Living a life of uncompromising integrity is as difficult as it is important. As with many important things in life, it is a goal that can never truly be reached. It’s the act of reaching for it that matters.
One of the topics that I have written about most on this blog is the power of little things. Little things done over and over and over again turn into big things. And those big things have a significant impact on your life.
I believe morality is often the same way. In the words of Albus Dumbledore ”We must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.” Rarely are we met with ultimatums between right and wrong. Much more often it is this simple choice between doing what is right and doing what is easy. Between taking the high road and the low road.
The sinister part of these decisions is that there is often no immediate negative feedback to choosing the easy path. There is no hot stove to teach you not to place your hand on top of it. In fact, that is often exactly why the wrong choice often appears to be the easy one. It is less a question of avoiding some sort of pain as it is a question of delaying it. Wrong choices compound. They come back to bite us at the worst possible times.
The right choices are usually the opposite. They generally involve short term pain. Telling your boss when you messed up. Apologizing to your spouse when you still don’t think you did anything wrong.
But they tend to compound in the long run. They build trust. They build your reputation. They help you sleep at night.
Your character is what you do when no one is looking. I think we all say we want to be high character people, but how many of us actually take tangible steps to do? I’d wager not many.
I am trying something. I think it has been helping me and I think it may help you to.
It’s called keeping score.
I got this practice from Chop Wood, Carry Water. A book that has had an immense impact on my life and the way I view the world.
What you do is that you make a list of the 5 values that you most respect in other people. That is your new scoreboard. Forget about money or status or fake internet points. Measure yourself against the things you most value and respect in people.
Here’s my scoreboard.
Brave and stands up for what is right
Hard-working and persistent
Treats others with respect and compassion no matter who they are
Maintains a Learner’s mindset (Focused on the process, views the world as an interconnected system, sees every challenge as an opportunity to learn and grow)
Builds bridges between others. Seeks to connect the world. Always adds more value to any conversation than he takes away
Clearly, I have built upon some of these. They change and evolve over time. Just as I, and what I value, does.
This is how I determine whether I had a good day or not. No matter what else is happening in life, if I am living according to these principles, then I am at least heading in the right direction. And I think it has made a tangible impact on my behavior. It’s like building muscle memory. Grade yourself down for using someone else’s salad dressing in the work fridge or park in a “For customer’s only” space a couple of times and all of the sudden you start thinking twice about doing something you would’ve done without thinking before.
And it is that pause where you think twice that really allows you to make the changes you want in your life.
I made a tool to help me do this, and I think it can help you do.
In a previous post, I shared the personal CRM that I had built in Notion to help me hone my superpower of building and maintaining genuine relationships. I got some great feedback from people who were able to leverage that tool so I decided to add to it and start building a dashboard for others to utilize.
Here is the public dashboard that I have added Personal CRM and Scoreboard templates to. Feel free to duplicate in your own workspace and customize to your liking.
Hopefully this is as helpful to you as it has been for me. Big changes are made up of small changes. And small changes take time. I’ve found holding yourself accountable to even the smallest thing is the best way to enact long-term change.
There is no silver bullet. You won’t magically wake up one day being the person you’ve always wanted to be.
But you can get a little bit closer to being that person.