Whether you are aware of it or not, you are shaped and driven by a value system passed down from generation to generation. This value system is what helps you make major life decisions and it’s what helps you work so cooperatively with other humans. There are a few core values that humans hold in very high regard and integrity is one of them. Integrity can be defined in two ways. The first as it pertains to being honest or having strong moral principles or an ultimate state of truthfulness. The second refers to a state of wholeness or being undivided.
Integrity usually refers to how we treat others. Integrity towards self however is equally important. Integrity when it comes to sport requires you to do two things. The first is to give your best effort. The second is to finish what you start and give wholeness to the process.
You may think that you are driven and motivated by external rewards. Finish lines are stocked with finisher medals, results are published for everyone to see, and some athletes may even win money. But rooted deep in your conscious is a value system and acting in ways that add substance to and authenticate that value system is a key driver. Very few people are rewarded externally to the extent that most endurance sports warrant when considering the effort required. What people are searching for is a way to build on and solidify their deeper core values. When you step on a start line or get up for a hard workout you challenge your own resolve when it comes to integrity. You put yourself in the vulnerable position of having to honour integrity and to find truth in the effort and to give wholeness to the process.
When you try your best, regardless of the outcome, the process is rooted in integrity and the experience is often very fulfilling. When you finish what you start, you give wholeness to the process and that is wrought with integrity. When you do not try your best or finish what you start integrity is breached. Races or training sessions that end this way can feel empty because they compromise one of your core values.
In some cases it may not be possible to finish what you start. A mechanical issue, sickness, injury, or even complete exhaustion can force an early retirement from an event or a training session. Even when it is something beyond your control, chances are you will still feel a void because the process lacks completeness. If you tried your best however, you have still acted with integrity and it’s important to move on quickly. If you become consumed with “what ifs” it can be an exhausting and somewhat fruitless thought process. Learn what you need to learn and move on.
One of the most obvious reasons that fans abhor cheating is because it is such a blatant violation of integrity. It’s not necessarily the stolen external reward that is the issue but rather the disregard for one of our core values that makes it so objectionable. Cheating is a way to get an outcome without truthfulness and wholeness to the process and it rocks us at the core.
How To Train and Compete with Integrity
Awareness is the first step. Understanding that this motivator is rooted deep inside you is important. Core value motivation is often buried under layers of external motivators like medals, awards and prizes. These things are far less potent and far more fleeting. When you reconnect with your deeper motivators like integrity, your energy for the process will be enormous.
Commitment is the second step. It’s often easier to do the hard work and finish the job when people are watching. But you have to be willing to do these two things when nobody is watching. You have to be willing to embrace the effort with all of your being and finishing what you start must be non-negotiable. Trying your best is a choice. It always has been and it always will be. You have to keep making the choice to push over and over and over again. You have to fully commit to the effort.
Evaluation is the third step. After a training session or a race ask yourself if you tried your best and finished the job. If you did, move on and do it again. If you didn’t, move on and do it next time.
When I was competing, I was not always happy with the result that transpired at the end of the day. I expected or wanted certain outcomes on certain days and sometimes those would come to fruition and sometimes they would not. What I realized as I went deeper into my career was that it was only the times where I felt a breach in my own integrity that I was truly not happy with the result. If I showed up and did the absolute best job that I could on the day, I felt satisfied with the effort and more accepting of the outcome.
There were times when I did not try my best and there were times when I pulled out of races for various reasons. Those were the races that left me feeling empty because I had breached one of my core values. Those were the races that hung over my head for longer than they should have. It took time to realize that it had nothing to do with the external outcome and everything to do with the lack of integrity that it represented.