Category Archives: Self

How to Say NO!

Speech Bubble Saying No
Speech Bubble Saying No

“No is a complete sentence. It does not require justification or explanation”.

Unknown

One of the words that toddlers love to say as soon as they start talking is NO. While toddlers and young children have no qualms about saying no to everything and everyone, the older we get, the more we seem to struggle with repeating this simple yet powerful two letter word. In my last article, I wrote about the Hidden Costs of Yes, and how our yeses place our relationships, resources, and reputation on the line. For the purposes of this article, I want to explore the other end of the spectrum- that is saying no.  

Saying No

It is easy to say no to something or someone when a request goes against rules, policies, laws, and established codes of conduct for behavior. Saying no might even get easier, when it goes against your expressed values, deeply held beliefs, purpose and priorities. But what about those situations when the lines are blurry, and the parameters less clear? That is, when the person making the request is in a place of power, when your no might impact your future, when the consequence of saying no is uncertain, when you are overwhelmed by the fear of missing out? How do you decide when to say no?

In some instances, your decision to say no is going to be heavily influenced by the person asking. Whether it’s at work or at home, the power dynamics between you and the person doing the asking, or the nature of the relationship might significantly impact your answer. Afterall, it’s not hard to say no to someone with who you don’t have a personal or professional relationship or are seeking to build one with. However, saying no becomes much trickier when the person doing the asking, is someone with whom you have a valuable relationship, or one with whom you aspire to have one or preserve for personal or professional reasons.

Additionally, saying no, has the potential to take a toll on the person saying it, as well as to the person receiving it. For some people, the desire to help and do more while not being able, can drive negative thoughts and frustrations about their abilities and deep-seated emotions such as guilt and shame. While it’s important to acknowledge these emotions when they surface, dwelling on them after you have said no, is neither healthy nor helpful.

Why People Fear Saying No?

Many people fear saying no, because they don’t want to appear unambitious, unsupportive, lazy, uncaring, or selfish. They also avoid saying no to prevent themselves from disappointing others or hurting people’s feelings. In the process of doing so, they say yes, to the ever-increasing demands and priorities of their colleagues, friends, loved ones. Overtime, their inability to say no and set appropriate boundaries add up, and results in increased levels of stress and burnout. And they sacrifice themselves, their goals, their happiness and what is truly important to them. But what if you learned to say no as boldly as young children do?  Would saying no make you any less caring, supportive, or hardworking? Truth is, saying no does not make you any less of those things.

When you say no to a request, relationship, or opportunity, you might simply be stating any one or a combination of the following things:

  • I have the right to change my mind.
  • I don’t have the time, or this is not the right time for me.
  • This opportunity or relationship is not for me, or this is not what I want to do.
  • I have the right to decide how I spend my time, talents, and resources.
  • I have established clear and healthy boundaries for my relationships
  • I am choosing to put me first, and not the other person or the opportunity.
  • I will no longer choose to engage or invest my time, talents and energy in people, relationships and activities that do not uplift me or move me forward.

Just be careful to ensure that your no is not driven by bias, malice, resentment, or the desire to get back at someone.

How to Say No!

According to Susan Newman, PhD, “Saying ‘no’ is not something that comes naturally to the majority of people. Learning to say no is a skill that all of us can learn or get better at.” So, if you are struggling with saying no, here are seven tips from psychotherapist and author Johnathan Alpert (writing at INC Magazine) that can that help you deliver your no more effectively:

  1. Say it:  Rather than stalling or not providing a clear answer, it is recommended that you give a straight answer to the person making the request. While you are not required to give an explanation, you can provide a brief one if you feel inclined to do so. But the general rule to note is less is more.
  1. Be assertive and courteous: Though your answer might be disappointing to the requestor, the key is to be respectful. Whether you are saying I’m sorry I can’t right now but will let you know when and if I can.”  Or “I appreciate your asking me for help, but I’m stretched too thin right now to devote the time to be of quality help to you.”, be clear about what you do or don’t have the capacity for.
  1. Understand peoples’ tactics: People will use different tactics and emotional appeals to get you to do what they want. Be aware of these manipulation techniques and be ready to hold firmly to your no.
  1. Set boundaries: One reason people sometimes have a hard time saying no is because they haven’t taken the time to evaluate their relationships and understand their role within the relationship. When you truly understand the dynamic and your role, you might not feel as anxious about the consequences of saying no. If your relationships are strong, they will withstand, they can withstand your saying no.
  1. Put the question back on the person asking: This is highly effective in a work situation. Let’s say a supervisor is asking you to take on several tasks–more than you can handle. Alpert suggest that you might say, “I’m happy to do X, Y, and Z; however, I would need three weeks, rather than two, to do a good job. How would you like me to prioritize them?”
  1. Be firm: If someone can’t accept your no, that is probably a good indicator might not be a genuine friend or respect you. In such case, stand firm, and don’t feel compelled to give in just because that person is uncomfortable.
  1. Be selfish: Here Alpert suggests that you “Put your needs first. Not those of the person asking you for something. If you prioritize that person’s needs over yours, you’ll find your productivity will suffer and resentment will mount. Perhaps we can learn from Warren Buffett, who said, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.”

Though you might still struggle with saying no, remember it is not possible to say yes to everything and everyone. Don’t allow yourself to be overtaken and stretched too thinly by the ever-increasing demands of those around. You will only make yourself miserable and become resentful in the process. Every time you fail to exercise the courage to say no, you sacrifice your peace of mind, your right to choose and your overall wellbeing for others. Saying no could simply mean you are choosing to follow your gut instincts, acknowledge your thoughts and feelings and you are listening to your body at this time.

Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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Who Are You? How to Understand Your Identity!

Question -asking- Who -Are -You? Image
Who Are You? Image

Who are you?” said the Caterpillar.
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, “I—I hardly know, Sir, just at present—at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”

Alice in Wonderland-Lewis Carrol

Who Are You, is not the typical question many of us get asked daily, nor is Who Am I, a question many of us normally ask ourselves. Yet as simple and straight forward as these questions might seem, many people struggle to conceptualize and communicate a response that clearly expresses their self-concept/self-identity or how they see themselves. When asked the question-who are you, many of us go with the obvious responses that include sharing our name, job title, family relations, hobbies, religious beliefs, and cultural background. While these responses explain parts of our self -identity, they barely scratch the surface of who we are as individuals. The “who are you” question challenges us to, pause and think about our beliefs, perspectives, experiences, values and how we make sense of the world around us.

So, who are you and why should you care?

Understanding Self- Identity

How do you identify yourself?

  • Do you identify according to your job/skills?
  • Do you identify yourself according to your family relations?
  • Do you identify according to your feelings or your natural talents?  
  • Do you identify according to you race or socio-economic status?  

Encyclopedia.com defines “Self-identity refers to a person’s self-conception, or self-definition that people apply to themselves because of the structural role positions he or she occupies or a particular behavior he or she engages in regularly. Self-identities reflect the “labels people use to describe themselves” (Biddle, Bank, and Slavings 1987, p. 326).”  

Based on this, there are no straightforward answers to the question of who we are.  Since none of us are any one thing, our self-identity is just as complex as we are. Like onions, our self-identity has several different layers and can shift as we grow, mature, and evolve. Nonetheless, our self-identity affects how we show up and approach life, bounce back from hardships, work with others, develop and maintain relationships, make decisions, and navigate life challenges.  And, understanding who we are, can help us cope with stress, improve work performance, and increase our overall psychological well-being.

What is Social Identity?

The societies we live in and our cultural backgrounds play a huge role in defining our self-concept/identity. And the concept of social identity offers us one of the best ways of developing a better understanding of who we are and how others experience us. The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), defines social identity as “the labels that people use to categorize or identify themselves and/or others as members of specific groups.” Afterall, how we see ourselves influences how we interact with and treat others. And as organizations and workplaces become more diverse, understanding our social identity will also determines how we lead, manage and work with others.

CCL- Social Identity Model
CCL- Social Identity Model

Based on  CCL research, our social identity is made up of three parts represented by concentric circles.

  1. Given Identity: This is the outer ring which presents information about our ascribed characteristics for which we had no choice about. They include traits we received at birth such as name, nationality, race, ethnicity, sex, and personality and other physical descriptors such as height and age.
  1. Chosen Identity: This second ring represents characteristics that you control, the choices you made and the skills you have. Examples of your given identity includes your career or occupational choices, religion, hobbies, political affiliation, sexual orientation, and relationship status etc.
  2. Core Identity: The innermost ring signifies the qualities that make you unique. While some of these may change over your life, areas such as behaviors, values, and deep-seated beliefs remain constant.

Social Identity Example

Based on this social identity model, my given identity, includes being a 42 years old, 5ft. 6in. black woman who was born in Kingston, Jamaica to a teenage mom. I have two sisters and one brother. I’m extroverted, outgoing, assertive and love people. For my chosen identity, I am educated to the graduate level and have spent the last 18 years working as a learning and organizational development professional. I reside in USA and have dual citizenship. I am also a single mom to one beautiful daughter, a Christian and friend. I enjoy reading, writing, dancing, swimming, watching movies, great conversations and hanging out with friends. At my core, I believe God, I love people and I am passionate about learning. I value friendships, responsibility, consistency, communication, and love. And I am deeply committed to becoming a better version of myself and helping others so the same. So how about you?

And just as our social identities can change, some aspects of identity can be less or more noticeable depending on where we live. For example, when I lived in Jamaica, I never paid much attention to what being Jamaican meant. But, when I moved to the Northern Virginia area with a more diverse population, my identity as a Jamaican became increasingly significant. As I interacted with my new environment, I experienced a need to maintain my self-identity, while I sought to reinvent myself and to establish who I am and where I come from. Suddenly, my car had Jamaican plate holders and little flag, my ID lanyard at work was in Jamaican colors and I made sure to speak Patois more often than I ever did while living in Jamaica.  

Challenges to Self Identity

So, what happens when who you are changes? That is, the way you see yourself and your identity is challenged.

Major life events such as migration, an accident, death, divorce, debilitating illness, and other hardships can fundamentally change aspects of our identities. These changes to identity may cause some people to question their WHY, lose their way, their sense of purpose and to struggle with how they see themselves as well with other people’s perceptions of them. In fact, studies by Harvard Business Review, reveal that transitional experiences, such as job changes or romantic breakups, typically decrease self-concept clarity.

The research also goes on to state that “when living abroad, people’s exposure to novel cultural values and norms prompts them to repeatedly engage with their own values and beliefs, which are then either discarded or strengthened.”  On the other hand, the studies also states that another common response some people have to moving abroad is culture shock. In that, the “anxiety that results from losing all of our familiar signs and symbols can produce a level of anxiety  that leaves them feeling alienated and isolated and unable to establish a clear sense of self”.

When all is said and done, understanding our self-identity may help us to find commonalities with others around us, bolster our self-confidence and improve our overall self-awareness. In turn, this can improve our abilty to develop and maintain positive relationships, reduce communication breakdowns and misunderstandings. And best of all, knowing who we are can also enhance our capacity to deal with stress, adapt to change, be resilient and navigate life’s challenges. So, know thyself.

Until next time, Remember, ItsALearninglife!

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It’s Not Your IQ, It’s Your EQ?

Head -with-A -Heart-Image
Head-With A -Heart

EQ or IQ- Which One Matters More?

Much like the soft skills debate, there is a seemingly never-ending debate about whether cognitive intelligence (IQ) or emotional intelligence (EQ/EI) matters more for your success. For a long time, IQ or book smarts has served as a key predictor for an individual’s success in life and to determine who is afforded opportunities and who is likely to be more effective on the job. Overtime, this bias towards cognitive intelligence has resulted in a perception that intelligence (IQ) matters more than its emotional intelligence counterpart. And this misguided approach has led many people to focus more on developing their intelligence (IQ) and to neglect or minimize the value of emotional intelligence (EQ)in their efforts to improve personally and professionally. But not so anymore.

An overwhelming amount of research suggests that “more real-world problems get solved with people skills than raw intelligence. That means you can get more bang for your self-improvement buck by focusing on EQ”.  Google, also adds that “leaders with high emotional intelligence make better decisions”.  “Emotional intelligence gives you the ability to read the environment around you, to grasp what other people want and need, what their strengths and weakness are; to remain unruffled by stress and to be the kind of person others want to be around” (Stein& Book 2011).

What is Emotional Intelligence?

According to the authors of Emotional Intelligence and Your Success, intelligence, or IQ “is the measure of an individual’s intellectual, analytical, logical and rational abilities. It gauges how readily you learn new things, focus on task and retain information, engage in a reasoning process and solve problems”. Simply put, your intelligence speaks to your capacity to carry out a specific activity, perform a technical skill and certain tasks. On the other hand, emotional intelligence can be defined as “a set of emotional and social skills that influence the way we perceive and express ourselves, develop and maintain social relationships, cope with challenges, and use emotional informational in an effective and meaningful way”.  

Therefore, your ability to demonstrate emotional intelligence will determine your ability to influence others, communicate effectively, resolve conflict, and build and maintain healthy, positive, and productive relationships personally and professionally.  In other words, your emotional intelligence or street smarts are key to how you live and operate in the world around you. People operating with high IQ and low EQ are like wrecking balls that can potentially damage or destroy everything and everyone in their path. By not being able to identify and manage their own emotions and to recognize and respond to the emotions of others, they create conflict and toxic environments which make it difficult for people to live and work with them.

Why is Emotional Intelligence Important at Work?

Over the last few years of the pandemic, we have seen a huge amount of change and disruptions in every area of our personal and professional lives. Now more than ever, many employees find themselves struggling to navigate the new emotional landscape at work and to cope with unprecedented levels of stress, burnout, uncertainty, and grief driven by the pandemic. The pressing need to constantly pivot and change the way we do business, work, or serve clients, have taken a physical and psychological toll on employees mental and emotional well-being. Today, many employees report feeling increasing levels of anxiety, unhappiness, social isolation, and fatigue.

To respond effectively to all these challenges in the environment, emotional intelligence matters individually and organizationally. For leaders in organizations, leading with emotional intelligence means communicating clearly and frequently to reduce uncertainty, having a pulse on what employees are feeling in response to change, determining what is motivating them or not and implementing strategies to support the emotional and mental well-being of their employees. Managing with emotional intelligence will require supervisors to be flexible with how they manage the performance of their direct reports who might be struggling with meeting deliverables and showing empathy to employees who are experiencing tough times.

On an individual level, having emotional intelligence will help an employee to build and maintain positive and healthy personal relationships with their co-workers, show care and empathy for each other, collaborate, work effectively in teams, solve problems effectively, cope with stress and navigate change. Employees with strong emotional intelligence, are more self-aware and better able to manage themselves and their emotions and set boundaries to protect their overall well-being. 

How to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence Skills?

To build your emotional intelligence skills, it is important to understand the different dimensions of EQ. According to the Bar-On Model  of emotional intelligence and social intelligence, EQ can be broken down into five dimensions and 15 characteristics  summarized below:

  1. Self-Perception: This refers to your ability to understand your emotions (emotional self-awareness), pursue self-improvement (self-actualization) and the extent to which you have confidence and respect yourself (self-regard).
  1. Self-Expression: This speaks to your ability to be self-directed (independence), communicate your feelings and beliefs in a non-offensive way (assertiveness) and constructively express yourself (emotional expression).
  1. Interpersonal:  This focuses on your ability to form and maintain mutually satisfying relationships (interpersonal relationships), appreciate how others feel(empathy) and help others around you (social consciousness).
  1. Decision Making: This includes your ability to be objective (reality testing), find solutions when emotions are involved (problem solving) and to delay or resist an impulse to act.
  1. Stress Management:  This deals with your ability to cope with stressful situations (stress management), overcome adversity, maintain a positive outlook on life(optimism) and to be adaptable with your thoughts and behaviors (flexibility).

One additional indicator of this emotional social intelligence model is – happiness. This measures the degree to which you feel content with your life, your ability to enjoy yourself and others and experience joy in a range of activities. Altogether, these elements represent what it means to be emotional intelligent and the skills you will need to demonstrate it. It is important to note that your performance in any one or combination of these dimensions can be stronger or higher than the others. The key here is to identify areas where you have gaps and work towards strengthening them.

So, how do you rate your emotional intelligence skills?

Which area (s) might you need to improve?

Where do you intend to start?

The good news is- emotional intelligence is a skill that you can develop and strengthen overtime. Your journey toward becoming emotional intelligent will need to start with an honest self-assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, a recognition of your limitations and intentional efforts on your part to address them. Enlist the support of trusted friends, coworkers, and family members to provide you with feedback that will help you to identify the blind spots that might be affecting how you show up and impact others. When all is said and done, your emotional intelligence will determine the quality of your relationships at work and in your personal life, ability to bounce back and overcome adversity, manage stress, make decisions, and find meaning and satisfaction in your life. 

So, when it comes to intelligence – Your EQ, not Your IQ Matters More! Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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Why Be Yourself (Be Authentic) is Terrible Advice!

Be Yourself-Graphic Art
Be Yourself- Graphic Art

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying is to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you have ever spoken with anyone about feelings of self-doubt, fear or uncertainty about doing something new, it is quite possible that you might have been encouraged or advised to just “Be yourself”. I’ll even admit that this is a prescription I have given to my 11-year-old daughter, friends, and colleagues when they have expressed concerns about joining a new team, exploring a relationship or navigating a tough situation. As a matter of fact, I recently received the same advice during a conversation where I was being vulnerable about an issue that was bothering me.  As I listened to this “be yourself’ advice, I couldn’t help but question whether those two words of assurance would be helpful to me as I worked through my issues. Yet, the givers of this advice (myself included) always appear convinced and confident that this simple advice is the best solution to the problem or issue. But, it isn’t.

On a surface level, telling someone to just be yourself or be authentic might seem like solid and great advice. But this advice can be confusing on many levels, and it raises a ton of questions. Afterall, which self are you advising them to be? Is it their past self, their today self, or their aspirational self (the better version of ourselves) that each of us hope to one day meet?  What if they haven’t yet figured out who they are or want to be? And to make it more complex- in which one of their roles?  As individuals, we have different layers and roles which are likely to affect or influence how we show up in different situations. I for one have several roles, that of mother, daughter, sister, manager to name a few. And how I show up or my abilty to be myself can depend on the context and the situation I am dealing with. So be yourself, can be very complex and problematic advice.

Why Be Yourself is Terrible Advice?

Definition of authentic-Image
Definition of Authentic

In her Harvard Business Review article, Herminia Ibarra offers up three ways for us to look at and understand the concept of authenticity:

  1. Being true to yourself and acting in ways that are true to your nature or personality
  2. Being sincere by saying what you mean and meaning what you say.
  3. Staying true to your values and the fundamental core beliefs that guide you.

Therefore, being authentic requires us to be fully self-aware and to practice acceptance of ourselves – values, beliefs, flaws, quirks, strengths and all. Being authentic encourages individuals to be at peace with themselves  despite the perceptions of others and other worldly influences. This is important because trying to be someone else drains energy and is the surest route to an unhappy and unfulfilling life.

However, depending on the definition we choose, being authentic or staying true to one’s personality can be used by an individual to mask stubbornness or an unwillingness to change. And if we are not careful, being authentic or staying true to our personality can stunt our personal growth, maturity and have major implications for our personal and professional development and advancement. For example, how many times have you heard or seen someone miss an opportunity because they were asked to do something that was outside of their comfort zone or require them to stretch a little to learn a new skill? I have seen people self-sabotage or pass up opportunities to advance in their career because of their own self-limiting beliefs that they didn’t have the personality to do one thing or another.

Likewise, I have also seen people fail because they didn’t acknowledge that the skills that got to them to one level would not take them to their next level. And in these trade off moments, we will need to balance doing what we need to be effective with being ourselves. Navigating these crucial moments can be tricky because most of us define ourselves in terms of the skills and competencies that got us to one point. Getting to the next level or moving up in the organization might require us to show up differently than we are accustomed to. This can be unsettling for some people who fear that they might have to sacrifice their values and integrity or be seen as a “sell out” because they changed paths. This uncertainty about what it means to be themselves then produces a version of them that is at best cautious, conservative but not truly authentic or reflective of who they want to be.

What Authenticity Really Means?

So, should we be authentic or not?

And what does it mean in real life?  

Truth is, none of us are the same today as we were five years ago, and we also won’t be the same five years from today. As we journey through life, from one stage to the next, we make decisions and experience life events (marriage, parenting, loss, career advancement) that shape us and challenge our perspectives and our deeply help beliefs. Therefore, subscribing to the idea of being yourself is unrealistic, risky and fails to acknowledge that we are never any one thing or person. It also locks us into people perceptions of who they think we are and their expectations of how they think we should be or act. But as individuals, we are constantly evolving, learning, unlearning and with that comes permission to change our minds, perspectives, and responses to the people around and the world around us.

So, in a world where so many of us feel so much pressure to live up to the standards and expectations of others, how can we be authentic? I suggest that you reflect on what that means to you and consider embracing a broader perspective that says that being yourself or being authentic is:

  • Choosing to lead your own self by digging deep to figure out what you truly want, your passions, your talents, your strengths, and your weaknesses.
  • Freedom to let go of your fears and other people’s perception and expectations of you as you forge your own path.
  • Knowing that your best self isn’t a destination since you are still becoming.
  • Embracing a mindset that recognizes that you have many layers. You can be this and still be that.
  • Deciding not to hide your feelings, thoughts, your voice and standing by your convictions.
  • Meeting people right where they are at and not twisting yourself in/out of shape to become who they need you to be.  

In closing, navigating life journey will require us to balance doing  what we need to do and being ourselves. This can cause us to feel fake or inauthentic, but it isn’t. You can be authentic and change and grow. Being authentic considers who you are and the situation, not one at the expense of another. The key is to be intentional about shaping yourself rather than being shaped by your circumstances.

Until next time, Remember, It’sALearningLife!

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The Four Agreements to Live By!

The Four Agreements to Live By
Cartoon- of-People -Seated -at- a – Meeting-Table-Image

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz has been sitting on my bookshelf for some time having been gifted to me a few years ago. However, I was nudged to read it after hearing it recommended in a recent discussion. Curious about the what the four agreements were, I spent a few hours reading it on the weekend and was pleasantly surprised by the simple yet powerful code of conduct it shared about how we are to live our lives. I know you must be thinking- what is this code of conduct and how is this relevant to me? But stick with me, I am going somewhere.

Whether you are a Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or identify as Agnostic or Atheist, you all have some core beliefs that you live by or that guides your actions. These core beliefs or code of conduct provide the fundamental principles and standards by which you live your life. And while the code of conduct offered up in The Four Agreements is not fundamentally new and you probably practice one or all of them in some way, when applied together, they have the potential to transform your life and lead to new experiences of increased freedom, happiness, and love.

What Are Agreements?

According to Ruiz, every aspect of our lives, culture, religion, language, values, and belief systems are based on a series of agreements that already existed before you were born. As children, you didn’t have the opportunity to choose what you believe or did not believe in, you didn’t even choose our own name. Instead, you learned to agree with the information passed on to you from other humans such as your parents, teachers, and other authority figures in your society.

Because of this process which Ruiz called “domestication”, children grow into adults who learn to adhere to the agreements which form their belief systems. When you obey the agreements, you are rewarded and when you go against them, you are punished. The agreements teach you everything- what a “woman” is and who a “man” is. And you also learn how to judge yourself, judge other people and judge your neighbors. You also learn to pretend to please those around you because of the fear of rejection.  You create an image of how you should be to be accepted by everybody.

In so doing, you become someone you are not, punishing yourself when you don’t follow the rules according to your belief system and rewarding yourself when you are a “good girl or a good boy.” The result is that you abuse yourself by not practicing self-love and by practicing self-rejection when you try to measure up to an ideal of perfection. And no one abuses you as much as you abuse yourself.

Ruiz further explained that while there are thousands a of agreements that you and I have made with ourselves, other people, with God, with society, with your partner and your children, the most important agreements you will make are the ones you make with yourself. In these agreements, you tell yourself who you are, what you feel, what you believe and how to behave. And the result of this is your personality. In those agreements, you say- this is what I am. This is what I believe. I can do certain things and some things I cannot do. And these are the many agreements that make us suffer, that makes us fail in life.

So, what can you do about these agreements? According to Ruiz, if you want to experience true fulfillment and happiness, you must find the courage and will to break the agreements you made that are based on fear and claim the personal power that each of us was born with. Each time you break an agreement, the power you used to create it returns to you – allowing you to change the entire system of your old agreements. And this is the personal power that you will need to adopt the four new agreements which will help you transform your life.

Wooden Hands Clasping Each Other
Wooden- Hands- Clasping- Each- Other- In- Agreement-Image

What Are The Four Agreements?

  1. The First Agreement – Be Impeccable with your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the words to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love. This agreement urges you to remember that your words are powerful. And like a double-edged sword, they have the potential to speak life or death into your life and that of others. Ruiz explained that the human mind is fertile where seeds are continuously being planted. The seeds are opinions, ideas, and concepts. So, what words do you use to speak to yourself? Are they kind? What words do you sow to your children- are they seeds of love, confidence, fear or doubt?
  1.  The Second Agreement -Don’t Take Anything Personally: This agreement states that 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. So do not to place your trust in what others do or say. You only need to trust yourself to make responsible choices. When you truly understand this and refuse to take things personally, you can hardly be hurt by the careless actions or comments of others.
  1. The Third Agreement-Don’t Make Assumptions: According to Ruiz we all tend to make assumptions. The problem with assumptions is that we believe them to be truth and act accordingly.  We make assumptions about what others are doing and thinking, we take it personally and then we blame them and react by sending them emotional poison with our words. Rather than doing that, this agreement encourages you to find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama.
  1. The Fourth Agreement- Always Do Your Best: This agreement is about the action of the first three. It encourages you to commit to doing your best regardless of circumstances. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Nonetheless, simply do your best, and this will help you to avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret. When you do your best, you don’t have to worry about the results. Embrace the mistakes, learn the lessons, and accept yourself.
My Life- My Rules Picture
My- Life -My -Rules -Image

My Takeaways

I’ve read many books this summer, but this book resonated with me differently than the others. Not only was it deep and full of ideas that challenged my own thinking, but it made me think about the agreements I have made with myself, in my different relationships and roles (personal and professional). And while all four agreements were powerful, the one that gave me pause is the Third Agreement – Don’t make assumptions.  

I know that making assumptions is wrong and that when and where I do it, I am projecting my fears, insecurities, doubts, and expectations on others. I also recognize that I also treat many of my assumptions as truth and act accordingly. Afterall, most of us create stories and narratives in our heads that justify our positions on a issue to help us make sense of situations we are facing. These assumptions are potentially damaging to relationships as we defend our positions and try to make the other person wrong. In so doing, I sometimes take what people say and do personally- making it about me. And sometimes, this might cause me to react emotionally, negatively, and unwisely as I fail to truly consider other people and their perspectives.

I am not particularly proud of this pattern of behavior, and I resolve to do better. This book reminded me yet again that it is always better to ask questions (however uncomfortable) than to make assumptions, because assumptions sets us up for suffering. I also know that it can be hard for us to ask for what we want, and to communicate our needs. But, we can’t assume that the people around us know what our needs are and then judge them when they fail to meet our expectations. Everyone has the right to tell you no or yes, but you always have the right to ask and vice versa.

Final Thoughts

So, today I commit to breaking with my old agreement of making assumptions and to create a new agreement to communicate openly and clearly and free of emotional poison. I also hope that (by reading this article), you take an opportunity to consider how these four agreements apply to how you operate in your relationships and interactions with others and make the changes that will transform your life for better.

So over to you, which of the four agreements resonate most with you? What agreements have you made with yourself and others? What old agreements do you need to break. What new agreements will you make? Comment and let me know .

Until next Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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