I love Don Miguel Ruiz, the author of The Four Agreements.
The message of his book is powerfully simple: don’t take things personally, be impeccable with you words, never make assumptions and always do your best.
It’s like having an old, wise, caring grandparent give you the best advice you could receive. One you will always hold very close to your heart.
Applying his four agreements in my life somehow gave me permission to be me and stop caring so much about what others thought. It also helped me be less hard on myself when I performed below my standards or expectations. “Oh well, I did the best I could,” I would tell myself. It was profoundly liberating.
But sometimes in life, what liberates you today becomes the very same thing that imprisons you later.
I remember this one time when a close friend spoke to me from his heart saying, “Gabs, you put out this image that you’re cool and confident by always having the perfect answer for everything. But to me, you’re just arrogant and insecure.”
Reacting with anger, I immediately started arguing with him to prove him wrong, ending the discussion with the sentence, “Well you know, I’m not gonna take what you said personally. It has nothing to do with me.”
Needless to say, my arrogance and insecurity ended up costing me not only that friendship but deprived me of connecting more authentically with others for many years.
By choosing not to take things personally, I was also protecting myself from the discomfort of receiving negative feedback from people who truly loved me and cared about me, about how I was coming across and being perceived.
Something similar happened when I started saying, “But I’m doing the best I can!” whenever I failed to follow through on something I had promised. This powerful little phrase bought me sympathy from others and gave me an excuse for not having reached the standard I had set-up for myself.
In essence, I started using The Four Agreements – the same agreements that brought me freedom from others – as an excuse to not grow and take full responsibility for my choices, attitudes, and behaviors. Which is why these days I often tell myself and my clients to go beyond The Four Agreements by practicing these other four agreements:
1. Take some things personally, especially from those people that love you and care most about you.
Our outer world is very often a reflection of our inner world. Therefore, how other people perceive and receive you will always be influenced by how you’re showing up in your world. When a close friend tells you you’re making a mistake, ask them to tell you more. When someone says you’re acting like an ass, ask them to tell you why. Take it all in.
We all have blind spots we’re not aware of. That which most often angers us about others, is often what we’re also doing. Some people call this a projection or shadow. So, be willing to ask for feedback and take it all into your heart, noticing what ‘lands’ or ‘resonates’ with you, and what doesn’t. Then, decide what is to be taken personally and what not.
2. Be responsible for your words, thoughts, feelings, and actions.
While Don Miguel recommends we be ‘impeccable’ with our words, my experience is that the words I speak come from corresponding emotional states or the feelings behind those words. Not only that but they also translate into actions and behaviors. Therefore, a more effective agreement you can practice is to own or take responsibility for it all: your words, thoughts, feelings, emotions, and actions.
3. Always challenge your assumptions.
By the time you tell yourself not to make any assumptions, you’ve already made them. It’s impossible not to. That’s just how our minds have been designed: to create thoughts and fill in the missing cognitive gaps. Therefore, since you have no control over your initial assumption, it’s probably better to question it. My recommendation is that you don’t beat yourself up for the assumption you have but that, as Don Miguel Ruiz recommends, you challenge them by asking lots of questions.
4. Don’t do your best, instead, do exactly what you said you would do.
As Don Miguel Ruiz reminded us, your “best” from Monday, will not be the same as your “best” from Tuesday. These will change from day to day and moment to moment. What you think is your best today, might be your worst tomorrow.
Therefore, stop using ‘your best’ as a measurement of performance, and instead start doing EXACTLY what you said to yourself, or promised others, you would do. No more. No less. Some people call this integrity. In my experience, it is the key to building your self-esteem.
In summary, if you take some things personally, take responsibility for your words, thoughts, feelings, and actions, challenge your assumptions, and do exactly what you say you’ll do, you’ll experience the exponential growth you may have been denying yourself.
Embracing these agreements wholeheartedly, will not only bring you greater peace of mind, but also open your heart to a more powerful, awesome, and amazing you.
Feel free to leave your comments below.
Photo by Tif Pic