Ever since I was little one thing was drilled into me time and time again: your word is everything.
My parents made it very clear to me at a young age that commitments were not made to be broken. If you said you were going to be somewhere or do something, you would (and you would show up early to get good parking, too). Your word is all you have, and once you fall short on that commitment, it’s hard to regain the trust others have in you.
My mother came from a hardworking family, new to America and doing whatever it took to make it work. Her mother taught her that it didn’t matter whether you were the CEO or the person serving fries at McDonald’s: your presence mattered, and you would give it your all each and every time you showed up.
This work ethic was passed down to me through constant exposure to excellent role models. My parents showed up to every soccer game and school play, even if it meant racing there off an airplane, still in disheveled clothes from the business trip earlier. If they gave their word, they stuck to it, and I was held to the same standards. Much to my chagrin, I was never allowed to drop out of soccer mid-season or give up on Girl Scouts a few weeks in. I never had to sign up again, but once I committed to a team or group, I was expected to see it through.
Today, I see why my parents held me to this (turns out, your parents are right about some things, who knew). As a college student, I see mixed examples all day every day. There are timely professors who begin and end class on time, and then there are those who don’t. There are students who arrive early, even if it means coffee in hand and sweat pants on, and then there are those that squeeze past you halfway through lecture to grab the last empty seat. And in the yoga world, there are teachers who you trust to guide you out of savasana in time for you to make it to your next commitment, and there are those who know are a little looser with the timeframe of the class.
Of course, there are extenuating circumstances and a multitude of different factors that contribute to each of these examples. Shit happens, to be frank: traffic, alarms that don’t go off, clocks that lag behind. But overall, developing time integrity is a practice that bleeds into the majority of your actions. And when you encounter experiences where others don’t value time (or you don’t, we all slip up), you can feel the difference in your own energy and those around you.
One of the principles of yoga is asteya, or non-stealing. When we are late or run over in our timing, we’re effectively stealing time out of everyone who is involved’s day. And not only are we stealing time, but we’re robbing ourselves and others of many other things: peace, trust, rest. Exercising time integrity is just one shining example of how the yoga practice bleeds into the way we live our lives daily, off the mat.
So what exactly is time integrity?
“Integrity” is exercising our moral and ethical beliefs in our actions. Simply put, it’s “walking the walk.” Time integrity is acting as you would wish others to treat you: respecting other’s time and your time with equal value.
It shows up in our actions as arriving to appointments when we say we will, staying true to the dedicated time of meetings, classes, or gatherings, and honoring our capacity by not over-committing ourselves. It also shows up in valuing our time: not discounting the worth of our presence and effort when making commitments (and, of course, extending this courtesy to those around us).
Here are some ways to practice time integrity:
Show up early. Avoid rushing in at the last minute. Make plans to give yourself some breather time to deal with parking, traffic, etc.
Respect others’ time. Be mindful of how much time they have to offer you: ask them when they have to get going, and stick to it.
Value others’ time. If you have a knowledgeable friend in the realm of business or something similar, offer to compensate them if you take them out for coffee seeking advice. They may accept, they may not. But the offering shows you respect their work and worthiness of an equal energy exchange.
Honor YOUR time. Pause before accepting commitments. You have the power to delegate your time and energy where it will serve you most.
Practice asteya. Remember that being late is stealing from the time of others. If you are late, thank them for waiting for you and make necessary changes next time: gratitude + action goes further than a quick “sorry!”
Do you practice time integrity? What does it mean to you?