In the operating room of a great hospital a young nurse had her first day of full responsibility. “You’ve removed eleven sponges, Doctor,” she said to the surgeon. “We used twelve.”
“I’ve removed them all,” the doctor declared. “We’ll close the incision now.”
“No,” the nurse objected. “We used twelve.”
“I’ll take the responsibility,” the surgeon said grimly. “Suture!”
“You can’t do that!” blazed the nurse. “Think of the patient!”
The doctor smiled, lifted his foot, and showed the nurse the twelfth sponge. “You’ll do,” he said. He had been testing her for integrity — and she had it.
A Key Component
This story, related more than 60 years ago by noted editor and author Arthur Gordon, illustrates a key component of integrity: having the courage of your convictions — sticking to your guns, doing what you believe is right, and not fearing to speak out. Such actions are needed today where looking good, showing up well, and garnering favorable press predominate. At the root of our existence is the need for the re-emergence of integrity in the collective character of humankind.
No one lives a life of absolute integrity. Rather, it is an ideal for which to strive. Even those who consistently display integrity can be overwhelmed by what is left over — what wasn’t acted upon and what wasn’t met with integrity.
Integrity is difficult to define. Eleven dictionaries carry eleven different definitions. We know integrity when we see it, but we have trouble explaining it. There is an illusive nature to integrity. It cannot be self-proclaimed, only observed in others. Yet most acts of integrity are performed in private and not subject to public review.
Those who have integrity in large measure have discovered something that the rest of the world must know — that integrity, which many look upon as being comprised of sacrifice, struggle and non-advantageous decision making, actually makes life easier, joyful and powerful.
A Commitment is a Commitment
After the fall youth soccer season, the head coach of the second grade team resigned. To ensure continuity, the assistant coach was asked to take over as head coach for the spring season. He accepted the position.
A month before the season started, the new coach changed jobs. His new job was a high-pressure executive position requiring longer hours and more travel. There would be conflicts between the demands of the new job and the needs of the soccer team. But the new coach stuck to his commitment to the players and their parents.
He was rewarded for toughing it out. The soccer team, playing in a more difficult division, had a good season. But the best part of the story is what happened on the job: he earned a bonus for outstanding performance!
The Truth Prevails
Historian Arnold Toynbee observes that of 21 notable civilizations, 19 perished “not from external conquest but from the evaporation of belief within.” In his address many years ago to the Illinois State Chamber of Commerce, Charles H. Brower remarked that “today our country still has a choice. I believe it has always begun to make that choice. I believe it is going back to its old beliefs — such things as ideas, pride, patriotism, loyalty, devotion and even hard work.” Though those words were spoken decades ago, their ring of truth is now being heard.
Curiously, we discount acts of integrity practiced by others, not believing that they can have done what they’ve done simply because they thought it to be right. Paradoxically, we’re quick to condemn others who vividly display a lack of integrity, all the while overlooking or forgetting our own lapses.
Emily Carruthers was a teacher in an elementary school in Spokane. A dispute between the school administration and the teacher’s union surfaced. At a union meeting the teachers discussed striking. After the vote to strike, Carruthers got up and voiced her opinion. She knew her opinion would be unpopular and she knew that she would alienate people because of it. Nevertheless she told the teachers that she would cross the picket line as she deplores strikes.
A Pivotal Concept
Integrity might be the pivotal concept of what it means to be human. It certainly involves fully accepting one’s humanity. Integrity has many synonyms however no single synonym is sufficient; trustworthiness, loyalty, virtue, sincerity, candor, uprightness, honesty. Integrity is also the avoidance of deception and the avoidance of expediency. It is being complete and undivided.
During a bitter cold snap, quick action by concerned neighbors stopped flooding from a burst pipe in an unoccupied house. Early one morning, water was spotted gushing from under the back door of the house. Two neighbors, who had no key, got inside by dismantling a window frame.
They found the entire lower level of the house flooded with two feet of frigid water. The two men ignored the icy geyser spraying from the ruptured pipe and shut off the water line. Using push brooms, they swept the water out the back door. They moved furnishings upstairs to dry out. Then they reassembled the window frame.
Another challenge was notifying the homeowners of the situation. Neighbors knew only that they were visiting relatives in the Miami area. Long distance directory assistance provided a list of a half dozen people with the same Iranian surname. On the second call, the residents were located. Because of the early notification, they were able to expedite the insurance claim. Neighborly resourcefulness and persistence had averted a major household disaster.
A Summation of Decisions
Integrity is an achievement, not a gift. It is not the characteristic that determines decisions. It is the summation of the decisions we’ve made. Integrity communicates to others immediately. It is being the same person to everyone. It’s not noble; it’s not altruistic; it is a practical vehicle for living effectively, for having life work. It is maintaining values steadfastly and focusing on what you believe is right.
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It the ability to experience a sense of control and to stay productive and competitive at work while maintaining a happy, healthy home-life
Work-life balance (WLB) is the ability to experience a sense of control and to stay productive and competitive at work while maintaining a happy, healthy home-life with sufficient leisure. WLB, also referred to by some as work-life harmony, work-life shift, work-life blend, work-life effectiveness, or work-life integration, requires focus and awareness despite seemingly endless tasks and activities competing for our time and attention.
Work-life balance entails having what I call “breathing space” for yourself each day, feeling a sense of accomplishment while not being consumed by work, and having an enjoyable domestic life without short-changing career obligations. WLB is rooted in whatever fulfillment means to you within the course of a day and a week, and however many years you have left in your life.
Several disciplines support work-life balance though, individually, none are synonymous with work-life balance:
1) Self Management
Sufficiently managing one’s self can be challenging, particularly in getting proper sleep, exercise, and nutrition. Self-management is the recognition that effectively using the spaces in our lives is vital, and that life, time, and available resources are finite. It means becoming captain of our own ship; no one is coming to steer for us.
2) Time Management
Effective time management involves making optimal use of your day and the supporting resources that can be summoned – you can only keep pace when your resources match your challenges. Time management is enhanced through appropriate goals and discerning what is both important and urgent, versus important OR urgent. It entails understanding what you do best and when, and assembling the appropriate tools to accomplish specific tasks.
3) Stress Management
By nature, societies tend to become more complex over time. In the face of increasing complexity, stress on the individual is inevitable. More people, noise, and distractions, independent of one’s individual circumstances, require each of us to become more adept at maintaining tranquility and being able to work ourselves out of pressure-filled situations. Most forms of multi-tasking ultimately increase our stress, while focusing on one thing at a time helps decrease stress.
4) Change Management
In our fast-paced world, change is virtually the only constant. Continually adopting new methods, adapting old, and re-adapting all methods is vital to a successful career and a happy home life. Effective change management involves offering periodic and concerted efforts so that the volume and rate of change at work and at home does not overwhelm or defeat you.
5) Technology Management
Effectively managing technology requires ensuring that technology serves you, rather than abuses you. Technology has always been with us, since the first walking stick, spear, flint, and wheel. Today, the rate of technological change is accelerating, brought on by vendors seeking expanding market share. Often you have no choice but to keep up with the technological Joneses, but rule technology, don’t let it rule you.
6) Leisure Management
The most overlooked of the work-life balance supporting disciplines, leisure management acknowledges 1) the importance of rest and relaxation, 2) that “time off” is a vital component of the human experience, and 3) that one can’t indefinitely short-change leisure without repercussions. Curiously, too much of the same leisure activity, however enjoyable, can lead to monotony. Thus, effective leisure management requires varying one’s activities.
Achieving work-life balance does not require radical changes in what you do. It is about developing fresh perspectives and sensible, actionable solutions that are appropriate for you. It is fully engaging in life with what you have, right where you are, smack dab in the ever-changing dynamics of your existence.
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Let us be free to like what we like and not have others be the gatekeepers of our intellectual pursuits
I read a remarkable Letter to the Editor in a college newspaper, from a young black student. The point of his letter was so amazing and its insights so profound that it needs to be shared across the country for everyone, of all races.
This student wrote that, as a black male, it would inaccurate to make judgments about him without knowing him personally. He highlighted, for example, that while he likes some rap music, he much prefers traditional rock and roll, and even an occasional country song.
Is Your Bias Showing?
He wrote that if you think a black student should not like country music then your bias is showing. Why couldn’t a student, of any race or ethnicity, enjoy a particular type of music even if it’s not traditionally ascribed to his or her particular group? Who is in control here?
He likes historical novels, modern novels, biographies, and autobiographies. He was captivated by a biography about the Wright Brothers. He enjoys poetry and finds the poems from many writers to be relevant to him, from Maya Angelou to Carl Sandberg.
He suggests that there is a world of possibilities when it comes to entertainment, music, and literature. Why, he asks, must we be confined to the narrow band of choices that others, particularly within our own races and ethnicities, suggest that we adhere to? Who decides what is best for all members of a particular group? On what do they base their decisions?
Who determined that venturing outside of such restrictive limits is somehow being a traitor to one’s group? And what does it mean to even be a traitor when it comes to literature, history, music, and so on?
He pointed out in the most eloquent of terms that following the dictates of a small section of the populace and adhering to the stereotypes that prevail are extremely limiting to one’s personal freedom and an attack on one’s individuality and, potentially, creativity.
With so many experiences and possibilities that one can enjoy, he ponders, why limit yourself, especially at the age of 19, 20, or 21 to predefined, limiting confines?
No Free for All
I marveled at this young man’s wisdom which seems to transcend his years. I certainly was not as wise and perceptive myself at that age.
Over the next few days, I was eager to see if there would be any responses to his letter. Surely, he’s going to get some blowback. Someone of his own race will tell him that he needs to get “back in his lane.” Someone will tell him he’s “not acting black,” or not black enough. Somebody else will say that he’s been brainwashed, probably from an early age and he’s trying to capitulate to the predominant Caucasian culture. Someone might call him an “Uncle Tom.”
While I was monitoring the publication, actually nothing was said of his letter. I hoped maybe somebody else, or lots of somebody else’s, understood the man’s viewpoint. They could see the wisdom in his observations. I thought perhaps someone would comment in that direction, but that didn’t happen either.
Free to Choose
In the larger sense, it’s a shame that blacks and other minorities, as well as Caucasians, are supposed to act this way or that way. Hispanics are supposed to prefer this versus that. Asians are supposed to do this versus that. Why, exactly, do these illegitimate confines continue to rule the perceptions of vast numbers of our population?
Why can’t we be free to like what we like, to prefer what we prefer, and have others not be the gatekeepers of our intellectual pursuits?
I have no knowledge of this young man and how he has fared in his studies and overall life. I surmise that whatever he’s doing, whether it’s continuing in his education, landing a job, entering the military, volunteering, traveling, or simply taking time off, he will continue to pursue his interests and remain unique.
Bound for Success
Hopefully, he’ll continue to sidestep unwarranted, prevailing norms that dictate what he can like, think, and be. May we all strive to have such personal freedom.
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