reading2I am going to begin this post with a gross understatement:

Being a nonprofit director is not easy.

But then again, neither is being a boss. Or a parent (or a parront, for that matter). Or a child. A sibling. A partner. A spouse. A best friend. A colleague. A man. A woman. A child. A human being.

You get the point.

Life itself is also not easy. Just in case I missed this lesson, my own life has been providing me with handy daily reminders for well over two months now.

Thankfully, a few months ago when all the growing pains were just beginning to unfold, a treasured friend and colleague recommended a book series to me. One of the books was called, “Integrity: the courage to meet the demands of reality” by Dr. Henry Cloud.

I had never really thought of ‘integrity’ as something that intersects with reality. I thought it was something you just have – or you don’t have. Curious to see what this Dr. Cloud had to say on the subject, I dug in and started reading.

I discovered straightaway that what I had assumed was integrity is really character. Character is the heart – the soul of a person – that prompts them to default to black or white, right or wrong, good or bad, etc.

So let’s say you have a basic character that defaults to white/right/good. But you still feel wobbly in some (or many) areas. Maybe in business you are a straight arrow but in your personal relationships you let things slide with your partner that you’d never put up with as a boss. Or maybe it is the reverse. Or it is some other type of inconsistency in character that is troubling you.

Whatever the issue, as long as you have a basic character that wants to grow and improve, the next step is simple if not easy – you have to learn. In this case, studying and practicing “integrity” is like going to school to develop your innate character. So integrity can be learned.


One of my favorite quotes from “Integrity” is: “You will not grow without attempting things you are unable to do.” (Since this pretty much defines my entire life, I was thrilled to realize how much growth potential my life yet holds.)

Another memorable quote from “Integrity” is: “No problems, no profit.” And by “profit” Dr. Cloud means good things in general, not financial profit in particular. So personal growth, improved relationships, a fun new career, and so many more things could be a “profit” that comes from being willing to face and solve the problems your life presents.

As a part of this discussion, Dr. Cloud also shares a passage from another fabulous book, Scott Peck’s “The Road Less Traveled,”: “Life is difficult. Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

I can share that I am not there yet – in terms of not minding that life is difficult. I still get sort of (a lot) whiney when life doesn’t go my way, and I still get somewhat (quite) daunted when problems arise – even if I saw them coming a mile away and even if I know how to handle them. But at least now I am no longer sitting around worrying and thinking, “How come my life has so many difficulties?” The answer is: “Because life is difficult.” (substitute “problems” for “difficulties” and you may feel a similar reassurance).

In reading “Integrity” I have also learned that everyone’s life has problems, not just mine, and that many people are daunted by the same types of problems that scare me. I have learned that living life with integrity is the same thing as “living life on life’s terms” from the 12 Step programs – accepting reality and THEN working to create an outcome that provides the highest good to the most people. That first step – ACCEPTANCE – is key. The people who don’t accept the reality of their life or a particular relationship or situation are the ones who may sign up for the class but don’t plan to study for any of the tests.

So basically it is better for them not to go to the school at all.

For the rest of us, the problems are like assignments. When a problem arises it is like the teacher coming and saying, “Shannon, I have a special assignment just for you. You are going to love it.”

At least that is what I imagine my personally-assigned teacher would say. They might also promise that if I complete the assignment and earn an “A” I will get dinner with STING or a year’s supply of free waffles for my bird, Pearl….I mean, that is what I would do if I were trying to motivate me to enroll in Integrity School.

Today’s Takeaway: Of course there are all kinds of perspectives to take on developing integrity, identifying character, dealing with reality, and more. How do you relate to ‘reality’, ‘character’, ‘integrity’ and the intersection of the three in your own life? What works best as a motivator to help you access the inner courage and resources to meet problems and solve them and continue to grow?

Woman reading book image available from Shutterstock.