Stressed in the city: part 2

By on February 28, 2011

Photo © Elena Derevtsova


Last month I revealed the secret of leveraging your strengths to enhance your energy and immunize yourself against stress. This month, I am introducing another key stress reduction strategy: closing your Integrity Gaps.


What exactly is an Integrity Gap? Integrity Gaps exist whenever our actions are not in alignment with our most deeply held values, principles, and beliefs. Ever had that tight feeling in the pit of your stomach as a result of something you have said or done (or maybe something you witnessed someone else say or do)? That is a symptom of an Integrity Gap. 


You may not have really noticed in that moment because these misalignments are often small and easily rationalized away. Despite your value of honesty, you may have told a white lie. Or maybe you saw a co-worker take home some Post-It notes and said nothing. While the white lie may have been justified and the Post-It notes deemed too insignificant to risk a friendship, each of these small instances takes a bit of your energy. 


The easiest way to understand how this works is to think of the gas tank of a car. Each instance of misalignment between your actions and your values creates a small hole in the gas tank. While each hole may be the size of a pin prick, it still leaks gas from the tank.  If such behavior is repeated over time, the small holes become larger and eventually gas is leaking out of your tank faster than it can be put in. In short, the more your daily behavior is out of alignment with your most deeply held values, principles and beliefs, the more stress you will feel because your energy is leaking out at a faster rate than it can be replenished.


The difficulty, when living in a foreign culture, is that you are surrounded by a culture that has very different values, principles and beliefs than those you were raised with. Furthermore, to fit in and get along within this different culture, you need to play by their rules. The result stress and burnout!


One way to patch up these Japan-related Integrity Gaps is to go back home. Unfortunately, this solution will only relieve your stress temporarily. Living in a foreign culture may increase stress due to Integrity Gaps, but most people experience them on a daily basis no matter where they live. There are two reasons for this. 1) People are not consciously aware of their values, beliefs and principles. If you aren’t aware you have made a promise to do something, then it is much more likely that you will break the promise.  2) Lower level needs take precedence. Your inner values compass gets put on the back burner when basic needs for safety, love, and self-esteem feel threatened. You are less likely to resist the white lie if your job is on the line or you are trying to impress your date.


The solution? Spend some time thinking about the values and principles that you want to use as the foundation for your actions and decisions. Then look at all areas of your life and identify where the major misalignments are. Don’t try to tackle them all at once. Pick the one that is most draining your energy and make a plan to be more aligned with your values and less driven by your needs. If that feels too daunting, start with the easiest one first.  Whether you take big leaps or baby steps in closing these Integrity Gaps, the end result will be less stress, more energy, and a greater sense of wellbeing.


Andrea Jacques, founder of Kyosei Consulting International, has spent more than twenty years developing the potential of individuals and organizations worldwide.  Five of these years were spent in Japan where the core philosophies of her work on the relationship between passion, performance and profits took shape. A dynamic speaker, coach and facilitator, her work integrates leading eastern and western thought with top-tier leadership, engagement, wellness and sustainability consulting to build the capacity of people and business to thrive.  Her clients represent a diverse cross-section of industries including banking, retail, government, insurance, academia and high-tech.  She can be contacted through her website at

About Andrea Jacques

Andrea Jacques is the founder of Kyosei Consulting and the author of Wabi-Sabi Wisdom: Inspiration for an Authentic Life (available on She has spent more than 20 years developing the potential of people and businesses worldwide, five of which were in Japan. A dynamic speaker, coach, and facilitator, her work integrates spiritual insight with top-tier leadership, wellness and sustainability consulting to help individuals and organizations build thriving, purpose-driven cultures where employees know their work truly matters. She can be contacted through her website at