I’ve just finished reading The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. It’s a simple little book that makes for quick reading and a lot of pondering and I’ll be discussing it with the members of my leadership tribe over the next few weeks.
Most interesting to me was the first chapter on how we humans are “domesticated” and taught stories, beliefs and values that become our unconscious reality as we grow into adults. Ruiz calls these the “agreements” that rule our lives. We learn to be the people that others want us to be and “live our lives trying to satisfy other people’s demands.” We judge ourselves and others against these expectations — often harshly — and we try to change ourselves and others to fit these expectations. Ruiz argues for rejecting those agreements that don’t serve us and replacing them with new agreements so that we can be more free, starting with the four in the book.
The Four Agreements as summarized on the book jacket are:
- Be Impeccable with Your Word – Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
- Don’t Take Things Personally – Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering. Ruiz argues that “there is a huge amount of freedom when you take nothing personally.”
- Don’t Make Assumptions – Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid, misunderstanding, sadness and drama.
- Always Do Your Best – Your best is going to change moment to moment, it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.
I have work to do on each of these. For the short term, I’m trying to be aware of my tendency to “go into my head” and judge myself and others. I’ve been telling that voice to stop, just stop, and instead focus on being present and letting of assumptions and judgments. I’m consciously trying to write a different story in my mind when I start to take things personally or make an assumption about why someone has behaved in a certain way. And when I’m not sure, I’m asking rather than guessing or assuming. I’m hoping that with enough practice these will become new habits and new agreements for me. And maybe I’ll be a little less domesticated!
Posted in Growing, Thinking
Tagged acceptance, change, curiosity, Four Agreements, growth, leadership, Miguel Ángel Ruiz, relationships, thinking, vulnerability
This week I thought I’d take a break from writing and just offer up a few quotes and snips that I’ve gathered in the past few weeks that have gotten me thinking:
“At times you have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.” -Alan Alda
“To be sincerely loyal to yourself is to allow yourself the freedom to grow, change and challenge who you are and what you think at any given moment in time. The only thing you ever are for sure is unsure, and this means you’re growing, and not stagnant or imprisoned by old ways of thinking.” – Marc and Angel Hack Life
“As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. And as we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Nelson Mandela
“I doesn’t take as much as we think to step outside our comfort zone, it only takes a willingness.” – Mike Robbins
“Perfection, as it’s revered and pursued in our culture, is an unhealthy lie. A myth. A human construct. A marketing concept. In many cases, it’s a story told by people who want to manipulate your mindset and behavior to buy what they’re selling. And while it means different things to different people, the pursuit of it rarely leads to anything more positive than anxiety, insecurity, self-doubt and misery.” – Craig Harper
Do any of these resonate with you? How so?
Posted in Growing, Thinking
Tagged Alan Alda, beginnings, change, Comfort zone, commitment, courage, curiosity, growth, inspiration, leadership, life, Nelson Mandela, perfection, possibility, thinking, Thought
Worrying. Ruminating. Cogitating. Analyzing. Considering. Mulling. Noodling. Pondering. Reflecting. Scrutinizing. Contemplating. Deliberating. Speculating. Wow… we’ve thought up a lot of words for thinking!
Those of who are thinkers tend to pride ourselves on that trait. We look at things from all sides before acting. We’re careful and thoughtful. Our thinking serves us well… we think. But thinking can easily cross the line into overthinking, especially when it comes to relationships with family, friends and colleagues.
I’m aware of my tendency toward overthinking and my ability to create problems that weren’t there in the first place. I can fill in the white space of silence with a complex story of my own imagining, when the reality is often far more simple or just plain different from what my brain invented. That’s because my story comes from my own perspective on how the facts of a given situation fit together.
I can see this so clearly with people who I am coaching. They invent explanations for behavior that fit their perception of reality. They believe that others have intentionally disrespected them, undermined them, or are purposefully testing boundaries. And they have completely and utterly persuaded themselves of the certainty of their rightness through a series of conversations that have occurred completely in their heads.
Sometimes insight can be found by stepping into a different perspective on a given situation. Simply asking “could there be another explanation that is consistent with the facts that might be true here?” or “why would a reasonable and rational person do what this person is doing?” can bring about a change in our conclusions and can begin to transform a challenging relationship. Even better is when we can have the courage to get out of our own all-knowing heads and have an honest conversation about the situation with the person that is driving us crazy. By inviting them to tell their story from their perspective, we may discover new truths about ourselves.
Next time you find yourself overthinking and lost in wondering about the past or the future — “why did that happen?” or “what does it mean?” — try to let go of speculation and pull yourself into the present. What will you do today to let go of your stinkin’ thinkin’ and have the courage to step into a different perspective?
It’s that time. Everyone’s starting to look back, look forward, and make resolutions to do things differently in the coming year.
What if you tried something different this year? Instead of trying to DO things differently, what if you decided to BE differently in the coming year.
What is you cultivated your inner curiosity? What might that look like?
Maybe your morning walk would take you to the end of a street that you’ve never explored. Maybe you’d explore a new parcel of open space in a neighboring town or a different part of the state.
Maybe you’d engage someone in your community or in your neighborhood in a different way. What if you took the time to have coffee with that local developer you’re at odds with politically? What if you knocked on the door of a new neighbor’s house and got to know them? What new doors might open for you?
Maybe you’d take the time to introduce a child to the natural world – letting their unconstrained wonder for wild things rub off on you. Or take a class and learn something new for yourself…
Maybe you’d talk less and listen more, really trying to appreciate someone else’s perspective on a situation that you thought you understood already. And maybe you’d ask more questions – why, what if, how come – instead of being so sure of the answers.
Or maybe you’d take a new adventure to somewhere you’ve always been curious about?
How can you be more insatiably curious in (and about!) 2013?