Good men live by a code.

There’s an old quote that’s been circulated millions of times, odds are you’ve seen it before:

Being a male is a matter of birth, being a man is a matter of age, but being a gentleman is a matter of choice.

That choice to be a gentleman — that is — to be a man of integrity, however, is not a one time thing. It is a choice that we make every single day when we decide how we’re going to show up in the world and interact with the people around us.

So — what then — are these choices that separate the gentlemen from the rest of the pack? The men who hold themselves to higher standards. Let’s explore.

1: A man of integrity is kind to everyone.

A man of quality is never afraid of equality.

The worldview that every human is valuable and worthy of respect is one that directly influences our quality of life and the reality we live in.

We interact with a variety of people on a regular basis, from the barista at our favorite coffee shop, to random people in traffic, to the people at the gym. The way we approach these interactions, no matter how fleeting, is a matter of dignity and respect.

Having the self-awareness and honor to lead with kindness in all of one’s interactions is a clear mark of someone who holds themselves to higher standards.

2: A man of integrity never shows up empty handed.

If someone is extending the kindness of hosting you at their home, never show up without a sign of gratitude. It could be a bottle of wine, a dessert (it can be store-bought, don’t panic), or some simple flowers. It’s the thought behind the gesture that matters here.

3: A man of integrity is always improving himself.

In order to earn respect from others, you first must have it for yourself.

This means taking care of both your physical and mental well-being. In a society built around filters and photoshop it appears as though we value surface over substance.

But — a gentleman understands the importance of what lies beneath. Knowledge, passions, the ability to connect with others, the importance of self-education.

Whether it is reading books, listening to lectures, watching documentaries, or any other education medium he prefers, it is important to not lose sight of improving the mind while also working on improving the body.

4: A man of integrity values his family and relationships.

Even more important than professional accomplishment and success, is cultivating the relationships with the people whom you will share it with.

Family and relationships look different for all of us. As society (thankfully) becomes more accepting as we evolve as a species, we have more and more freedom to create a life that suits us as individuals.

No matter what this looks like for you — valuing and honoring those you love and care for must always remain a priority.

A gentleman will understand that no matter how far he makes it in life, it is better to be in a cottage with people he loves than it is to be in a mansion by himself.

5: A man of integrity isn’t afraid to be wrong.

Have you ever met someone who refuses to acknowledge new information or evidence no matter how obvious it may seem? Their stance on a subject is merely based on opinion and they will never acknowledge conflicting facts.

This puts up a stone wall around your current base of knowledge and allows no room for expansion beyond it.

The only way to learn or grow, is to be wrong. Only when you are wrong do you absorb new information, change your stance, and subsequently become “right.” Without the ability to admit a mistake, there will be no lessons to take from it.

Nobody enjoys being wrong, but we must embrace it as a possibility in order to grow. If we tie our identity to always being right, we’ll feel conflict anytime we’re not.

But — if we tie our identity to learning and growth, then any experience is a new opportunity to capitalize on it.

6: A man of integrity always keeps his partner happy.

It is important for a gentleman to hold high standards for how he acts when he is in a relationship. This includes never mistreating his partner or taking them for granted. Always valuing them and showing them that he does (not just with words). He will understand that the effort it took to get the type of partner he wants, is the same effort it will take to keep them.

7: A man of integrity is always honest.

A reputation for honesty breeds a reputation for reliability.

A reputation for trustworthiness. A reputation for being honorable. Consistency is important in both personal and professional life.

This is how we create a legacy we can be proud of.

8: A man of integrity understands the difference between confidence and arrogance.

The former is attractive and appealing.

The latter is not.

9: A man of integrity is clear on his identity and purpose.

The world will always do its best to fit us into a mold, put a label on us, or drift us on to a certain path that may not be best for us.

The only defense against this is putting in the work to clearly define our individual identity and purpose outside of our career(s) or relationship status.

Who are you as a man? What are your values, beliefs, and what do you stand for?

What do you consider right or wrong, and are you willing to fight for it?

When you wake up every day, what is the impact you are striving to make in the world?

Clarity around these questions will serve as your defense mechanism against a world that is always trying to tell you who to be, or how to act.

10: A man of integrity puts others first.

There is no room among the gentlemanly for the selfish.

There is no room for those who believe climbing the ladder means stepping on others along the way. There is no room for those who mistreat others for their own benefit, or any reason at all. A gentleman isn’t kind to people because of who they are, he is kind to people because of who he is.

A gentleman will respect other men, women, children, and animals — and treat them with kindness. There is no need for a confident man to hurt another being in any way, as he gains nothing from it.

Gentlemen are a rare breed in today’s society. It is important for men to strive for these ideals if we hope to create a brighter future for ourselves and our children.

Holding one’s self to a higher standard than society expects is not easy, and oftentimes the rewards take longer to appear than we’d like. But, we mustn’t allow that to throw us off track, as doing so would be misaligned from our identity and purpose.

We must show up every day with the intention of our presence in the world being a positive one.

Not because it’s easy — but because it’s worth it.