Have you ever thought about the true meaning of the word integrity? Not what pops up when you Google the definition, but the weight and power it holds in your personal life and what it means to be and live with integrity?
Martha Beck spent a decade at Harvard before becoming a life coach, and her primary mission, passion and only real interest is the elimination of human suffering, by any means available. She’s a multiple New York Times Best-selling author and a coach known and respected around the world. Martha is here to lead us into the exploration of integrity, the meaning and weight it holds, it’s impact on business and life, as well as share her own experiments that helped her understand integrity in a new way.
Martha Beck was born into a Mormon family and her father was a high-up leader in their church as well as a professor. She began, “I grew up thinking, be a really good Mormon and be a professor. So at 17, I went off to Harvard and I got three degrees there and I was like gunning for the top high achiever.”
As she was pursuing her PhD, she also got married and had a baby. Then her second child was diagnosed with Down Syndrome when she was six-months pregnant, and she was given the choice to terminate her pregnancy very late. Medical professionals were giving her advice that she didn’t agree with, and she chose not to terminate her pregnancy and welcome her little boy into the world.
“Everything in my life changed when I had him, because I had gone against the conventional wisdom of my culture, but I was really scarred,” Martha explained. In search of healing and a community that would support her choice, she returned to Utah. But that’s when she realized that she didn’t believe in Mormonism. She also realized she was gay, and that she didn’t like the career path she was pursuing. Her marriage ended, she quit her job, and left the religion and culture she grew up in.
Martha explained, “One of my advisors at Harvard said you’re throwing your life away. And he was absolutely right, but the life I threw away was making me so miserable.” Now, she’s a life coach, an author, an entrepreneur, and most importantly, she’s living a like that makes her happy and that’s true to what she wants.
What is Being in Integrity?
“Integrity is not a moralizing word,” Martha began. “It just means intact and whole. You’re born in your true nature and you’re just one thing intact and whole, then you get pressured by other people and you divide. You abandon yourself to become someone who would please others. At that point, you’re not in integrity. You’re split in your two things, which is duplicity.”
When Martha decided to pursue a life of being in integrity, it changed everything. “I just decided a few years ago, I’m going to do this integrity thing down to the ground,” she continued, “I’m really going to try to live so in harmony with my true self that there really is no other option for me. When I did this, the intuition, the magic, the miracles went off the freaking charts and I was not going for that. I was just trying to be honest and consistent and harmonious with my deepest sense of truth.”
That magic, those miracles she mentioned, came down to one massive realization. Martha explained, “Everything you think comes true when you’re in harmony with your true self.”
Integrity and Entrepreneurship
Martha never meant to become an entrepreneur or start a thriving coaching business. She was working with people 1:1 on a small scale, but as her client list got longer and her time grew scarce, a mentor encouraged her to start a website with a cheap template and offer four different products. That night, Martha followed the advice written on the back of a napkin, and her business grew sustainably ever since.
But being in integrity while running a business was not a smooth path. “I’ve made a lot of hiring and firing mistakes. I’ve hired people for the wrong reasons and it always blew up in my face,” Martha explained. She started doing ‘integrity cleanses’ which she describes as a check-in with herself and her team to determine if everything is still in integrity. She asks, “Are you happy? Are you in your own integrity? Is this working for you? How could I make it better? How could the system work better?” It’s about bringing things into higher and higher levels of wholeness.”
Yearning and Wanting
One of my favorite things that Martha explores is the difference between wanting and yearning, and how cultural influence can confuse us as we pursue the things we believe we want. It comes down to the idea that growth for the sake of growth, making more money to have more money, doesn’t lead to the happiness and fulfillment that we want.
Martha has worked with so many successful, rich people, and she likes to ask them to make a list of what they want — house, car, a lover are all usually on that list. And then she asks this question, “When you wake up in the middle of the night and you can’t go back to sleep, what do you yearn for?” Martha shared that nearly every time the answer is “peace”.
She shared, “From the very poor clients that I’ve had to the richest say I yearn for peace. I yearn for freedom, for love, for belonging. So there are four: peace, freedom, love, and joy. When I started asking them to list all the things that bring them peace, freedom, love, and joy, they invariably make me a list of things that don’t cost any money.”
More from Martha Beck
“My goal is to live in such a way that all I ever do is rest until I feel like playing and play until I feel like resting. And I don’t do it flawlessly yet, but let me tell you, I am a hell of a lot closer to it than I used to be.” Want to know what that means? Press play for this topic and so much more from Martha Beck.
Pick up Martha Beck’s new book, The Way of Integrity, to dig deeper into the practice of being in integrity.