Essential Walk #3: Integrity

Thoughts on Excellence Free E-Newsletter Series
Volume 22, Issue No. 3a
November 1, 2023

By Dan Coughlin



Slow down. No, no, no, I mean really truly slow down, slow way down. Take some deep breaths in.

Before you dive into this next topic, I would like to review a few things we have covered so far. I’m using the following definitions as a basis for where we are going:

Your essence is your thoughts, emotions, and will.

Virtue is what you believe are the right thoughts, right emotions, and right will for you.

Egotism is an exaggerated sense of your self-importance, which leads to a craving for immediate gratification and instant short-term pleasure.

Integrity in Your Essence

Now I encourage you to step into Essential Walk #3.

In MWD (Merriam-Webster Dictionary), the word integrity means firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values: incorruptibility. My favorite definition of integrity has always been doing what you think are the right things to do even if no one else knows. I think the code of morals for you to live up to are the ones you believe are right for you.

In writing these articles, I now see that my favorite definition needs to go deeper than actions. It needs to focus on your essence. So now I’m defining integrity as having the thoughts, emotions, and will that you think are right for you.

The reason why I think this deeper definition is more helpful is because we can’t fake our words and actions for very long. Eventually, what we have as our thoughts, emotions, and will emerge as our words and actions.

An Example of Egotism over Virtue

For 37 years from the age of 22 until I was 59, I talked about being healthy, but I allowed my underlying egotism to take over. For those 37 years I was anywhere from 15 to 25 pounds overweight. This wasn’t muscle. This was fat. Every day I convinced myself that I needed the reward of candy, cookies, cake, brownies, ice cream, French fries, onion rings, or some other sugar-filled or grease-coated treat. My exaggerated sense of self-importance, my egotism, was the driving force in terms of what I ate. I allowed my thoughts, emotions, and energy to be driven by immediate gratification. Without stopping to think, I would just push more sugar down my throat. Egotism was winning over virtue

Finally, about 18 months ago I realized this wasn’t about the sugar or grease. It was about my craving for instant short-term pleasure. With that understanding I was able to shift my thoughts, emotions, and will toward virtue and away from egotism. This allowed me to drop 15 pounds and to keep it off. Of course, the daily challenge is one of integrity in focusing on virtue and avoiding egotism in my eating.

The Daily Choice Between Virtue and Egotism

This is the same inner battle you go through every day between virtue and egotism in different areas of your life. The weapon you can use is your own integrity, integrating your thoughts, emotions, and will with what you believe are the right thoughts, emotions, and will for you.

This is exactly why I encourage you to truly slow down. Applying integrity is difficult in the moment of choice when you never slow down enough to really consider what you think are the right thoughts, emotions, and will for you.

The Ideas of Integrity, Virtue, and Egotism Have Been Around for a Very Long Time

Socrates died more than 2400 years ago in 399 B.C. He never wrote down anything, but two authors, Plato and Xenophon, have quoted Socrates as saying the following, which obviously apply as much to women as to men even though the all-male references are outdated for modern times:

“Man, you don’t speak well, if you believe that a man worth anything at all would give countervailing weight to danger of life or death, or give consideration to anything but this when he acts: whether his action is just or unjust, the action of a good or of an evil man.”

“Wherever a man posts himself on his own conviction that this is best, I do believe, he should remain, giving no countervailing weight to death or anything else when the alternative is to act basely.”

“The only thing we should consider is whether we would be acting justly.”

“I ask you to make your first and strongest concern not wealth, but the soul – that it should be as virtuous as possible. For virtue does not come from wealth, but through virtue, wealth and everything else, private and public, become good for men.”

“I would rather fail acting nobly, than win by acting basely.”

Being the Person You Want to Be Starts with Your Essence

What was important 2400 years ago is just as important today. A healthier essence starts with having the integrity to continually choose virtue over egotism.

When you maintain integrity in your essence and keep the thoughts, emotions, and will you think are right for you, then you know the person you can always count on being in any situation. That is an incredibly important step in becoming the person that you want to be in the future.

Essential Walk Questions for You to Consider 

  1. What thoughts do you think are the right ones for you to maintain?
  2. What emotions do you think are the right ones for you to have?
  3. What do you think is the right will for you?
  4. Where in the past two weeks have you had the integrity to maintain the essence that you want to have?

Republishing Articles

My newsletters, Thoughts on Excellence, have been republished in approximately 40 trade magazines, on-line publications, and internal publications for businesses, universities, and not-for-profit organizations over the past 20+ years. If you would like to republish all or part of my monthly articles, please send me an e-mail at with the name of the article you want in the subject heading. I will send you the article in a word document.

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