How do you build a bridge to judgment and willpower to do the ‘right thing’? In this article, Dina-Perla Portnaar explores how to recognize and counter common misconceptions about integrity. She calls this process mind building, and focuses on the four pillars of one’s ‘home’, namely physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual.
When I work one-on-one with people on integrity, I explore what gets in the way of living according to one’s own blueprint. Often, there are blockages, including triggers and thinking errors. Thought patterns that influence judgment and willpower to choose the right thing, also in working-life.
Investigating these matters is part of what I call mind building. In other words, deep, free, and critical thinking. This is really about an individual approach to personal integrity consultations and, in a team context, as part of the overall structure of integrity management within organizations.
Your ‘own’ house on four pillars: physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual
With thought patterns, the question is always when things serve someone, and when they get in the way of connecting with ourselves and others, and working with integrity. Mind building offers a solution.
Triggers of injustice certainly occur in our working-life more regularly than we think. For example, destroying someone’s reputation, gossip, sabotage, opposition, nepotism, corruption, looking away, shoving things under the rug, silencing someone, bullying, and so on. In the labor market, we therefore talked about behavior and psychosocial burden, long before the term unacceptable behavior became popular in the public debate.
Sometimes, the trick is to not want to shape everything completely through mind building. Even if it is just to set priorities, or to tolerate some human imperfection. With that, we hold something in our hands to practice grace with. Anyway, everyone always has the task of working on themselves, also in the context of work. They have to do this on the back of the four pillars of one’s own ‘house’, namely physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual.
No dry fare of boring textbooks
Thought patterns can get in the way of living and working with integrity. That is why I am sharing a list of recognizable fallacies, followed by simplistic ideas to solve them in a light-hearted manner. Because in the recognition there is the possibility of progress, and in the simplicity lays the power.
Are you a CEO or starting employee, do you have a lot or little life experience, every day we start anew on our own masterpiece. Every day, intentions, attitude, and behavior are challenged, and integrity muscles are trained. Looking down on this, for example acting in a haughty manner, or only arranging the legal and procedural checks-in-the-box, means ignoring the human dimension, and what works in practice. In business, that is often something other than the dry fare of the (sometimes scientific or semi-scientific) thick and extremely boring textbooks.
Recognize the fallacies
- Comparing yourself to others and quite clouding your view of your realistic self. Often, this causes fear or other harmful emotions and consequences. For unhealthy competition and lack of cooperation, or blockages in collective performance.
- Holding yourself accountable for matters and actions that are beyond your control. Often, we do this because we want to stay in the illusion of control. Because we want to avoid conflict, and keep us submissive and small, sometimes because we’ve learned this a while ago.
- Not holding yourself responsible and placing the blame entirely on others. This often happens because we cannot accept that others do not have the same (high) standards and values, or (quality) requirements.
- Bombarding your feelings into the absolute truth. Often, emotions are the result of beliefs and thoughts, and therefore a distorted picture of reality – for example incomplete. In the worst case, an unpleasant reaction follows, or we are stuck with a self-fulfilling prophecy.
- Locking yourself in should and if only I had. We often do this when there is a discrepancy between our (high) expectations and reality.
- Judging yourself negatively instead of talking about a mistake. We often use negative labels. This is where deep-rooted beliefs come into play.
- Allowing yourself to jump to conclusions too quickly. For example, that someone reacts negatively to you. Thus, a kind of mind reading. Or predicting that something will not end well, even if there is no evidence. So, a kind of looking into the future. Often, these thought patterns keep us passive. Sometimes, it affects not only our productivity, but also our decision-making, relationships, and self-esteem.
- Allowing yourself to think in black and white, or in terms of all or nothing. We often do this when we cannot put things into perspective.
- Overwhelming yourself with the worst-case scenario, regardless of the reality of the situation. Often, this happens when we cannot stay rational.
- Keeping focus on a specific detail that you zoom in on completely. This can be both a positive and negative aspect. Often, this happens when we don’t look at the full picture. If we don’t recognize things as they are, and take advantage of them. Sometimes, that blindness leads to feelings of discouragement and hopelessness.
- Keeping yourself small or in your place, by rejecting your successes. In other words, not recognizing what you have done well, and attributing it to your merits. Such an attitude often gets in the way of breaking new ground.
- Keeping yourself busy with the same thoughts over and over. This worrying often happens in an obsessive manner. That ‘magnificent thinking’ offers no new insights or solutions, so that you remain passive.
Which approach works best for you?
Mind building means exploring with curiosity, self-compassion, self-respect, forgiveness, and sometimes humor how it all is the way it is. Questions are: who am I? What do I want? What do I need? And how do these matters come together? What about my strengths and weaknesses, expertise and preferences? How do I deal with those, and how do others deal with those? Start the conversation before the research, and find balance in reality. All of this viewed through the lens of what is right from the point of view of morality, ethics, and integrity. Sometimes through moral deliberation.
It also means identifying sources of fear, to act less reactive, and to work proactively with intentions and attitudes towards behavior. Sometimes, that requires getting out of the head, and getting more into the body. For example, by moving, meditating, writing down thoughts, talking to others, and saying ‘no’ more often. It is more than worth it. Because the more fear is overcome, the more vitality, resourcefulness, connection, and performance. The better the assessment and willpower to choose the ‘right thing’.
Maintain balanced thinking to explore arguments for and against certain assumptions. Speaking out loud a contrary opinion can sometimes provide surprising insights. Consider whether there are matters that could be done differently, even just a small activity to move forward mentally. Precisely a small activity in the sense of manageable, meaningful, and short-term is effective.
Then keep track of these different approaches and possibly study them as experiments. Also, keep track of the positive feedback from others. For example, I have a folder in Outlook called Credentials. In it, I have saved the most beautiful reactions of others to my work. This allows me to track and relativize my progress over time, from the perspective of others.
Progression is evidence of a fortified ‘house’, and mind building is the bridge to judgment and willpower to do the ‘right thing’. Sticking your head in the sand means that the foundation continues to rattle. If matters go well, there are no consequences. If matters go wrong, things collapse. I wish everyone a strong home. This invariably includes maintenance and renovations over time.
The Dutch version of this article was published by Boom Coaching. A slightly different version appeared via ManagersOnline.