To get you a little more focused in on this concept, let's take a look at a few synonyms: honesty, honor, reliability, uprightness. Integrity is consistently, not perfectly, adhering to a code of moral values. Integrity can help you over all; help you in your relationships and how you feel about yourself. This is a major factor in achieving success in all areas of life. But let's get into what integrity is in a little more detail.

According to Abraham Maslow, the father of humanistic psychology, integrity is a characteristic that belongs to people who are self-actualized, or the motive to realize all of one's potential. Note: not some potential but a desire to achieve or reach all of one's potential.

I gave a general lecture one time on the principles behind my work, specifically that which is expressed in my novel Black Body Radiation and the Ultraviolet Catastrophe, and I was attempting to show this innate or natural desire of human beings to reach toward perfection. One student doubted that most people desired this. I asked him if he played sports. He said yes. I asked him if he ever desired to lose. Of course he said no. I then asked him if he was going to school to get F's. He began to see my point. Integrity is simply a desire to achieve moral success. Unfortunately, we see little of this today. Yet at the foundation of the most solid or successful relationships (business, personal, and so on) you'll find individuals of a substantial moral nature. When the word achievement is invoked we often think of those achieving in academics, sports, business, the arts, science, and politics. Very rarely do we admire, look to, or think of great moral achievers, especially in a day and age when self-service and winning is a priority over and above valor and honesty.

Nevertheless, we admire, at times even come close to worshiping great achievers: Donald Trump, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordon, David Ortiz, Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Madonna. A point to keep in mind is that even high achievers, or those who have self-actualized in their careers to a greater degree than most, often times suffer a majority of failure. Tiger Woods, of course, a great winner, still loses about seventy-five percent of the time. Michael Jordan, even with all his success, missed more shots than he made and won the championship only six out of the fifteen years he played. David Ortiz, one of the most prolific and clutch hitters in Major League Baseball, still fails seventy percent of the time. And even the most successful people in business and entertainment, like those listed above, still fail more than they achieve. But it is this human desire to achieve that is above all else an innate desire, and this innate desire to achieve, to work towards perfection, requires one to use many of the attributes I listed in the first paragraph. They are essential to helping you work towards your potential.

Knowing oneself heightens a person's integrity. According to Abraham Maslow, to be someone with great integrity can take a very long time to achieve. It's at the top of Maslow's pyramid, showing that a lot has to be established at the foundation before one obtains integrity.

The word at the very top is morality. And there are a couple of other very important elements of self-actualization: lack of prejudice and acceptance of facts. I'll discuss each element one at a time.

Morality, what does this mean? It is not, according to some, a shifting or changing principle, meaning that one can modify it according to one's needs and desires or as they see fit. For example, it is not right to say that stealing is immoral and then qualify it when money is found on the street by saying "Well, attempting to track down this person is futile. Finders keepers." Now I'm not saying that we should all be a goody two-shoes but more so that we need to make clear the definition of morality so we can explore it more accurately. However, when we look up the definition, it is not absolute, meaning it's a little vague. So how do we know what is "right or just behavior" or what it means to have a "sense of what is right or wrong"?

Well, let's take a look at the definition of a word that often implies a lack of moral character: stealing. Stealing is the "taking of the property of another or others without permission or right, esp. secretly or by force." Now, in an attempt to work to the best of one's ability, a person should reach for perfection, meaning that if he takes something, anything that is not his, it is stealing. Let me give you an example I gave me students one time.

You're in Blockbuster Video looking for a movie. You're roaming around the back shelves, and looking down for a movie you see a twenty dollar bill. What do you do? Put it in your pocket? Bring it up to the cashier and tell them that you found it? Or do you start asking people in the store who tell you it's theirs, "OK then, what's the serial number?

To answer this question, let's take a look at the definition of stealing again. Stealing is defined as taking something without permission or right. To be perfectly moral in this situation, doing that which is right, you would have to one, either leave it where you found it- disassociating you from any degree of stealing-or two, give it to the cashier.

I'm not saying what you or anyone should do here, but I do bring this up to make a point. Any move whatsoever toward taking property that you are not given permission to take is moving toward stealing. Now, many may say that it's ridiculous to believe that if someone takes twenty bucks that was left behind by someone in Blockbuster that it's stealing and that it's going to lead to bank robbery, but it may. Consider this, not everyone who takes a drink becomes an alcoholic, but some do.

But how exacting do we have to be in our lives to truly have "integrity?" And how important is it to stay away from moving towards the less-moral end of the scale? Well, consider what nutritionists tell us about food is a good indicator of how humans can slide up and down the scale of exactness-not only in regards to food but other areas of life as well. They tell us the more we eat food that is bad for us the easier it is to not only keep eating it but to eat more, and that if we begin eating food that's good for us, the greater the propensity we have for continuing to eat it. One of the reasons people go off their diet is because they say to themselves, for example, "Well, I know I told myself that I would only eat ice cream on the weekends but it's been a hard week and I'm going to eat today. Hell, the weekend is only a day away." Certainly, not a problem, but then it's being eaten on Thursday, then Wednesday, then Tuesday and so on.

I know of a man who is very exacting when it comes to his diet. He eats ice cream only when it's a full moon. Why? Well, he wants a treat, don't you? Consider this part of the story. During the celebration of his birthday one year, someone brought ice cream. They knew his rule, but they figured he would eat the ice cream. After all, it was his birthday. However, the man said no. He would not eat it. That is discipline. That is sticking to one's rules. That is working toward perfection. Hell that is perfection, and the closer we get to perfection with our thoughts, words, actions, and deeds the greater joy we will have. Not that it's easy or even attainable for most, but the more we are conscious and aware of the possibility and that we need to focus and concentrate on working toward absolute perfection then the greater the chance we will have to improve. Let's have Brutus tell us again how it is.

"It is one of the strange ironies of this strange life [that] those who work the hardest, who subject themselves to the strictest discipline, who give up certain pleasurable things in order to achieve a goal, are the happiest people."-- Brutus Hamilton

Author's Bio: 

Jeff has written 100's of essays and articles; over 50 poems; and several books: Now available are his motivational works Black Body Radiation and the Ultraviolet Catastrophe at and To Die at the Age of Man at; Coming soon: Give and Grow Yourself Rich (May, 2008); Education is a Waste of Time, (late 2008); and a children's novella The Search for Adriana (late 2008). Currently, he teaches writing and owns Inner Projection, a self-improvement business.