By Nate Bagley

Many of us have been taught that we live in a dog-eat-dog world. Do whatever it takes to get what you want. To the victor go the spoils. Second place is the first loser.

To many of us, the world is a place of competition and scarcity. We’re taught we need to go to great lengths to get the upper hand for that scholarship, a raise, the management position that just opened up, or a shot with that person we’ve had our eye on.

Maybe you feel this way, too.

But what happens when getting what you want conflicts with your values? Is sacrificing your integrity and compromising your character worth it?

Ideally, the things you want and the things you value will align. But that’s not always the case.

There are times when the spouse you value is sick and needs some love and caretaking, which conflicts with the vacation you’ve been planning for months.

There will be moments when you have the chance to sabotage a colleague to give yourself a better shot at the promotion you think you deserve.

There will be days when lying to the people you love to avoid hurting them just seems easier than a difficult conversation or facing their looks of disapproval and sadness.

More often than not, going on the vacation, sabotaging your colleague, or lying to someone you love seems like the easy and logical decision. The path of least resistance is definitely the easy choice in the heat of the moment. It provides a temporary escape. You get what you want. You come out on top.

But at what cost? What do you lose in exchange for these petty, insignificant victories?

“What is always at stake in any decision we make is what that choice turns us into.”
Terryl Givens

Things like integrity, love, respect, and trust are not monuments that can be built overnight. They are built through unending persistence—moment by moment, day after day, one choice at a time.

The scary thing? These character-defining traits can be completely destroyed by one foolish decision.

More often than not, when you give up something you value for something you selfishly want in the moment, you are sacrificing your character, your integrity, your trust, and your long-term happiness. You damage relationships.

The people you love are hurt more by your lies than your foolish decisions.

The world would rather have you believe that titles, possessions, money, and accomplishments will make you happy.

But what good is having a title if nobody wants to work with you? What good is having money and material possessions if you have nobody to share them with? What good is an accomplishment if everyone knows you got it by cheating?

It is loving, lasting, honest relationships that lead to true happiness.

The key to experiencing that happiness is always choosing what is right over what is easy.

Make the hard decision to choose selflessness over selfishness.

Opt for the hard truth over an easy lie.

Do the difficult work, and avoid the shortcuts.

Let your love for others surpass your love of self.

Over time, you’ll be known for your generosity, kindness, reliability, and integrity. When you stick to your values, you’ll be rewarded with great relationships, a reputation you can be proud of, and a deep sense of life purpose.

Nate Bagley is the creator of The Loveumentary, a project dedicated to capturing the most compelling love stories in America. Each week, you can find stories from couples around the country, along with interviews from experts in the field of love and relationships. Follow the podcast on iTunes or support The Loveumentary Kickstarter campaign and join Nate as he and his co-host Melissa travel across the country capturing amazing love stories.

*Photo Credit: @jackeliiine via Compfight cc