In amazing display of personal integrity, golfer Pat McGowan risked earning hundreds of thousands of dollars when he reported a rules infraction that cost him two strokes. While attempting to qualify for the Champions Tour this past November, McGowan penalized himself despite the fact that no one saw him commit the penalty, and even more remarkable, he was not the one who committed the infraction.
While taking the pin out of the cup, McGowan's caddy noticed something on the ground. Inadvertently, he instinctively brushed it away. McGowan felt that the caddy's hand went inside the cup and touched the area around it (a golf violation), which McGowan then reported to an official.
Choose the Difficult Right over the Easy Wrong
By choosing the difficult right over the easy wrong, McGowan jeopardized his rank and his earnings. As it turned out, he narrowly qualified for the Champions Tour despite the two-stroke penalty; yet, for McGowan there was no question as to his course of action regardless of the possible outcome. As a person and professional golfer, he prides himself on his INTEGRITY. Contrast this example with the stories of steroid use in baseball, where players lie about substance use or assert justifications for their actions.
Over the years, we have built up beliefs regarding who we are, how we act, etc. We have many reasons for acting the way we do often based on other people's opinions, our past handling of situations, or we may blame genetics. "That's just who I am," is a common excuse for not taking responsibility for one’s own actions. The truth is that only you determine who you are and what you stand for.
Create Your Own Personal Code
McGowan was willing to take the risk because he established a code within himself of what is acceptable and what is not. Establishing your personal code gives you the ability to define who you are. If you are not satisfied with your actions and choices, change your preconceived ideas about who you are by beginning this exercise immediately: Create a list of five words that describe the person who you want to be: i.e. healthy, calm, intelligent, good-humored, and passionate. Write them down and carry your list with you. Refer to it often, and begin to demonstrate those characteristics throughout the day. It is never too late to become the person you are capable of being.