Whenever you make a new commitment to yourself, such as to begin a new exercise program, you will undoubtedly be challenged. A large part of life lies outside your direct control, and one of those external influences will eventually impact you and press you to abandon your original plan at least temporarily.
It’s often unwarranted to abandon a plan prematurely in the face of a minor setback. But to say that you should always follow your original plan no matter what is to ignore the unpredictability of reality.
In such situations you must exercise integrity in the moment of choice. You cannot simply put your plan on autopilot and assume the intervention of your intellect will never be required.
Integrity in the moment of choice means you must revisit your original intention and apply it to the situation at hand, a situation you probably did not foresee. What’s most important is not that you follow the letter of the original intention but rather the spirit of it. Sometimes this is an easy choice to make; other times it can be very difficult.
For example, suppose you make a resolution to exercise every day, and after a few days you injure yourself. Is it best to press on with your injury, or should you allow it time to heal? If continuing to exercise with the injury could further endanger your health, it would be unwise to continue until you are well. But you can still honor the spirit of your intention by devoting some of your recuperative time to the improvement of your health, such as via yoga, meditation, reading, or preparing healthy foods.
This is why clarity is so important — knowing the “why” behind your actions. When you encounter obstacles, you can either press on, or you can find another way to satisfy the same intent. So if your plan was to exercise daily and the “why” was to improve your health and self-discipline, your plan may be thwarted at some point, but your intention need not be.
Integrity in the moment of choice does not mean making excuses upon encountering an obstacle that does not warrant surrender. It means adapting your plan to the situation at hand while still honoring the true spirit of your original intent.
Repeatedly exercising integrity in the moment of choice builds strength of character. Repeatedly failing to do so fosters weakness of character.