Although I haven’t read the book, "The Four Agreements," I know that I align with its premise. The concepts resonate with my personal experience of how I learned to speak my truth, eliminate needless pain, clarify what I believe is going on, and do my best. I try to live the Four Agreements in real life, although I do it very imperfectly and it's still in progress. But that's what real life is - halting, slow, steady progress. There is no overnight success, there are no shortcuts.
Here's what I've learned about the importance of and the rewards I've gained from my imperfect efforts to live the Four Agreements in real life.
Live the Four Agreements in Real Life
Be Impeccable With Your Word
I saw an Internet meme over a year ago with suggestions of how to be happy. One that stuck out to me was, ‘Say exactly what you mean.’ I also love the message in John Mayer's song, "Say What You Need to Say."
When you say what you mean and mean what you say, you are in alignment with what is really going on. You are living authentically, you are living honestly. There is harmony in the system, in the universe, in your life. There is limited confusion, internally and externally.
A former boss and a great friend of mine, Michael Kuehn, frequently told me to 'tell the truth as fast as you can.' Don't hide behind fear of rejection or the consequences. Live in truth and 'let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth.' You don't have to be mean, but you should be forthright.
I met a flight attendant last week going from Denver to Chicago. She caught my eye right away as I got on the plane. We talked before takeoff and when we landed I asked for her number. As we started to text each other, I had a decision to make. Part of me wanted to hide behind a facade and make sure I looked as strong, together, and attractive as possible. But instead I took a chance and did what I felt was right, telling her upfront the realities of where I am in life. She responded that it's refreshing to communicate so honestly. No hiding, no fraud. Freedom to be one's self.
“Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. [Don’t] speak against yourself or…gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.”
Don’t Take Anything Personally
They way people behave has less to do with you and more to do with them. Each person is dealing with their own junk. Their actions and reactions are often times a reflection of their own experiences.
Most people are not emotionally whole and to the degree that they are not whole they act in ways that can hurt and confuse us. When they are grappling with getting what they want - love, acceptance, validation, power, freedom, pleasure, release, or a myriad of other things they think they need - and are taking what they believe are the most appropriate actions to get it, they are likely to hurt or confuse you. That is because they are thinking of meeting their needs, not about doing right by you, themselves, and God. Only those who are emotionally whole can consistently act in ways that do right by themselves, God, and others.
What others think and say about you doesn’t make a lick of difference. What they think and say is about what’s going on with them and the things with which they are dealing. It's their perception, not the truth.
You've heard the phrase perception is reality. In one sense, sure. But truth is only truth if it's consistent. There is no such thing as situational truth. Just because someone perceives it doesn't make it so.
Vicki told me at one point during the most painful time in my life that most of my suffering was internal. Not that it's not real, she said, but that I was suffering because I was viewing what someone else was doing as them doing it to me. In fact, the other person wasn't thinking of me. They were thinking of themselves and trying to get what they thought they needed. Learning to live this one of the Four Agreements in real life made all the difference.
“What others say and do is a projection of their own reality. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”
Don’t Make Assumptions
Ask for what you want. Ask for clarification if you are unsure of something. Don’t assume that what someone did or did not do was to hurt you or cause you pain. Ask questions, talk it through (Important note, if you are dealing with a narcissist talking it through will get you nowhere, but those are special circumstances that I'll tackle in an upcoming blog).
The book, "Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High" is an amazing resource for learning how to talk things through and listen to the other person. As was Vicki.
Reflecting back to the second agreement, Don't Take Anything Personally, what someone does or does not do that hurts you is likely not intentional. Seek to clarify what they were trying to accomplish. Make a request for what you would like instead.
“Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can (see the first Agreement) to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.” Amen to that.
Vicki taught me how to kindly, honestly, and reasonably make requests for what I want. Sometimes I get it, sometimes I don't, but either way I'm not left to mope about it. If I make an honest request and the other person doesn't want to fulfill it, that's their choice and a right they have.
My work as a sales trainer has reinforced the value of asking for clarification when something doesn't make sense. Even when it does, it's wise to confirm your understanding.
Always Do Your Best
“Your best is going to change from moment to moment: it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.”
Did you catch that part about self-abuse? Do your best, and I hasten to add that with God’s help your best is much more than it ever could be on its own, and you don’t need to judge yourself.
That doesn't mean there's no room to improve; you can constantly look for areas for growth. But if you've done your best, given your current knowledge, understanding, and capacity, you only need to judge your performance, not your worth.
There are times I have more energy to devote to work related activities and there are times the kids take priority. I can't give everything my very best all the time. What I can do is get in touch with what the Lord wants me to do and focus on that one thing at a time, giving it my best in that moment.
Throughout this article I've used the phrase, "Live the Four Agreements in real life." Life is messy and doesn't go according to plan. There are some really difficult situations to figure out. These Four Agreements are only as good as your ability to implement them in the real moments of life. Learning to live the Four Agreements in real life, especially in those hard times, will grow your abilities in all areas of life.
How do you live the Four Agreements in real life? I'd love to hear about it.