Could there really be a code to help us figure this whole thing out? Could we really boil it all down to a few easy steps? Sometimes life blindfolds you, spins you around and hands you a bat. You spend your life whacking away just trying to make it through. But what if there was a key that would unlock a different perspective? Sometimes all it takes is a shift in our thinking and everything looks different. Could it be that simple?
So where did everything start to get cloudy, off-kilter and overly complicated? Can you pinpoint the day that 2 and 2 no longer made 4 but because your thoughts were so deeply rooted in your own belief system, you accepted the answer, right or wrong? It’s hard to land on that very day in our domestication where things just didn’t add up.
You were born perfectly happy, without judgment or bias. As you started to grow, your thoughts, opinions, goals, expectations, and fears were created for you. Your caregivers began to program you with what they knew at that time. They decided what you needed when you were upset, created a reward and denial system to help you understand right from wrong, built your boundaries to help protect you, and taught you how to find love & appreciation while avoiding judgment and rejection. Or at least that was the goal. Don’t touch, that’s hot, get down you might fall, stop running you might get hurt, don’t talk to strangers, be kind to the elderly, stand up for yourself, turn the other cheek and so on. If I hit someone, I get punished, so hitting people must be bad. If I say “please” and “thank you”, I get rewarded. So, being polite must be good.
They also programmed our goals based on social norms. You must get good grades to get into college, you have to go to college to get a good job, you need a good job to find a good partner and get married, you need to have a stable income to have a home, you need a good home to start a family…
As little children, our true nature was to love and be happy, to explore and enjoy life; we were completely authentic. But then we learned to be what others thought we “should” be, and because it’s not okay for us to be what we are, we start pretending to be what we are not. By the time we are teenagers, we’ve learned to judge ourselves, punish ourselves, and reward ourselves according to agreements that we never even chose.
We are now stuck and limited by those beliefs. We’ve made an agreement to believe and protect these ideas at all costs.
how we got here so how can we crack this code and make happiness a reality? How can we get back to that fun-loving child you know the one….the one who thought everything was possible? We have to adopt a new way of thinking and make some new agreements with ourselves.
I recently read and or listened to a book by Don Miguel Ruiz called The Four Agreements and found myself in an AH-HA moment. I have always said you learn by trial and tribulation or by an awakening. Obviously, awakening is much more fun but generally happens later in life. Its often followed by statements like, “Man, I wish I would have learned that earlier” or “Why in the world did it take me so long to get here?”. See most of the time, an awakening is a simple twist on perspective that challenges everything you knew to be true and sheds light on a new way of thinking.
I’ve decided that I need to read more thought-provoking books. I have limited free time so I don’t have the pull to get lost in fiction but would like to spend that time challenging myself with some new ideas. I’ve been a subscriber to Audible for some time and was attempting to work through some big books. All the while my credits were adding up. Now, Audible is great - it’s fun to hear from the actual author in some cases and in others they add musical elements and sound effects to bring the books to life. Lately, I’ve been craving the written word. My eyes have been in “scanning mode” for almost two decades and it’s starting to wear on my ability to concentrate so I decided, touching a book and stringing sentences together was important.
Before I canceled my Audible subscription to make the leap to print, I loaded up my library with my leftover credits. During this self-help grab, I ran across The Four Agreements. I have referenced Don Miguel Ruiz plenty of times and thought this would be a chance to dig a little deeper into his work. The audiobook is a little over 2 hours and the printed book is 138 pages. A testimony to this simplified perspective.
Everything we do is based on agreements we have made - agreements with ourselves, with other people, with God, with life. But the most important agreements are the ones we make with ourselves.
The Four Agreements are:
Be Impeccable With Your Word.
Don't Take Anything Personally.
Don't Make Assumptions.
Always Do Your Best.
Be Impeccable With Your Word.
You have the power to create love and to spread love through your words, your actions, and your energy. In a world where you may feel weak and helpless to bring about change, remember this power. That power can be used for good and it can just as easily be used for bad by sending out hate, judgment, and negative energy.
Think about how easy it is to get pulled into a gossiping situation, judging others, and making assumptions that support your claims. You have the power to walk away and not participate, protecting yourself and rejecting negativity.
Don’t Take Anything Personally
As a people pleaser, I find this much harder than it sounds. I take everything personally because I feel directly responsible for other people’s comfort and happiness. Now I’ve worked through a lot of this with a considerable amount of research and practice but it is still a knee-jerk reaction. Someone is in a bad mood and my mind wants to go to “what did I do?”. Someone doesn’t show me the amount of attention I feel I deserve or want and I think “What did I do?”. It sounds ridiculous to think that I’m in that kind of control or that everyone’s problems had to have something to do with me.
When I heard this agreement I imagined myself floating over a scene looking down and watching it all play out. I think it was my way of pulling myself out of the direct line of fire and getting a more global view. It really helped. It also helps me to imagine everyone as an adult with the same set of life skills that I have. Everyone is capable of living their life, and good or bad, making their own decisions and guess what, it doesn’t directly affect me. I’m living my life too.
Remember growing up hearing: I'm rubber you're glue, your words bounce off me and stick to you.
Oh if it were that easy. Getting back to that level of disregard starts with a healthy self-concept and self-love which can be found in agreement #1. Being kind to yourself and getting back to our true nature; to love and be happy, to explore and enjoy life; being completely authentic. When we have high regard for ourselves it’s easier to cast off negative attacks and not take things personally.
Don't Make Assumptions.
Not taking anything personally gives you immunity in the interaction that you have with other people, and not making assumptions gives you immunity in the interaction that you have with yourself, with your voice of knowledge, or what we call thinking.
How many times have you started a story and then you end that story with your own assumptions of what “probably happened” or “could have happened”. Before you know it, that’s the story, right or wrong. You tell that story and then others add their assumptions and then before you know it, we aren’t even talking about a real event.
Just as you are making those assumptions, so are others making the assumption about you. Imagine what they must be saying because they don’t have all the facts. How easily a story can be twisted in a negative way with only assumptions to go on.
As you practice being impeccable with your word and not making assumptions - STOP the story where the facts end. I was told this one time and what an awakening. Just be ok with not knowing the end of the story. As humans, that can be a challenge. We have to have a complete story to tell. The problem is, we don’t always use the rosiest of endings.
Always Do Your Best.
What a beautiful concept that can actually take a lot of unnecessary pressure off. Just do your best. Not sure if you’re good enough - just do your best. Worried you can’t complete the task - just do your best. Giving your best no matter how much you have to give at that moment is all you can realistically do. If you give your best, you can have peace of mind knowing you did the best you could do at that moment. What a freeing feeling. I have always used this philosophy when talking about failure. If you did your best and you still failed then you can walk away knowing you did everything possible. If you didn’t give your best, then you left the door open for self-doubt.
In this fast-paced world where the perception is bigger, better, faster, stronger - it’s easy to buy into the unrealistic pursuit of perfection. I hear it all the time, “I’m hard on myself because I want everything to be perfect.” “I’m not satisfied until it’s perfect.”
What if you just had to do your best. Not feeling it today? Just do your best. Not sure you know much about it? Just do your best. If you just do your best, there is no way you can judge yourself. And if you don’t judge yourself there is no way you are going to suffer from guilt, blame, and self-punishment.
If you have done your best and your inner Judge tries to judge you, you’ve got the answer: “I did my best.” There are no regrets. That is why we always do our best. It is not an easy agreement to keep, but this agreement is really going to set you free.
CHALLENGE: Revisit ideas and beliefs that may no longer serve you. Challenge their place and purpose in your life. Sometimes a slight shift of perspective can open up a new world where peace and happiness are in reach.
I Know YOU Can Do It!