A reader asks about integrity and self-control

December 26, 2014 by Joshua
in Habits, Leadership

A reader asked, about my post “Three years of burpees,”

Integrity is a interesting concept. Its the same thing for me, after having developed some strong daily habits, which are different from yours. It has made developing harder habits, much easier.

How is integrity different from self-control? Isnt self-control the same as doing something when nobody is watching?

The way I think about it is, that developing any habit requires some amount of stress psychologically. Once you develop a small habit (Habit A), the incremental stress to develop a harder habit (Habit B), is the same as the stress I would encounter if I started habit A initially. On the other hand if I tried to develop habit B, right off the bat, on my own, I would have encountered a much higher stress, as a result, I might have faltered.

Since I value and want both integrity and self-control, I don’t find differentiating between the two that important, but I find understanding things helps you create them.

I consider integrity higher level. To integrate means to add things together. For something to have integrity means it is complete. A building that has structural integrity is less likely to collapse. If it didn’t have integrity it might be missing parts integral to holding it together and supporting it.

A person without integrity might have missing parts to their personality or behavior that lead them to collapse or behave unexpectedly. Someone without integrity is harder to trust or depend on.

To achieve integrity requires finding gaps in your skills. Since your own gaps are often the hardest to see, integrity usually means diligent work with others.

Self-control I think of as lower-level, though no less important. Self-control means doing what you want even when you don’t feel like it, or not doing what you don’t want even when you feel like it. It helps create integrity, but someone with great self-control might never become integrated if they never make their effort to improve comprehensive.

To use an engineering analogy, I think of self-control as how well a company runs its factory. Integrity is how well the product the factory produces does its function. You can have great staff working effectively, but other things can undermine the product—you might order poor supplies, for example, or use it under conditions it wasn’t designed for.

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