As I continue to finish up my book, I've been going through old newsletters to rebroadcast the ones that generated a lot of feedback. I wrote this week's newsletter after taking a trip to Toronto to speak at a conference. It struck a chord with our community and turned out to be a lesson that would serve me well later on. I hope it speaks to you in some way this week...
Last month I gave a speech in Toronto and during my trip I had an interesting experience that prompted this week's message about living with integrity. While planning my trip, I'd been advised to say that my travels were for personal reasons when going through customs. I was told that if I admitted that I was going to Toronto on business I may be delayed for an indefinite length of time. This would have been a problem since my schedule was tight and I needed to leave for a television show immediately following my arrival at the airport. I couldn't afford any delays.
When I received this advice I felt uneasy. I didn't want to lie and I knew I'd be worrying about it every step of the way. Sure enough, as I was thinking about my trip the night before, I felt anxious about going through customs. After twenty minutes of mulling it over, I thought: "Cheryl this is silly. You travel all the time and it's no big deal. Just say you're visiting a friend." Then I went to sleep.
The next morning while sitting at the gate, I began talking to a gentlemen who was traveling on the same flight. Since he was also going to Toronto for business, I asked him if he normally shared that information with customs. He said that he did. However, when I explained my situation, he too suggested that I say I was visiting a friend. "Don't worry," he said, "no one will ever know." Ugh...
After spending practically the whole flight trying to come up with a story that would help me to rationalize lying, it suddenly occurred to me that this wasn't about getting into Canada without a hassle. Nor was it about making my appointments on time. It was about my integrity. I realized that I wouldn't feel good about myself if I lied. So, with that understanding my decision was easy: I would tell the truth and deal with the consequences.
It's funny how small decisions can have such a big impact on the quality of our relationship with ourselves. Every choice has consequences and how you feel about yourself in relation to the choices you make has a direct effect on your self-esteem -- your ability to hold yourself in high regard. Once you realize this, you become more aware of how your choices make you feel. For example, deciding to gossip with a co-worker might pass the time at a boring job, but it may also leave you feeling ashamed about your behavior later on. Or, staying late at work when you promised your family you'd be home early, might get an important project completed on time, but there's a good chance that it will also cause you to feel guilty after the fact. These are the kinds of choices that can whittle away at our self-esteem.
While I'm not suggesting that you take yourself to task for every little issue, I am suggesting that you pay closer attention to how you feel about the choices you make to be sure that they leave you feeling good about who you are. When what we think, say, and do are congruent, we're operating with integrity. As a result, we begin to experience an "inner alignment" that supports our emotional, spiritual, and physical health.
By the way, when I arrived in Toronto and went through customs I *was* pulled aside and sent to immigration. Once there, I had a lovely conversation with the customs officer (a young mother) who asked for advice about how to balance her busy life. After a little coaching, she sent me on my way with a grateful smile. Now if every tough choice could turn out that way . . .
Take Action Challenge
Is there a decision you need to make that might challenge your integrity? Use the following questions to help you make a wise choice:
How will I feel about myself once I've made this choice?
Will this decision allow me to hold myself in high regard?
If I make this choice, will I be walking my talk?
Every day we have an opportunity to raise our level of consciousness by raising our level of integrity. Honor your soul by choosing wisely.