Perhaps like you, I’ve been on a quest to free myself from a lot of things. Mostly for me, those things involve people — and what they think of me. For as far back as I can remember I defined myself through others’ eyes. From my siblings to my peers what mattered to me was what they thought, what they might think, how they treated me, what they said and, perhaps even more telling: what they didn’t say. We send so many messages by our communication (or our lack thereof) and it’s easy to read into things and make assumptions.
Believe me, I know. I’ve spent two decades doing it. But here’s what I know now: We’re usually wrong.
My grandma always said: Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see. She knew from her own life that very little is as it seems. We each carry so much of our own baggage that we rarely see, accept, or understand people for who they truly are. We rarely hear what they actually say. Far more often it only matters what we think we saw. Or what we think they said. Or how we’re going to respond…
But what if what we think is wrong?
Several years ago I found myself in a situation where nothing made sense. My grandma had a phrase for those times too. She said: You can’t make sense out of nonsense. Lord knows I tried. Just as everything does, a book made it’s way into my hands at precisely the right time, and wrote its message into my heart. It’s one of my favorites. It’s called: The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom. Now, every time I’m faced with something I can’t make sense of — every time I feel a tension I don’t understand — every time I feel a stiff-arm or a rejection and I don’t know what I did to deserve — a section from Ruiz’s book floods back from my subconscious: Don’t Take Anything Personally.
It’s the Second Agreement. The theory is that during our lives we make agreements with ourselves. If we were abused, perhaps we made an agreement that we were dirty, unworthy or unlovable. Then as life evolves and more things occur they reinforce that agreement we made with ourselves — and we come to believe that it’s true. I am dirty. I am unworthy. I am unlovable. But it isn’t true. My agreement was less obvious, but equally destructive: I am not enough.
Ruiz’s book is about rewriting those agreements, and putting new ones in place so we can be free.
The First Agreement: Be Impeccable with Your Word. In short: mean what you say. Do what you say you’ll do. If you don’t mean it, don’t say it! Brene Brown has an incredible mantra I adopted as my own. She says: Choose discomfort over resentment. For example, If your school needs two dozen cookies for a bake sale but that means you’ll have to sacrifice something you’ve already committed to, OR you simply don’t want to do it – say no! Choose the discomfort of saying no over the resentment of saying yes — and being ticked off about it later. Then when something comes up that you want to say yes to? Then you can do it with your whole heart.
The Second Agreement: Don’t Take Anything Personally. In the past I took everything personally. I’m a recovering taking-it-personal-aholic, which always leads me to break the third agreement and make assumptions. My friend Krista and I have a motto of always trying to choose the best, especially if you know that person well. You know their heart. You know if they meant harm or there’s a simple misunderstanding or mistake. Perhaps they truly forgot to invite you. Or they misspoke. Or you misheard or misunderstood. Maybe they’re just having a bad day. In every situation, you can choose to not make it personal. Or, on the other hand, you can misunderstand it into something very personal.
The Third Agreement: Don’t Make Assumptions. Most of the time I think I’m right. I bet you do too. Think you’re right, I mean…! I can devise elaborate scripts in my head of what must have happened in order for a conversation or situation to get from point A to point D. I can be SURE that’s the way it went because, before I wasted all of that precious time I will never get back, I failed to remember my grandmother’s wise words: You can’t make sense out of nonsense! Old habits die hard. I want to understand. I want to make sense of things. If I’m being honest, I want so badly to understand situations because I want to find solutions. But I can’t. I can’t fix any person, situation or thing all on my own. I can only work on myself. When I make an assumption about you — what you thought, felt, meant or intended: I don’t really know. I’m making it up. Trying to force my way, my perspective, or my truth on you simply so that I can be right. And if the end goal is to be right, then you’ve already lost.
The Fourth Agreement: Always Do Your Best. In today’s world we can easily get caught up in comparing and competing. You have an idea? Someone has already made it. You have a dream? Someone, somewhere is already doing it. Many times we can get so distracted and discouraged that we quit before we even begin. A quote that has stuck itself into the fabric of my being is: If you are the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. There will always be people who are smarter or people who do things better. Don’t compete with them. Learn from them. Get yourself into a room with people who are brighter, faster, stronger and better than you. Find people who encourage and inspire you to be your true self and to find your thing. Those same people will help you to always do your best. And that’s where the magic is.
Be impeccable with your word. Don’t take anything personally. Don’t make assumptions. Always do your best. How many times do we do the exact opposite? We don’t say what we mean or we certainly don’t mean what we say; we take things personally that were never about us; we make assumptions so we can be right; and we do what little we need to slide by. We have good reason. We’ve had experiences that have told us these agreements can’t be true. But they are. It’s our attitude that holds us back.
So many things threaten to hold us back and keep us from living the life we were made to live. But we can change that. We have the power to write over an old story — with a new one. You were made to live free. And you can take THAT personally.
I’m so glad you’re here. xo