Bridging the Integrity Gap

Note: This is a guest post from Adrian Cunanan of ThinkARETÉ
I am a big fan of the modern day philosopher, Brian Johnson. He has created over 200 Philosopher’s Notes . Philosopher’s Notes are like Cliff Notes for Positive Psychology and Philosophy Books. His motto is “More Wisdom In Less Time.” In Brian’s book, A Philosopher’s Notes: On Optimal Living, Creating an Authentically Awesome Life and Other Such Goodness, Vol. 1, he covers his 10 Principles for Optimal Living. These 10 principles are based on the common themes he found after reading over 200 books for self-development.
My favorite topic in the book is the chapter called “The Integrity Gap”. In this chapter, Brian introduces the reader to the Greek word Areté. This word translates to “virtue” or “excellence”. But it has a deeper meaning of “living to your highest human potential moment to moment”. He illustrates the concept of Areté by drawing a picture for the reader.
Imagine two parallel lines.

  • The upper line represents what you are capable of being/doing in any moment.
  • The lower line represents who/what you are actually being/doing in any given moment.
  • If there is a gap between these two lines, this is called the Integrity Gap. This gap is filled with depression, anxiety and general icky feelings.

——————– Capable
<- Integrity Gap
——————– Actual
The challenge is to close this gap. If you can successfully bridge the gap then there is no room for negative feelings… There is only room for happiness! Often easier said than done, raise the line for who you actually are to the level of who you are capable of being and you have achieved Areté.
By applying this image to your daily life from moment to moment, we are able find true and sustainable happiness and to live the mantra “Be Your Greatest Self”.
Now that you know about the Integrity Gap and the need to close it in order to be happy, you may ask the question, “What can I do to close the Integrity Gap?” To find the answer we will turn to works of Positive Psychology.

“Positive psychologists seek “to find and nurture genius and talent”, and “to make normal life more fulfilling”,[2] not simply to treat mental illness. The field is intended to complement, not to replace traditional psychology. It does not seek to deny the importance of studying how things go wrong, but rather to emphasize the importance of using the scientific method to determine how things go right.”
Quote from Wikipedia regarding
Positive Psychology

Martin Seligman can find one possible answer to this question in the book “Authentic Happiness”. Martin Seligman is viewed by some as the father of Positive Psychology. Through scientific research and studying classic wisdom text, Martin Seligman was able to find that the path to happiness can be summed up in a few words: “Live with Virtue”. He proposes that we can start doing that by identifying our own virtues/strengths. He and his team of positive psychologist have devised a survey that can be used to identify an individual’s Signature Strengths. It is called the VIA Survey of Character Strengths. I completed the survey and got the following results as my Signature Strengths:

  • Top Strength: Gratitude
    You are aware of the good things that happen to you, and you never take them for granted. Your friends and family members know that you are a grateful person because you always take the time to express your thanks.
  • Second Strength: Judgment, critical thinking, and open-mindedness
    Thinking things through and examining them from all sides are important aspects of who you are. You do not jump to conclusions, and you rely only on solid evidence to make your decisions. You are able to change your mind.
  • Third Strength: Kindness and generosity
    You are kind and generous to others, and you are never too busy to do a favor. You enjoy doing good deeds for others, even if you do not know them well.
  • Fourth Strength: Hope, optimism, and future-mindedness
    You expect the best in the future, and you work to achieve it. You believe that the future is something that you can control.
  • Fifth Strength: Love of learning
    You love learning new things, whether in a class or on your own. You have always loved school, reading, and museums – anywhere and everywhere there is an opportunity to learn.

But identifying your virtues (aka Signature Strengths) is only half the process towards attaining higher levels of happiness in your life. Martin Seligman stated the entire process with a simple equation:
Happiness = Virtues In Action
To realize the full potential of your capacity to be happy, you must take these Signature Strengths and put them into action in your daily life.
So to answer the question “What can I do to close the Integrity Gap?” the answer is simple… “Live with Virtue”.
Adrian Cunanan is 50% Technologist and 50% Philanthropist based in New York, NY. He plays the roles of Network Operations Manager, CEO and Life Coach. Visit ThinkARETÉ to learn how this organization empowers individuals to realize their full potential.
Photo by chantrybee


  1. I’ve read the article. It has helped me a lot:) and now I’m doing the survey 🙂

  2. The diagram of “Capable” and “Actual” is clear and makes the concept tangible.
    While reading this, I was reminded of an explanation of the Jewish Sages on the verse in the Bible where G-d calls to Abraham after he brings Isaac up as an offering, and He says, “Abraham, Abraham.” The Sages say that the dual usage of Abraham’s name is meant to indicate that at this point in time, the “Abraham below” (actual) now matched exactly the “Abraham above” (potential, capability).

  3. I believe to close this gap, you need first to find your PASSION – That’s the ONE thing that you’re most compelled to do.
    Passion transforms everything. I always say, “Passion is KING. Only when you breathe it in, can the transformation begin”

  4. Knowing ones virtues certainly does go a long way in knowing oneself, and ultimately getting happiness in ones life.

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