Tag Archives: personal growth

11 Tips on How to Drink from the Firehose and Not Drown!

Firehose-Spraying-Water
Firehose Spraying Water

Over the last few weeks, I have found myself drinking from the proverbial firehose in my new job. That is, meeting new people, navigating a new work environment, taking in new information, listening, learning the scope of my new responsibilities, and asking questions to better understand the operations of the organization. Prior to starting this new role, I had never heard of the metaphor of drinking from a firehose. However, as soon as I heard it used, I could not help but smile at how well it described what I had been experiencing as I settled into my new job. Afterall, the many meetings, the rapid flow of new information, new acronyms, names, faces and roles sometimes passed in a blur, as I attempted to take copious notes and prayed for good memory. Which I imagine is exactly what drinking from a firehose might feel like?

What Does Drinking from the Firehose Mean?

According to the Urban Dictionary, the metaphor “drinking from the firehose” is defined as “to be overwhelmed (with information, responsibility, work, etc.); to do something intensely; to be inundated.” This experience or feeling is typical for most new hires during the first few days and weeks settling into a new job. During the onboarding process, (See previous article), new employees spend the majority of their early days getting to know their team(s), learning about business operations, key stakeholders, listening to customer needs and expectations, while scanning for opportunities to apply their skills and knowledge. And if not careful, one can quickly feel like the gushing firehose is spilling more water over one’s face and clothes, rather than what ends up in one’s mouth.

So, what can you do? How can you learn how to drink safely from the firehose and avoid the drowning feeling of being overwhelmed by the rapid flow of information, scope of work and many expectations that comes with your new role or job?

When I started my new role, I really wanted to do my best. So, I decided to draw on the wisdom of the crowd by asking my professional network on LinkedIn to share tips and advice to help me to position myself for success in my new role and confidently apply my skills and knowledge. I received over 100 valuable responses offering wisdom, tried and tested advice and key reminders that can help anyone achieve success when starting a new role or new opportunity.

How to Drink Well from The Firehouse

Here are the top eleven tips that you should keep in mind as you put your best foot forward and drink well from the firehose:

  1. Believe in yourself and your abilities. Do not be consumed with trying to prove yourself- you are the person for the job
  2. Listen twice as long as you intend to speak. As you do so, pay attention to what is said and to what isn’t. Keep your eyes and ears on the ground.
  3. Be a learn it all, not a know it all. Rather than be an expert, be a sponge and ask questions to learn and understand. Be humble.
  4. Be social. Try to say hello to everyone and try to meet as many people as you can. Remember to smile and be respectful of everyone.
  5. Build relationships and connections. Surround yourself with the right people. The relationships you build will be the most valuable currency you have to spend.
  6. Remember that trust and vulnerability go hand in hand. Be willing to be vulnerable and to trust your team as you get to know each other and vice-versa.
  7.  Learn the organization structure and culture. Understanding this will help you to get a sense of how you fit in and can contribute, as well as how things get done.
  8. Maximize your first 90 days by setting realistic goals. Once you have gotten an understanding of your role and responsibilities, work with you manager to identify and agree key work priorities and goals to be achieved over the first 30-60-90 days.
  9. Be open and ready to learn, fail and make mistakes. Things will not always work as planned, nor will all your bright new ideas be accepted. Don’t take this personally. Continue to listen and pivot. Fail fast and early and recover well. And as you do so. extend yourself grace and remember progression is better than perfection.
  10. Ask your manager and team for feedback. Regular feedback will help you to gauge how you are doing, how you can add value and gain insights on your opportunities for growth. Allow yourself time to settle into your new space and work environment. And celebrate all your wins- no matter how big or small.
  11. Be your authentic self. Don’t pretend to be someone you are not to impress others or fit in. Own your unique talents, perspectives, abilities and recognize the value you bring to the organization. Also remember to be patient and present for each step of your new journey.

At the end of the day, failing to manage the firehose and to drink safely while settling into a new opportunity will lead to frustration, burnout, stress, fatigue and less than optimal results. As you adjust to your new role, remember to pace yourself, and ask for help when and where you need it. Also, be willing to set healthy boundaries to maintain work – life balance and to ensure positive overall well-being.

So, what additional tips would you add to help others drink from the firehose and not drown?  What has worked for you? What advice do you have for someone who is starting a new role or a new opportunity? Share and let me know.

Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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Mothers -Day- Special- Interview by My Daughter

7 Ways to Tackle Your Personal & Professional Development in 2022

Feeding Your Mind- Personal & Professional Development
Feeding- Your -Mind- Personal- &- Professional -Development

In my last post, I wrote about how some people use the new year to set new intentions, goals, and resolutions to improve their lives. Personal and professional development are two areas that they typically focus on for self-improvements. But what is the difference between the two? While personal and professional development are inextricably linked, they are not one and the same. According to Indeed, “Personal development is the ongoing act of assessing your life goals and values and building your skills and qualities to reach your potential.” Personal development efforts are usually geared towards changing mindsets, attitudes, and behaviors to improve individual effectiveness and to increase one’s satisfaction with life. On the other hand, professional development refers to any effort taken to improve one’s effectiveness and performance on the job, increase knowledge and skills and to continue learning/education after entry to the workforce.  

While making improvements in any one of these areas can result in significant progress and provide positive benefits to one’s life, not everyone takes them seriously.

Importance of Personal &Professional Development

There is a popular quote by Albert Einstein that states “Once you stop learning, you start dying.” While the quote might sound morbid, it underscores the importance of being a lifelong learner and being intentional about pursuing ongoing growth and development to stay relevant and adaptable. Yet, one of the common mistakes that some people make is, assuming that their growth and development is a destination that they get to. Truth is that life and the world around you is constantly changing, and your development is dynamic. The skills and experiences that got you from one level or stage will not take you to your next level of success. Areas of strength in one season of your life can become weaknesses in another. And the weaknesses that you considered minor at one time, can become major issues or blind spots that can undermine your interpersonal relationships and overall effectiveness. 

Therefore, to maximize your potential and increase your chances for success and fulfillment in your personal and professional life, you will need to be proactively engage in ongoing self-reflection and seek feedback to pinpoint the hard and soft skills you might need change or improve.

Who’s Responsible for Personal Growth &Development

There is a commonly held belief amongst many employees that their professional development is their employer’s responsibility. And rightly so, since employers have an obligation to invest in their talent and workforce by equipping them with the tools, skills, and knowledge they need to execute their roles in a way that meet or exceed their organization’s productivity standards. With this expectation, many employees go to work with the expectation that their supervisor and/or organization is responsible for training them and equipping them with the skills they need to be efficient and effective in their roles. While this expectation is valid and fair, the rapidly changing nature of today’s work environment now demands that, employees be proactive about their development and not rely only on mandated trainings or wait for the annual performance review where the supervisor recommends training for a performance issue as a cue for development.

This passive and reactive approach to personal and professional development can prove risky at a time when the technologies you use, the way you work, the skills you need and the demands of the customers you serve are changing quickly. The reality is, your employers might not have the necessary supports in place to help you stay relevant and build your skills. In fact, many people complain about getting promotions on the job and not being adequately trained to perform effectively or not having the time to attend trainings due to the volume of work. Therefore, though employers have a responsibility to develop their people, you must become an advocate for your own personal and professional development and ultimately take ownership for it.

Time to Own Your Development

So how can you take action to become more proactive about owning your personal and professional development?

In an age where you have unprecedented access to information at your fingertips, there is really no excuse for not investing in your personal growth and professional development.  Regardless of your interests, how you like to learn or process information, there are many different options and formats that you can use for lifelong learning and self-improvement. Here are 7 ways that you can tackle your personal and professional development in 2022:  

  1. Do a SWOT Analysis: This process will require you to identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats and to take intentional actions to address them. Ask trusted and objective friends, coworkers, and family members to provide you with feedback that will help you to identify behaviors you need to Stop, Start and Continue.  
  • Invest in Continuing Education:  Depending on where you are in your career, this could involve going back to school to pursue a degree or diploma to gain new knowledge or to help you switch career paths. For others this could mean attending webinars, conferences, enrolling in a course or certification program to develop a new skill or improve an existing one. Remember ongoing learning is a great resume builder.
  • Attend YouTube University: YouTube is probably one of the most underutilized or underrated ways to access learning for free. If you can think of a topic, there is content on YouTube that can help you learn more about it. So, find a topic or skill you are interested in learning about, look for credible people speaking on the topic and get learning.
  • Read, Read, Read: In this social media age where attention spans are short and people are overwhelmed with snippets of information and tweets on their timelines, it is easy to become lazy about how you access and acquire knowledge and information. Rather than relying on your feed, join a book club, read books, articles, and blogs that are related to your industry and interests to ensure that you are staying abreast of current ideas and insights to improve your personal effectiveness.
  • Listen to Podcasts: Podcasts have gained popularity in the last few years. They provide a convenient and flexible way of learning on the go. If you are not a fan of reading, you can listen to podcasts as you exercise, complete chores, do errands or while driving. And like YouTube, you can find a podcast hosted by experts on any topic for free. So, search for podcasts apps on your devices and start listening.
  • Volunteer: Whether it’s at work or in your community, volunteering to serve on project teams or committees can be a great developmental tool and a way to build your network, learn new skills, help others, and pay it forward.  
  • Follow Subject Matter Experts on social media: Apart from showcasing the highlight reel of your life and that of others, social media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Meta can also provide you with access to thought leaders who teach and share content/ideas that can inspire you to action or provide resources you can use for your development. Be sure to find these experts and follow them.

In conclusion, pursuing a path towards personal and professional development will require deliberate effort on your part and changes to how you spend your limited free time. Although it might seem overwhelming at first, enlist the support and help of trusted and objective coworkers, friends, and family members to help you figure out areas you need to focus on.  But ultimately, you are in the best position to act on the changes you need to make, chart your career journey, identify your next job opportunity, identify the skills and talents you need to hone to keep growing and achieve satisfaction with your life.

Until next time, “Remember ItsALearningLife! “

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Rethinking Failure: 7 Principles for Failing Forward!

Failure= Opportunity-Image
Failure= Opportunity-Image

Failure isn’t the opposite of success, it is a part of it.”

Arianna Huffington

I recently came across  a  quote on LinkedIn  that says “If you try and fail, congratulations. Most people won’t even try.” While I liked the quote and the sentiment it conveyed, I noticed that it had generated a lively and interesting debate which revealed the different thoughts and attitudes that people have about failure. One gentleman argued that failure should never be congratulated, since that approach promoted incompetence, lower levels of performance and a lack of accountability. Another person argued that, there was nothing wrong with failure since it provided an opportunity for people to learn, build perseverance and build resilience. As people chimed it with the pros and cons of failure, one person raised the point that FAIL is an acronym for First Attempt in Learning, and that the only way for a person to fail was to give up.

These mixed perspectives on failure are not unusual. Many of us come from environments and societies that socialized us to see failure as a bad thing, an outcome to be avoided at all costs, something to be ashamed of and worse yet, experiences that are not be owned or embraced as a valuable part of our development and life experiences. That said, failing doesn’t feel good and no one likes to fail.

But, what if we changed the way we thought about and spoke about failure?

What if we stopped seeing failure as negative or the worst possible outcome?  

What if we stop fearing failure?

What if we failed forward?

What Does Failing Forward Mean?

What People See Success Iceberg-Image
What People See Success Iceberg-Image

In his book Failing Forward, John Maxwell urges us to change the way we think about failure and to embrace a mindset that sees failure not as the opposite of success, but as a necessary part of the journey towards success. Failing forward requires you to take responsibility, learning from your mistakes, take new risks, challenge old assumptions, and persevere. On the other hand, failing backwards occurs when we blame others, repeat the same mistakes, expect to never fail again, take our failures personally and quit.  Based on this, Maxwell pointed out that that the biggest difference between high achievers and average people is their perception to and response to failure. Maxwell further explained that a lot of our negative attitudes to failure stem from our fear of failure, our misunderstanding failure and our unpreparedness to deal with it whenever we encounter it.  So, for Maxwell, the question isn’t whether we will face failure, the real question is how will we respond? Will we fail backwards or fail forward?

So, think about a time when you experienced a setback or failure or a time when you worked really hard towards a goal and it didn’t work out as you hoped. How did you feel and how did you respond?

I’ve had my share of failures in my road to personal and professional success and experienced moments when I felt like a failure. Whether it was the five different interviews processes that I went through in my efforts to get a promotion or the three frustrating years it took before I was able to purchase a home here in the US. Every failure brought a feeling of rejection, discouragement and frustration to the point that I would sometimes feel like giving up. I also felt embarrassed by my failures, because I had shared my plans with friends and family and every time they enquired about how things were going or the results, I would feel even more disappointed with myself.

Despite this, after each failed interview, I would take some time to reflect on what went well in the interview and reach out to the hiring manager to ask for feedback to help me prepare for my next opportunity. Despite what felt like rejection, I kept focused and kept applying for other positions. By the sixth application, I went through a three part interview process and landed a  role to lead a newly established unit. And from all accounts, this was an even better role than any of the others positions I had applied to. The same is true for my home search. Year after year, I would start the home buying process just in time for the spring market. But after putting in numerous offers on homes I really liked and being pushed out of the market by cash offers or overpriced bids, I would abort the process in frustration. Yet, I never gave up hope., I kept saving and preparing and was finally able to purchase a home with the specifications I needed, at a price that I could comfortably afford.

But, what if I had stopped at the fifth job application? Or if I had just resigned myself to renting that comfortable and convenient apartment? What if I had quit any of those two efforts too soon? I shared all of that to make the point that we are all likely to fail and make mistakes in our efforts to achieve a personal or professional dream or goals. But those failures are not final, unless we make it so.

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.                                                                                                         

Thomas Edison

How to Fail Forward

So, how can we prepare to fail forward and not get stuck (see previous post) or quit on ourselves? John Maxwell suggests seven principles that we can apply to help us fail forward:

  1. Reject Rejection: Achievers who persevere do not base their self-worth on their performance. On the contrary, they have a healthy self-image that’s not dictated by external events. When they fall short, rather than labeling themselves a failure, they learn from mistakes in their judgment or behavior.
  1. Don’t Point Fingers: When people fail, they’re often tempted to blame others for their lack of success. By pointing fingers, they sink into a victim mentality and cede their fate to outsiders. When playing the blame game, people rob themselves of learning from their failures and alienate others by refusing to take responsibility for mistakes.
  2. See Failure as Temporary: People who personalize failure see a problem as a hole they’re permanently stuck in, whereas achievers see any predicament as temporary. One mindset wallows in failure, the other looks forward to success. By putting mistakes into perspective, achievers are able to see failure as a momentary event, not a symptom of a lifelong epidemic.
  3. Set Realistic Expectations: Unrealistic goals doom people to failure. For instance, if a person hasn’t exercised for five years, then making it to a gym twice a week may be a better goal than running in next month’s marathon. Also, some people insensibly expect to be perfect. Everyone fails, so expect setbacks and emotionally prepare to deal with them.
  4. Focus on Strengths: Don’t invest time focusing on your non-character flaws at the exclusion of investing in your strengths. People operating from a position of strength enjoy a far lower rate of failure than those laboring in areas of weakness. You’re built to give your talents to the world; be diligent about finding expressions for them in your career.
  5. Vary Approaches to Achievement: In the Psychology of Achievement, Brian Tracy writes about four millionaires who made their fortunes by age 35. On average, these achievers were involved in 17 businesses before they are finding the one that took them to the top. They kept trying and changing until they found something that worked.
  6. Bounce Back: Rehashing missteps and blunders for too long sabotages concentration and eats away at self-confidence. When dealing with failure, achievers have short memories. They quickly forget the negative emotions of setbacks and press forward resiliently. While taking pause to learn from failures, achievers realize that the past cannot be altered.

In closing, failure isn’t permanent unless you make it so. When you fail, take  the U out of the FAILURE and remind yourself that failure isn’t personal. You are not a failure; you’ve have failed at a few things.  Keep believing in yourself and your abilities. Keep pushing, fail fast, fail early, fail forward.

Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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How- to -STAR -Your- Job- Interview- Video

What to Do to Get Unstuck: Lessons From Out of the Maze!

Stuck Turtle On Its Back
Turtle -Stuck- on- It’s- Back-Image

At some point or another, you have experienced a time or moment in your personal or professional life where you have felt stuck. That is, having a worrisome frame of mind where you know that something in your life is not quite right and needs to change, but not being entirely sure of the what, the why, the who, or the when. This feeling of being stuck then resulted in you feeling indecisive, unsettled, or unable to move on or move forward. In this article, I want to explore what feeling stuck looks like  and how to  get unstuck  by applying the lessons from the book  Out of the Maze

Summary of Out of the Maze Book

In one my previous post about dealing with change based on the book Who Moved My Cheese), I shared the parable of four characters (Sniff, Scurry, Hem and Haw) who lived in a dark maze and  loved cheese. They all woke up one day to find that their cheese (what they saw as important in life) had disappeared. All four characters reacted differently to the change in their circumstances and experienced very different results.

In the sequel Out of the Maze, the story picks up with Hem who is left behind and finds himself stuck in a desperate and ‘cheese-less’ situation, feeling afraid, alone, and hungry for new cheese. He spends his time going back and forth between worrying about his friend Haw, blaming him for leaving him and hoping that things would go back to normal.  Day by day Hem’s situation worsened and as he got weaker, Hem realized that he had to do something. Hem saw he could no longer afford to stay and wait for the cheese to reappear and that he would have to go out into the maze and search for new cheese if he were to survive. Though Hem understood what he needed to do and that he was on his own, he still believed the maze was a dangerous place, filled with dark corners and blind alleys that led nowhere.

For days Hem wandered through the maze with his old tools searching for cheese and with no success. Each passing day, Hem grew weaker, hungrier, more discouraged and filled with regret that he hadn’t acted sooner. One day when Hem was feeling he couldn’t go on any further, he met a stranger name Hope who introduced him to apples. Still stuck on finding cheese and believing cheese was the only food there was, Hem took the apple, examined it, but refused to eat it although it smelled good. After some encouragement from Hope and sheer hunger, Hem eventually tried the apple. When he did, Hem was surprised and delighted to discover that he enjoyed the taste of apples and the new burst of energy they gave him to resume his search for new cheese.

For the remainder of the story, Hem came to realize that his old beliefs about cheese had trapped him into one way of seeing things and prevented him from moving forward to find new cheese. Hem decided to let go of his old beliefs, choose new ones, and bravely open himself up to new possibilities (including apples) and a world outside of the maze. In the end and after many failures, Hem is rewarded when he discovered a bigger, better, and brighter world outside of the maze that had cheeses and apples far sweeter than anything he had before.

How to Get Unstuck

What has left you feeling stuck and struggling to move forward in the direction of your life goals and career? What old ideas and thoughts are you still believing about your current situation that might be holding you back?

I’ve have never written an article about a topic that I have not struggled with personally or experienced. So, I can relate to having experienced moments (personal and professional) where I have felt trapped or stuck in situations that I couldn’t seem to make progress on or move forward.  That said, I also know that sitting around waiting and playing victim has never helped me get unstuck, nor will it help you.

Like Hem’s story, at the heart of every situation that has made you feel stuck are the beliefs and thoughts you hold to be true. Beliefs that say – things will never change, I can’t do this or that this goal is impossible or nothing good will ever happen for me. Your beliefs are powerful and can paralyze you into inaction or hold you prisoner in your own home, head, or job. Knowing you want and need more, but not believing you can do better, has led many people to settle for unhealthy relationships that do not serve them well, or to compromise themselves by accepting situations that go against their core values and beliefs.

Out of the Maze -Book Cover -Google Search Image
Out- of- The -Maze -Book- Cover-Google- Image

Six Lessons to Get Unstuck

So, here are six lessons from Hem’s story that you can apply to your own situation to help you get unstuck:

  1. Notice your beliefs: A belief is a thought that you trust is true. But not everything you think is true. Because you trust your old thoughts, you remain a prisoner to old memories and beliefs and sometimes refuse to change or venture outside of your comfort zone to try new things. If you closely examined your thoughts or beliefs, you might realize that some of these trusted thoughts aren’t true and might need to change.
  • Don’t believe everything you think: Sometimes “facts” are just how you see things. But the “facts” you believe are limited to the information you have, your exposures and the meanings you give to events. So, resist the urge to feel threatened or offended when someone challenges your beliefs and don’t be afraid to question and change them on your own.   
  • Let go of what isn’t working:  You can’t launch a new quest with old baggage. Stop blaming others and shaming yourself for the past.  As Einstein said, you cannot do the same thing repeatedly and expect different results. As you move forward, you must be brutally honest with yourself about your patterns, the things you have been doing that no longer work and what you might need to do or look at completely differently.  So, let go of what you have you been dragging around and anything that has left you feeling burdened or stuck.
  • Look Outside the Maze: Consider the unlikely, explore the impossible. The fear of change, the uncertainty it brings, and the challenges associated with trying something new and different are perhaps the biggest reasons people fail to get unstuck. And if you add the fear of failure into the mix, the more likely it is that people will stay stuck in situations no matter how bad they are. However, getting unstuck will require you to have the courage to act towards what you want, though the risks are many and the future is unclear.
  • Choose a new belief: Changing what you think doesn’t change who you are. You get to change an old belief and choose new and different thoughts. Sometimes you hang on to thoughts and beliefs that aren’t working because they are familiar. This is a sub-optimal way to live and will not make you happy or successful. You reserve the right to change your mind, your beliefs and consider what other options available to you.
  • There are no limits to what you can believe: Your whole world is held together by a complex web of beliefs and thoughts that you trust, and hold be true.  You can experience and enjoy a lot more than you think you can. To get unstuck from old cycles, you must choose to have an open mind and believe that something else is possible for you. Have faith to believe it before you see it. As you lean into that hope, commit to exploring, learning, and discovering yourself and the vast world around you.

Feeling stuck is not a death sentence, it is a normal part of life. It signals that something you need to be happy and healthy is lacking or that your need for growth and progress is unmet. Therefore, feeling stuck is your heart, mind, and body’s way of telling you that you need change your approach to make progress in your life, your job and in your relationships.

What will you do to get unstuck?

Until next 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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How The Path We Take Shapes Our Lives

Questions About Which Road to Take-Picture
Questions- About -Which- Road- to- Take- Image

For as long I have known myself, I have always believed in the value of taking personal responsibility for my actions, charting my own path, and working hard to overcome adversity and hardships. Though this has been my personal philosophy, I fully aware that not everyone lives by these principles. Wrongly or rightly, some people choose to blame their current reality on the curve balls that life throws at them, the opportunities they didn’t get, the ones they did take, the talents they don’t have, the decisions of their parents, the actions of their loved ones, and the friends and colleagues who hurt them. And while some of their conclusions might be fair, they fail to account for the fact that we all have the abilty to forge or our paths, write our own stories and make decisions and choices that are uniquely our own as we pursue what we believe as in our best interests.

During this year, I have written many articles on a range of personal growth and professional development topics (See previous posts) based on research and my own experiences. However one of the simplest lessons on the power of taking taking charge of your life and personal growth came to me by way of a poem by Portia Nelson called the ‘Autobiography in Five Short Chapters.” The poem (See below) reminded me that life is essentially a journey filled with challenging situations that we have to navigate as we make choices and decisions to create the life of our dreams. And as we do so, we will try new and different things, we will fail from time to time, and we will have opportunities to learn key lessons. Because as we stumble or fall, we also get the chance to course correct, to change and to choose another path. In those moments, we must find the courage to take stock of where we are, clearly establish where we want to go and take bold actions to become who we want to be.

Road Sign- What Do You Want to Change?
What Do You Want to Change?

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters by Portia Nelson -Poem

Chapter 1.

I walk down the street.

There is deep hole in the sidewalk.

I fall in.

I am lost…… I am hopeless.

It isn’t my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2.

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I am in the same place.

But it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter 3

 I walk down the same street.

 There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

 I see it’s there.

 I still fall in …it’s a habit.

 My eyes are open.

I know where I am.

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.

Chapter 4.

I walk down the same street.

There is a hole in the sidewalk

I walk around it.

Chapter 5

I walk down another street.

Key Takeaways

As you read the poem, did it resonate with you? Could you relate it to a current or past experience you’ve had?

For me, the poem spoke to the fact that each of us are on a journey in pursuit of happiness, success, and whatever we define as a good life for ourselves and our loved ones. While our individuals’ paths are different, nothing insulates us from the bumps, failures, setbacks and disappointments we will undoubtedly encounter as we make decisions and choices on everything (from relationships, careers, finances, parenting) to create the lifestyle we desire. Some days we will get it right, but all too often we will also get it wrong. Our best laid plans will not always work out like we hoped and our very best efforts will sometimes fall short. What matters most in those defining moments are not the things that happen to us, or situations in which we find ourselves- but our reactions to them. The key is in knowing when you need to change and what you need to change. We don’t grow in places in comfort, so there are times that you will need to find the courage to make a decision that alters your life and pushes you out of your comfort zone towards something new and different.  Afterall, the best paths are not always the easiest.

Reflective Questions for You

  • Where do you see yourself 3, 5, 10 years from now?
  • Is your current path taking you where you want to go?
  • Are you on your current path because its familiar or comfortable?
  • Is there another, less troublesome path you could take towards achieving your dreams?

When all is said and done, it’s your life and your path. Others might travel with you, but you have to walk it. The successes, failures and consequences are all yours. If the path you’re on no longer serves you, it’s never too late to begin again. You ultimately get to choose.  

Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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What It Means to Feel Safe..

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid

When we hear the word safe, most of us automatically think about the absence of harm or danger. If that is where your mind went, you would not be wrong. Depending on where you live, work or your everyday environment, the need to feel physically safe can be a pressing need and reality. However, physical safety is but one dimension of safety and does not replace the need we all have to feel emotionally or psychologically safe. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (A theory used to explain human motivation), the need to feel safe is one of the most basic human needs. And this need for safety and security must be satisfied before we can focus on other higher order needs for growth and development. The longer the need is unmet, the stronger it becomes, but when the need is met, the hunger /desire goes away.

Having established that we all have a need to feel safe, it is also important to recognize that when people do not feel physically or psychologically safe at work or at home, you will not get the best of them. When we talk about feeling physically safe, we are talking about being in an environment that is free from threats of violence, hazards and anything that can present harm or danger to us as individuals. And while physical safety can be obvious, psychological safety is hidden and more complex to observe. Psychological safety focuses on the emotional and behavioral well-being of individuals in relationships. Because psychological safety is interpersonal, it requires that people feel comfortable expressing themselves around others without fear or risks.

Two Teddy Bears Hugging
Two Teddy Bears Hugging

The Importance of Feeling Safe

Whether it’s at home or at work, feeling safe is also about creating a trusting environment with supportive relationships where people are not distracted by concerns about whether they are valued, or feel threatened that something good in their life will disappear at any moment. In the world of work, psychological safety is key part of working well as a part of a team. When psychological safety exists within a team, team members will openly share their ideas without fear of judgment, feel safer to fail or make a mistake and be their authentic selves without any risk to their jobs. On the other hand, when people on a work team do not feel safe, communication suffers, trust is low, productivity suffers, and the team will not function effectively.

On the personal side, when and where psychological or emotional safety is lacking, this can negatively impact an individual’s mental health and overall well-being.  In that, people who feel unsafe are less likely to express their feelings and thoughts openly because of fear of rejection and are more likely to suffer from increased levels of stress and anxiety. They might also shut down or rely on passive aggressive behaviors to express their feelings. So, when and where people do not feel safe to be themselves and express their feelings and thoughts without being labeled or rejected, this can escalate into toxic communication patterns and relationships.

So, when do you feel most unsafe?

Is it when the zeros in your bank account starts to dwindle?

Is it when you are home alone or walking down a dark street?

Is it when you are experiencing conflict with a supervisor or coworker on the job?

Is it when you’re in danger of losing a loved one or when your relationship with your partner has broken down?

How to Foster Psychological Safety

For me, the need to feel emotionally or psychologically safe probably dates back to difficult early childhood experiences. And today, feeling safe has become a crucial ingredient for me to have lasting, meaningful and successful personal and professional relationships. So when I join a new team or establish a new personal relationship, I usually communicate my need for frequent, open, and honest communication and feedback to build and maintain healthy relationships and to minimize conflict. On the professional side, the preference for quality communication is due to the fact that I dislike not having information I need to do my job well and my fear that not having information relevant to my role will make me look incompetent and not function effectively. The same is true on the personal side as well. I have found that the absence of open and honest communication creates conflict, reduces trust and forces people to rely on assumptions, wrongly judge and label other people’s action and behaviors. I find all of this to be unproductive, emotionally draining and a big contributor to toxic relationships that are not good for my peace of mind.

So, how do we foster safety in our personal and professional relationships? There is no simple answer to this question. We all deserve to feel safe.The things that trigger you and cause you to feel unsafe might be different from mine and will require different responses. To better understand your triggers, think about a time when you felt safe or unsafe and identify what was happening in that particular situation and how it made you feel . Doing so will help you develop greater self awareness and improve your abilty to avoid the triggers and manage your responses when psychological safety is lacking. Here are a few additional tips for you to consider:

  • Build trust by providing clear, consistent, and transparent information.
  • Work as team to make decisions towards a common goal.
  • Show respect by recognizing and understanding perspectives that differ from your own.
  • Practice resiliency by learning lessons from tough situations and choose to hope and heal.

None of these tips guarantee that we will always feel safe. Being safe is not about never taking risk, never being challenged by new perspectives or never being uncomfortable. Being safe is about feeling secure, feeling protected and feeling you can be responsive―no matter the environment or situation. But we cannot do it alone. We all need people to help us feel safe. So, surround yourself with people that will help you feel safer than not.

Until next time, Remember It’sALearningLife!

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What Vulnerability Really Means!

                                                                                

What Vulnerability Really Means
Frayed Rope

Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.     

Brene Brown, Rising Strong

Have you ever felt vulnerable?

Vulnerability is one of those touchy feely words that women fear, and men rarely admit to. However, being vulnerable is a crucial ingredient of forming true connections with others, communicating effectively, and building healthy relationships. Being vulnerable involves being honest and open about our emotions, feelings, fears, insecurities. And sometimes, being vulnerable is about asking people for help.

Like it or not, we have all been vulnerable to something or someone. But what exactly does vulnerability look like? In her book Dare to Lead, Brene Brown describes vulnerability as “the emotion that we experience during times of uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” Being vulnerable can make us feel raw, exposed, and uncomfortable, because it puts us in position for us to be seen by others at moments where we might not feel confident or be at our best. At the same time, being vulnerable can help us to practice self-acceptance, gain confidence in our own abilities to overcome hardships, and show empathy and compassion to others. However, there is no mistaking the fact that that being vulnerable is tough. Vulnerability requires us to trust that the person we are being vulnerable with, will not take advantage of us or use our vulnerability against us.

Myths vs Facts Call Out
Myths vs Facts Call Out

Six Myths of Vulnerability

Due to the real and perceived risks that come with being vulnerable, many of us struggle with it and avoid it at all costs. Being vulnerable is necessary part of connecting with ourselves and others. Being vulnerable helps us to get in touch with our own feelings and emotions and to seek and receive support. But, if being vulnerable is so important and beneficial, why do so many of us struggle with it? Answers to this question can probably be found in the hurt that people carry from past experiences and the common misperceptions that some people have about vulnerability. To better understand what being vulnerable means, let us look at what it does not, using the six common myths about vulnerability identified by Brene Brown.

  1. Vulnerability is weakness:  Have you ever choked up in a conversation or felt tears streaming down your face in while talking about something personal? I have. In fact, I used to feel embarrassed and annoyed that the more I wanted the stop the tears, the more freely they seemed to flow. In those moments, I have felt vulnerable, self-conscious, weak, and frustrated and that somehow it meant I didn’t have it all together. I was wrong. Feeling our emotions and expressing ourselves are healthy responses to dealing with difficult experiences. Being vulnerable takes courage and strength to share our thoughts and feelings with another person despite the fear of what they might say or that we will be judged. You can be vulnerable and strong.
  1. I don’t do vulnerability: Does the idea of being vulnerable scare you or make you uncomfortable? You’re not alone. When you’ve always had to be tough or to operate in “keep it together and push through mode”, it can be hard to embrace your vulnerable side. When we repress our emotions, we turn inwards and in some instances, we build walls that keep us isolated from others and hurting. From time to time, we all need to set our egos aside, take off the strong and tough person mask and open ourselves up to others for help and support- no matter how difficult it might feel. Afterall, we have all failed, made mistakes or done things that we aren’t proud of. In those moments, we need to surround ourselves with people who will listen, give us feedback, and offer comfort and support.  
  1. I can go it alone:  I know that we sometimes face situations that might lead us to the conclusion that it is better to go it alone. And there are times when this might feel like the best course of action. However, like the says goes “No man is an island, and no man stands alone.” Though this might seem cliche, we all need each other to get through the challenges and curve balls that life throws at us. So, from time to time, we need to reach out to our village for help and support and to lend a listening ear or helping hands as well. We build stronger and more intimate relationships with others when we can freely admit that we are not ok, when we are not o.k. For as the quote says – “What do we live for if not to make things a bit less difficult for each other?”
  1. You can be vulnerable without being uncomfortable:  There is no avoiding the discomfort that being vulnerable will make you feel. In our most vulnerable moments, we are likely to experience the fear of rejection, shame, guilt, abandonment, or judgment.  While the risks are real, when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we also open ourselves to the possibilities of love, compassion, acceptance, and support. So, think of being vulnerable as that weak muscle that you rarely ever exercise. Whenever you exercise it, it might feel sore for the first couple of days, but if you keep working it, the muscle becomes stronger and so do you. Embrace the discomfort of being vulnerable, it is a necessary part of the process.
  1. Trust comes before vulnerability: Most of us grew up hearing the stern warning to be careful of who we trust because the more we let people in or share, the greater the chance that they might hurt you. It’s no wonder then that some of us struggle with trust and intimacy in our relationships or find it hard to let our guards down. So, which comes first- is it trust or vulnerability? According to the research, the answer is not either or. It’s both. We need trust others to be vulnerable and we need to be vulnerable to build trust with others. Simply put, it you want people to trust you, you must be vulnerable and to be vulnerable you need to trust others. Tag you are it!
  1. Vulnerability means sharing all the private details of your life with everyone: While vulnerability requires honest and openness in communication, it isn’t about spilling your guts to everyone or oversharing information that might be inappropriate. It always important to respect and maintain personal and professional boundaries. You should only share what you feel safe to share and never put out information that might compromise you or put others at risk. So be smart and use common sense as you engage and connect with others.  

When all is said and done, deciding when we to be vulnerable and who we can be vulnerable are dilemmas that we will all face from time to time. However, don’t let the risks and perceived myths about what vulnerability means discourage you from doing so. The next time you find yourself in a challenging situation or have an opportunity to build a healthy and positive relationship (personal or professional) take a chance and exercise your vulnerability muscle. Because when you do, you and your relationships will thrive and become richer, stronger and more meaningful that ever before.

Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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How to Have Crucial Conversations: Resist Silence &Violence!

How to Resist Silence  and Violence
Lips Sewn By a Thread

In my last article, I wrote about the importance of Crucial Conversations and dialogue in maintaining healthy and positive relationships (personally and professionally) and how difficult and risky these discussions can be. Yet, one of the biggest reasons people struggle with crucial conversations or avoid them altogether is that they do not feel safe. According to the authors of Crucial Conversations, safety is an essential ingredient for crucial conversations and dialogue because when people feel safe, they can say anything. However, when safety is missing, people believe that they cannot express their opinions and feelings without feeling judged or fear that their voices will not be heard. And when people feel unsafe, they turn to unhealthy patterns of silence or violence which reduces the possibility for honest and meaningful dialogue or progress.

The authors of Crucial Conversations further explained that dialogue requires a free flow of information. But when people feel that their opinions and ideas won’t be accepted, they start to withdraw and hide (silence) or push too hard, (violence). Therefore, to help people feel safe in these crucial conversations, we must establish mutual purpose and mutual respect by letting the other person know that we care about them and their issue and that we have shared goals. When we make people feel safe in tough conversations, we can talk about anything, and people will listen. Afterall, if we don’t fear that we will be being attacked or humiliated, we can hear anything and not become defensive.

We All Deserve to Feel Safe and Respected- Quote
We All Deserve to Feel Safe and Respected Quote

How to Make People Feel Safe

For example, think about a time when you received corrective feedback that was really painful or uncomfortable. How did you react? If you trusted the person and felt they had your best interest at heart, the message (however difficult) might have been much easier to hear. But, if you didn’t trust the person giving you the feedback or questioned the motive behind the feedback, you are more likely to be offended, respond defensively and the communication would breakdown.

Once our emotions take over a conversation, things can get ugly and spiral out of control as voices get raised or become very quiet. One way for us to to avoid this is to practice self-awareness by noticing what we feel and what we do when we begin to get upset. Do we tense up, raise our voice, use sarcasm or do we just shut down and leave the conversation? Noticing our emotions and naming what we are feeling can help up better manage them emotions. It is also important for us to look out for signs that the other person might not feel safe and when their energy and tone begin to change. When we notice the energy of the conversation deteriorating, we should shift focus from the point we are trying to get across and attempt to restore safety to the conversation before we continue.

Plus in crucial conversations, how we discuss the issues or matter at hand is more important than the what we are discussing. Before we enter these conversations, we should check our emotions, assumptions, biases and start with positive intent, good will while focusing on the core issue(s). This is important since we cannot change or control others, we can only control ourselves. So, be ready to listen to the other person’s perspective, be authentic and show respect.

Mistakes to Avoid- Wooden Character
Mistakes to Avoid- Wooden Character

Mistakes to Avoid in Crucial Conversations

So, what does silence and violence look like in our everyday interactions and conversations? According to the authors, the three main ways in which we practice silence are masking, avoiding, and withdrawing.

  • Masking: This is when we minimize situations or selectively share our opinions and feelings. This can also involve using sarcasm, downplaying an issue or sugar coating to make something seem better than it really is.  
  • Avoiding: This is where two persons talk but deliberatively steer away from sensitive subjects. So, while they talk, they intentionally talk about everything but the real issue and the situation at hand remains unaddressed.
  • Withdrawing: This is where you literally check out of the conversation (mentally and emotionally) or physically pull out of a conversation or exit the room.

When it comes to violence, the most common ways that we do this is :

  • Controlling: This involves pressuring others to your way of thinking. It is done by either forcing your views on others or dominating the conversation. Methods include interrupting others, overstating the facts, using generalizations and absolutes, and changing the subject.
  • Labelling: This is where you put a label on people or ideas, so you dismiss them under a general stereotype or category.
  • Attacking: This one speaks for itself since it moves from winning the argument to making the other personal suffer. Tactics include belittling and threatening others with ultimatums or “tit for tat’ statements.
Communication, Dialogue, Conversation
Communication, Dialogue, Conversation

Five Skills for Effective Dialogue

So how do we avoid silence and violence and improve our skills to help us have better dialogue? According to the authors of Crucial Conversations, changing our behavior and patterns starts with the heart. Since we cannot fix anyone but ourselves, we must start with the man/woman in the mirror by examining our personal role in any problem we face. So rather than striving to look good, win, or achieve some other unhealthy objective, we need to ask ourselves, “What do I really want?” And while we don’t want to water down our message to make it easier for the other person to swallow, we must find a way to be confident but humble. And, we will also need to know how to speak without offending and be persuasive without being abrasive. All of this is necessary to help the other person(s) feel safe.

So here are five skills which the authors recommend to help us to confidently share our opinions in tough conversations and humbly and honestly invite others to do the same.

  1. Share your facts: Start with your observations. If you aren’t sure what your facts are, take the time to think about them before you enter a crucial conversation. Avoid jumping to conclusions and basing your crucial conversation on your emotions, judgements, or the stories you made up in your head. Facts are less insulting to other people, so start with the facts and then move to your story.
  • Tell your story: Sharing your story can be delicate process. Even if you started with your facts, the person could still become defensive when you move from facts to stories as you might have to point out negative conclusions about the other person. Nonetheless, do your homework to ensure that you can confidently and clearly use facts to back up your story.
  •  Ask for others path: Once you have shared your feelings and perspectives, it is important for you to invite the other person to do the same. Encourage them to share their facts, stories and feelings and be prepared to listen to what they might have to say. By being open to learning, you are both demonstrating humility.
  • Talk tentatively:  This means that we should tell our facts and stories as a story rather than as sharing it as a hard fact which is unchangeable. One way to talk tentatively is to pay attention to your choice of words. When sharing your story, try to strike a balance between being humble and confident. For example, instead of saying, “The fact is”, change it to “In my opinion”. This is important because while you are trying to get your views across, you cannot force it down another person’s throat.  Speaking in absolutes and overstating does not increase your influence, it decreases it.
  • Encourage testing: When you ask others to share their path, pay attention to how you do it because it can make all the difference. Not only should you invite others to talk, but you should also make it clear that no matter how controversial their viewpoint might be, you still want to hear them. People need to feel safe to share their stories especially when they differ from yours. We can disagree and still respect each other.

Ultimately, everyone is entitled to their own views and feelings as we experience and interpret the the things that happen to us and the world around us differently. The goal of crucial conversations is promote healthy and positive relationships through honest and meaningful dialogue. So, the next time you find yourself in a crucial conversation, resist the urge to turn to silence and violence and use the five skills to stay engaged in dialogue.

Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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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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