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Have you ever made decisions based on what others wanted you to do instead of what you desired? Whether it's our parents, family members, or friends, other people's expectations can often pressure us into living our lives inauthentically.
As a renowned sociologist, Martha Beck helps her clients understand the importance of integrity, meaning living in alignment with their true self, their desires, and genuine personal interests —not those dictated by others.
On this week's Motivational Mondays, the New York Times best-selling author explains why inner peace and integrity are the secrets to living a meaningful and joyful life.
WE ARE INFLUENCED BY CHANGES IN SOCIETY
A crucial part of Martha Beck's work revolves around studying people's behaviors, how we function based on the groups we are a part of, and the impact societal changes have on all our lives. Her fascination with this area of study comes from her own childhood and teenage years, which she categorically refers to as "miserable."
She reflects, "I was a miserable child and teenager. I was really anxious, depressed. Didn't know what I was doing with my life. And so I started looking for meaning and purpose when I was a teenager, and I found it, but it was a hard task.”
Finding meaning and purpose isn’t easy, but as someone who did figure it out, Martha feels passionately obligated to try to help other people in the same situation. For many, it has become even more difficult in the digital age. The prevalence of social media impacts how we see ourselves and pressures us into aspiring to be something we are not or something we could never attain.
More than ever before, it's an essential matter of mental wellness to know who we really are as we pursue a life of integrity.
WHY INTEGRITY IS IMPORTANT IN LIFE
Acknowledging the advice of "living with integrity" may seem hokey to some, Martha set out to state her case in her new book, entitled, The Way of Integrity: Finding the Path to Your True Self.
She initially wondered how people would receive it. She thought, "Everybody's going to think I want them to go to Sunday school, which is the opposite of what I want. So, integrity actually means ‘intact’ or ‘whole.’ So it's not a virtue so much as it's just good sound planning."
Using an analogy we all can relate to, Martha shares that when a plane is in "structural integrity," it is working with itself in harmony. This perfect alignment allows it to defy gravity soundly, reaching incredible heights. However, if it's not in integrity, it might not take off, it may stall, or worse —crash.
By comparison, we as people are much like the symbolic airplane in Martha's example. She explains,
"Most of us are split. We're divided against ourselves without even knowing it, which means we're not in structural integrity, and things crash when we're not aligned with what is deepest in our own truth. When we try to set up for a goal that is not inherently meaningful for us, we split ourselves and we fall out of integrity and life goes badly."
IDENTIFYING WHY WE'RE SPLIT WITHIN OURSELVES
When it comes to figuring out why we often have such inner conflicts in our life choices, Martha minces no words as she points out it's mostly because we are "wired" to please other people—first. Our entire lives are a construct where we owe everything to being dependent on others and being accepted by other people. Until we can identify these pitfalls and break the cycle, we will never live with true integrity.
Martha further explains, "So even before we learn to talk, we learn what pleases other people. And if it goes along with our real nature, then it's fine. We don't have to split. But if we find out that, for example, acting happy when we're sad makes other people happy too, we will abandon ourselves before we can even talk and pretend to be happy when we're not or pretend to be comfortable when we're not."
We can all benefit from Martha’s powerful assessment, especially college students who are facing new life experiences as they transition into adulthood. For this demographic, learning to live in integrity sooner than later, can have a more positive impact on their future.
Your Past Doesn't Define Your Future
Martha's new book is a terrific resource for people starting their professional careers or just graduating college. One of the most beneficial concepts is that no one, especially young people, are bound to the way previous generations have done things.
Martha encourages, "The number one lesson is the way other people have done it in the past, no longer defines your future. There is so much change. It is so rapid, and there is no way there used to be a part of sociology called future-ology where you would predict, guess what? It doesn't exist anymore because change is so rapid."
According to Martha, with life happening today at such an accelerated pace, young people should begin their career path by searching for job possibilities the same way they would search for the right relationship —with truth in their hearts.
In every relationship, Martha advises, "It's like, there's a compass in your heart that will turn you in the right direction. And it may be a direction no one else has ever gone before, but it will not fail you. Trust yourself, and you'll know how to live."
NSLS members, listen to the exclusive bonus episode to learn how to see failed plans as a chance to make a fresh start, and the importance of living according to who you are vs who others expect you to be.