Identity and Integrity

As many of you know, I consider my car and truck to be “mobile universities.” I listen to Books on Tape (CDs now), inspirational stuff and a healthy dose of Earl Nightingale and Tony Robbins. I am reviewing some of TR’s old work and on the way home, something caught me.

Robbins notes that your identity is how you identify yourself. So, you can answer “Who am I?” with “I’m a Virgo/mesomorph/year of the Rooster/ESTJ/discus thrower/mentor or “I’m not my father/my looks/my whatever. One of the real keys with moving ahead with life is taking the time to real “identify” yourself. For example, if you say “I’m a fat bastard” that is nothing like the idea of “I’m a tremendous person with a few pounds of fat that will be easy to lose.” Sure, I’m simplifying here, but how you explain yourself to yourself is really important.

Losing a season or two to a hip injury made me really wonder a lot about how I define “me.” Honestly, from “Ranger Dan” to “Danny Discus” to Mr. John to Professor John to Dad has always been easy for me. When one or more of these gets swept away, I think I find my “who am I?” by simply shifting lens, so to speak.

The whole thing reminds of the insightful theological concept called “Integrity.” Integrity is simply the idea that “You” will still by “You” after death…somehow. The moral concept is that “you” should be “you” all the time any way. I told my religious studies students this recently:

“Of course, there is a lot more to discuss here, but as you work your way through the laws of the Bible, if you keep in mind the question “who are we?” much of it will make more sense. Let me add this one little thing to think about: in the Kosher food laws of Leviticus, you will note that “bats” are not allowed to be eaten…unclean. Well, is the bat a bird or a mammal? The Scriptures are trying to teach a point here: be who you are supposed to be…if you are a bird, be a bird and you will be clean. If you are a mammal, be a mammal.

Huh??? Well, if you are a married man, should you hang out in bars with your wedding ring off? NO! Be who you are supposed to be. A married man should be a married man, a thing with wings should be a bird…otherwise, you are unclean!”

That is integrity, simply being who you say you are. I would hope that people who met me in Ireland think that Dan John is the same guy that Laree met in Draper. Integrity is simply being the same person (“one,” like in the math concept, integers) from situation to situation. My students struggle with this as part of the madness of teenage behavior is acting like this here and that there. If you are old enough, think of Eddie Haskell from “Leave it to Beaver.”

I think it is well worth the time to occasionally jog through the ideas of identity and integrity. It is a worthy journal exercise and I have seen my scrawled handwriting work with this many times over the years. For me, it is a foundational step in goal setting, although I often forget it. Some people argue that we should have a personal mission statement, too, but for many (read “me”) that just never seems to get done. However, I can certainly see the great value in writing out (publishing) a statement that reminds you of really what you want to be in this life.

I think this kind of thing is more important than five sets of three or doing two lifts on the one lift a day program.

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