In the today’s world, you might get the impression that truth and reality are optional concepts – that winning, regardless of the damage, or the cost to your reputation or that of others in your circle is all that matters. That approach might work, temporarily, in politics, cop shows, and sitcoms, but eventually, it catches up with you in real life.
The decisions you make are a reflection of your personal values:
- Do you follow the rules or cheat?
- Tell the truth or lie?
- Consider the consequences on others with empathy and understanding or ignore them if it serves your purpose?
- Do you admit a mistake and correct it or hope the customer doesn’t notice?
Without values as your yardstick, or as Stephen Covey calls them – your True North, you have a much harder time making decisions. If your values are clear, all of those either/or questions become simpler.
Is values-based decision-making based on naïve thinking or denial of the complexities in our digital world? Maybe, but it makes life a lot easier if you don’t have to remember the lies you’ve told; look over your shoulder for fear of being caught; worry that you may have ruined someone’s life; or live in the hope that your customer is stupid. Your life may be less exciting, but you’ll sleep better.
I’ve found that when we make decisions in alignment with our values, we are acting with integrity. When we behave in opposition to our values, we experience cognitive dissonance. Our brain goes into denial and stops processing information correctly. We become incapable of having a rational discussion because we must defend our idea even if it is indefensible.
Can you get away with being dishonest and dismissing any considerations of the consequences? Sure. It depends on your values and how you measure success. Some people can even become (externally) successful; mendacious robber barons amass fortunes. Is that what counts for you? Is that what you want to leave as a legacy to your children and grandchildren?
I’ve never heard anyone suggest that Warren Buffet or Bill Gates are dishonest or achieved significant financial success by being cruel or uncaring. You can have integrity AND still win. You can make decisions that will benefit you AND others. You can tell the truth AND make the sale.
We make hundreds of decisions every day. Most are pretty easy. The tough ones require reflection and thought. When you are forced to make those tough decisions, go back to your values.