After waking up from my Chantix-laced two-weeks-long daze, I faced a situation I hadn’t faced in a very long time: my personal integrity account was depleted.
According to Stephen Covey and his co-authors for “First Things First,” a personal integrity account is a metaphor for the things we do that add to and subtract from our integrity. Making and keeping commitments, for example, adds to our integrity. Making and breaking commitments clearly subtracts from our integrity.
I’ve spent a sizable portion of my life building up my integrity, but there have been times when life gets in the way and I have to choose between an important commitment and an even more important crisis. This time, however, my integrity was depleted by two weeks of no-call-no-shows with my clients.
Clearly, if my integrity was completely depleted, then my clients would have dropped me. But they didn’t. Still, I felt like a complete failure and that feeling stuck with me as I tried and failed to get myself back on track. Combined with the disability angle, as per the previous posts, I was digging myself further and further into a hole of incompetence.
“First Things First” is chock full of great advice regarding one’s personal integrity account and other quality-of-life metaphors and methods. The point of this post isn’t to push the book or to pick and choose among the plethora of wisdom I’ve found there. The point is to acknowledge that the way we view ourselves is affected and influenced by many factors. The lies and the truths we tell ourselves have more power to determine what we can and cannot do than anything else. As this book teaches, we need to use our conscience, our independent will, our creative imagination, and our self-awareness to set our courses and, as is currently relevant, to evaluate our progress.
Sometimes when things go awry we need to pull back, take a good, honest look at what we can do, and build ourselves—and our personal integrity accounts—back up again, albeit more slowly than we’d like. So, that’s what I’m going to do. The truth is I can handle my life. I can go to school, run my business, take care of my family, and help my mother. I need boundaries and reasonable expectations in order to succeed, but I can do it. Sometimes I need a little extra help and sometimes I need to pull back and reflect, but even then I can do it.
Sometimes what I really need is a reminder that I can. I’m not simply a product of my culture; I am my own consciousness and I have the integrity to back that up, even if I don’t always feel like it.