puts his or her own well being at risk for the sake of others’ rights and dignity, that is an act of living on moral principle. When person’s fortune or reputation is jeopardized or sacrificed for the virtue and respect of another human, is there a higher bar to meet?

Two subjects which are always controversial are religion and politics; both of which have histories of demonizing and vilifying their opponents. However, when others stand up against their own religion in defense of what is perceived as a moral flaw in spite of the inevitable consequences, that takes courage as well as integrity. Going against the partisan ideals of your political cohorts in an effort not to trample the oppressed and downtrodden – knowing their future reputation is at stake – this takes a sense of fairness along with integrity. What both of these examples share is a humanitarian principle and concern for the welfare and good of someone else.

On rare occasions, I’ve been accused of impropriety merely for trying to help others. It’s disheartening. I often wish there were another opportunity to explain and make my intentions known but none have ever occurred. I cannot change what happened but I can learn from those moments to minimize them from occurring in future situations.

I know in my own heart what my true intentions are. My purpose for being on this planet will not be deterred by anyone’s accusations or actions. And, if during the course of my journey everything is taken from me, I’ll begin anew with the same optimism and enthusiasm which I share today.

It would not be fair to define my above statement as one of integrity since I have not found myself back at square one, and truthfully speaking, hope I never do. However, I am willing to take that risk daily if that’s what’s needed to help others.

Perhaps you or someone you know have lost everything because of choosing to have integrity. While I would not wish that on anyone – especially in the defense of others – ask yourself, would you make that choice? I’m not sure if there is a more sincere way of showing it.

My thanks to Peter Lewis on Unsplash for the wonderful photograph and I look forward to your comments.

An integral part

“It is often the unseen acts which have the power to influence far beyond our understanding.”

In the continual quest for self-growth, there are often roadblocks hindering us during its pursuit. Perhaps many of those obstructions, and more than we’d care to admit, stem from our own lack of determination, resolve, and drive. Yet, when we do muster up the strength to use that time for personal development, we’re left with a feeling of accomplishment and rarely bemoan the moments we spend doing it.

There is, however, one key ingredient which ought to encompass every single aspect of our life as well as each moment of our journey, and that is none other than integrity.

We value integrity and admire those in whom we perceive it. The word is frequently expressed yet its abundant use rarely wears itself out; perhaps because we want it to reflect in everyone and especially in those whom we’ve placed our trust. Unfortunately – and mainly in today’s political climate – we’ve reached a point where integrity is not an offensive weapon but rather the opponents’ target at which we fiercely and frequently fire the flaming arrows of contempt.

That is not how integrity is supposed to work. It is not a measuring stick to illuminate others on how far short they’ve fallen; it is a candle which we nourish, fuel, and cultivate into a beacon for all to witness. Integrity is not an award we win but more of an integral part of our being. It’s vital we continually achieve but also important that others are aware of it. For what good is a candle if others cannot take note of its glow?

One of the healthiest steps we can take in maintaining integrity is regularly questioning and reviewing our own. Were there small corners cut or a blind eye turned because of some convenience or quick gain? One of the best ways of evaluating personal integrity is asking yourself if you’d perform the same action when no one is looking.

Over the millennia, humans have advanced in phenomenal ways. We live longer and with more conveniences. Our access to basics such as food, water, and sanitation have improved. However, the one trait which seems to have eluded advancement is personal integrity. While integrity appears to be lacking in so many areas in today’s world, the answer is not to sit back and point the finger at those who desperately lack it.

Let us now choose integrity for two reasons: it most certainly is the right thing to do and by doing so, we inspire others to grow and maintain theirs as well.

One of the enemies of personal integrity as I see it, is that some are weary of doing the right thing and being mocked or judged for not being opportunists. Others around them seem to have it easier and possibly even flourish because they choose to lower their bar for some gain. My fear is this kind of cynicism is polluting the desire for these shattered souls to continue in its upright path.

What if there was an individual who was currently struggling to maintain integrity and could only witness one other person maintain that effort? By seeing that endeavor, it may influence or inspire that person to once again reclaim the desire for personal integrity – which could in turn, influence far more than we could ever imagine? What if that one person providing that influence were you?

Integrity is often a task with seemingly no tangible reward, but what it does offer is a prize no amount of money could ever purchase. The good news, also, is that it’s never too late to add integrity to your journey.

My thanks to Lizel Snyman De Gouveia on Unsplash for the beautiful photo and I look forward to your comments.

Grammatically Thinking

Photo by Rahul Gupta on Unsplash

“Helping others should never center around how they perceive you.”

There are many factors which can shape, broaden, or significantly influence
our own personal development. Looking at a few of my past articles, however,
may give the distinct impression that individual growth is often predicated on
uncovering errors, mistakes, or other issues which may appear to impair our own self-confidence. That is never my intention. Perhaps I’ve been focusing on these kinds of events because they have provided the greatest impact in my own life.

Self-confidence is an important factor for increasing personal growth. However,
understanding the difference between self-assuredness and arrogance sometimes
lies in a murky place. The inclination to be correct and factual is important
and not exclusively in the area of self-growth. But is it possible to be both
right and wrong in the very same moment?

I’ve had a longstanding fascination with words and their usage. It began with writing simple poems in elementary school. While in junior high, diagraming sentences was a favorite class exercise. In high school, I took 3 years of Latin – simply because I enjoyed the challenge. One of my fondest memories with my father was when we spent an hour looking up words in the dictionary and discovering their origins. Although I never grew to the level of a copyeditor, I periodically would refer to myself as a “grammar snob”.

There was an important lesson which someone very dear to me pointed out. At times I would also deem myself the “grammar police” and actually corrected people who used improper grammar. It was not a constant activity and I truthfully can’t tell you what prompted that reaction; however, when it was suggested to me this was an arrogant response, I had no choice but to sincerely deliberate her words.

My first reaction was to justify why it was correct. “Don’t people want to know when they are speaking incorrectly?” I reasoned poorly. It did not take long to realize that the underlying reason for this action was more accurately needing to be seen as intelligent. Being “right” was not for their benefit and how would something so smug be perceived as smart? Perhaps were I able to read their minds, I would have seen the word smart being replaced with the word “smarmy.”

I could argue ad nauseum that a double negative is incorrect. When a person says, “I don’t know nothing” what the are really saying is “There’s nothing I don’t know.” However, being right in this instance doesn’t – and didn’t – matter. The intention was not centered around helping others and there was no doubt in my mind that I knew precisely what they meant.

Communication is important. Understanding what others are conveying is the key. There are times when proper grammar and usage are vital but those are mainly in legal and technical realms. Everyday conversations don’t require such scrutiny. This one weakness, which was a once-perceived strength, has made a huge difference in my communication with others. It transformed the listening experience and genuinely provided a more engaging as well as caring exchange. After all, it’s next to impossible to help others when the concern is centered on yourself.

My thanks to Rahul Gupta on Unsplash for the beautiful picture and I look forward to your comments. I’d also like to again thank Anuj Agarwal and Feedspot for listing me on his top 50 inspirational posts https://blog.feedspo .com/inspirational_blogs/. I’m listed there under my WordPress site::

Beyond thinking

Photo by v2osk on Unsplash

“Real change is made when the direction includes more than just yourself.”

Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects or personal growth is a realization that you’ve been wrong in some aspect of your thinking. Many find great satisfaction in being recognized for their intellectual attributes. When some flaw or error is discovered, it may feel like a blow to one’s self-confidence. However, any moment of self-growth should never be construed in this way.

Last week’s article challenged people to constantly reexamine thought patterns and process as well as be open to the possibility that change may be needed. But it’s not always clear when or if a change should be made. It’s easy for me to suggest a change is needed but what are the signs and how do we know when it’s necessary?

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a local expert who could divvy our stellar advice so we could immediately commence on our journey of unfettered self-development leading to a bright and thriving future?

So how do we know it is time for a change? As just about any other of life’s quandaries, there is no one answer for all of us. Many times, we won’t know until after the fact whether or not the decision was correct. We do our best to gather the information, weigh everything carefully, seek advice, but ultimately, the decision is ours on what action needs to be taken. We must make that determination and ultimately reap or suffer with the consequences of our choices.

It has always been my aim never to tell any of my readers what they ought to do. Even if I were 100% correct it wouldn’t matter because each one of us must embrace and take complete responsibility for that choice. I do recall in years past there were many times I sought the advice of others specifically to feel less blame and responsibility for what the coming result would be.

There are, however, a few indicators which should set off warning signals and I believe should not be a part of your thinking. The first is perhaps my biggest concern. If a person believes the way he or she believes, thinks, or feels about a particular issue is the only correct way, and anyone else who feels differently is wrong, I recommend standing in front of a mirror to see who is really wrong. This is a recipe for disaster. Not only does it instill narrowmindedness and foster arrogance, it initiates and promotes division and strife.

Secondly, if your ideas encourage taking full advantage of others for your benefit, you should definitely reevaluate your intent. I often error on the side of kindness and while many see this as an act of weakness, it actually takes more strength. Imagine for a moment if everyone took this approach, what a better world this would be. Unfortunately, nefarious actions – especially those which tend to generate huge income – are frequently lauded. It’s time that honor, good intention, and kindness usurp the spotlight. Those who’ve been in power learn to manipulate the system specifically to benefit themselves and subjugate those out of their group or trying to annul their power.

Personal development will no doubt require certain modifications in our thinking. But if those changes include exclusion, division, and manipulation, the change is in the wrong direction. Growth ought to shift towards honesty, integrity and compassion. Not because of some reward we’ll get by doing them but because it’s the decent thing to do and also what we hope to see in others

My thanks to v2osk on Unsplash for the beautiful photo and I look forward to your comments. I am also thrilled to mention that “Feedspot” has listed me as one of their 50 inspirational blogs. You can see more inspirational posts here: Thank you Anuj Agarwal for such an honor.

Transformative Thinking

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

“A thorough look into our thought processes may reveal some hidden surprises”

The ability to quickly and correctly remember information we’ve learned is a different skill from that which uses reason and logic to make rational conclusions. However, what they both have in common is the capacity to think. From the first day of school, many encourage us to sharpen and maximize our brain power, knowing it will serve us well as we continue throughout life. Whether it’s recalling facts on a history test or calculating a string of algebraic equations, most people work hard to be perceived as smart. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be intelligent. The perception alone often adds to one’s credibility and is advantageous in many circumstances.

My five previous posts have all been centered around the thinking process and more specifically, continually questioning the substance, intent, and viability of those procedures and methods developed during our lifetime. Uncovering the errors and misconceptions of those processes can ultimately become gigantic moments of learning and self-development.

There are countless examples of how centuries-old scientific facts were proven incorrect. Some of these ancient and prehistoric truths are still debated today. Similarly, there have been many people whom history has highly praised yet further research has discovered some horrible attitudes and convictions about human rights and dignity. This is not a declaration nor admonition of anyone being wrong, it is simply pointing out that ideas, beliefs, and even facts, can and have changed.

One of the most frequent phrases repeated to my clients is: “Always ask questions. Answers may change but if the question is never asked, there’s no need to seek the answers.” Personally, I feel better when I’ve had a “transformative thinking” moment than when I spout some highly-regarded philosophical thought I’ve treasured for years.

Conviction and certainty in our own beliefs is something we all seek. It provides a sense of comfort and consistency in what has made us who we’ve truly become. However, it may also create a propensity to seek out others with likeminded ideals; leading to groupthink, exclusion and the feeling that everyone else disagreeing is completely wrong. Conversely, there are those who claim to be openminded yet may frequently dismiss points of view from those they perceive as narrowminded; which in and of itself, seems narrowminded.

The key is to constantly reexamine our thought processes. Be open to the possibility that change may be needed. There isn’t anyone alive who hasn’t had his or her mind changed about something. And merely asking a question does not demand the answer must change. Sometimes reevaluating our truths enhances our resolve and offers additional insights into why we believe the way we do.

In today’s world rife with division, blame, and animosity, now more than ever it’s important to repeatedly and relentlessly analyze our thinking processes. Are there any selfish motives behind our exclusionary wants? Do our efforts promoting goodwill mask self-aggrandizing intentions? They may or may not; but without asking the question, we may be refusing or denying the truth. Sometimes when we take an honest and sincere look at our own thinking processes, we may be surprised at what’s been hiding.

My thanks to Ben White of Unsplash for the wonderfully fitting picture. I look forward to your comments.

The thinking gap

Red Rock Canyon, outside Las Vegas, Nevada USA

“Forcing others to do things your way will often constrain them to make your same mistakes.”

The one inevitability about personal growth and development is that it typically points out something within ourselves which needs to be changed. Often, it indicates a part of our thinking, perceptions, or awareness which we believed were correct, but now realize contained flaws. It is a daily goal of mine to find at least one growth moment no matter how small or major it may be.

A rather compelling moment happened last June. I play second trumpet in the Henderson Symphony and the upcoming concert featured some popular jazz standards. We recruited the assistance of a trumpet player from the local university named Kurt. This was his first time performing with the orchestra and after hearing him warm up, he had on him what brass players refer to as quite a “set of chops.” One of the pieces on the program was, “In The Mood” which featured a solo for my part. I hadn’t practiced enough before the first rehearsal and wanting to spare myself some embarrassment, I asked him to trade parts. He shook his head no and immediately my thoughts went to, “whatever happened to respect your elders”?

Needless to say, I was a bit agitated but shortly after the first note, I realized he was playing the first part and had he agreed to switch, the music would have been more demanding than my current one. When the time came for my solo, I stumbled through it and after the first run-through, I thanked him for not obliging. This young man’s refusal to accept what was essentially a demand, spared me additional awkwardness and also forced me to go home and “woodshed” the part; compelling me to do a better job.

Not only was this a lesson I’ll never forget, it also sheds light on another important subject. Many in my generation often dismiss or scorn the attitudes of those in younger ones; but I have a different outlook from most Baby Boomers. Gen Xers and Millennials are frequently criticized for many faults; however, I also recall being a teen and having adults criticize me and my friends for not doing things the way they did as children. It’s nearly engrained in the human species to do so and complaining or forcing our own will on them won’t make any change except perhaps for the worse.

Last week’s article highlighted a view that if I believed in something passionately, it doesn’t require everyone else to believe the same in order to be “right.” Today’s young adults are not shy about dealing with issues differently from my peers. At times, I wish they were more open to heeding my experience and learning from those mistakes. Albeit, there’s no doubt in my mind those adults who critiqued me had a similar thought.

There is one fact which cannot be denied nor overlooked about the younger generations and that is they ARE the future. If there is anything grim about it then it ought to be our responsibility to help build it and not complain or in some cases, even sabotage it.

Rather than only looking for reasons to gripe about their actions and behaviors, focus also on seeing positive ones in today’s young adults as well. Recognize constructive behaviors and freely compliment them. This nurtures and inspires productive conduct and is the best way to leave a greater footprint on the future of this planet.

Granted, certain behaviors should never be ignored but that’s true regardless of your peer group. There is no reason why all of us – both young and old – can’t work together to mold the brightest future ever. My generation can offer words of wisdom while at the same time, learn from the energy and enthusiasm of younger ones. The worst thing we can do is force them into doing things the way we did. Otherwise, they’ll be prone to make our very same mistakes.

This week, see how much kindness you can compliment and inspire; especially from those younger than yourself. Thanks as always and I look forward to your comments.