I recently watched a documentary entitled Happy. Contrary to my single objective when deciding to watch Happy and much to my dismay, I was not happy thereafter. As summarized in this documentary, it would seem only retirees in Japan or Hawaii and hippies living in community compounds truly find happiness. Not what I was hoping to discover, as I am not a beach person nor am I going to cook for 10 families once a week and share a bathroom with 5 other women down at the community compound. I would benevolently accept that I was doomed to being unhappy for the rest of my life. Imagine then, how pleasantly intrigued I was when my Mom came over for our weekly coffee and yoga and announced “you can be instantly happy, Sarah. It is so cool how!”
You can be instantly happy. And it is SO cool how!
She then pulled out a small framed piece of paper. Initially I thought, okay this is really cute of Mom. She’s always been so crafty and extremely cute. Like the time I told her how tired I had been from work, and the next time I saw her she brought over a flower, reusable Keurig cups, a mini-spoon – the size for afternoon tea with the Queen – and small teapot shaped holder for said mini spoon. And while cute, the framed paper was just what the doctor had called for. Nicely framed sat before my eyes, the four agreements.
“Have you heard about the four agreements? Agreements that we make with ourselves and for ourselves. And I’m telling you, if you do these 4 things, it will change your life.” My Mom exclaimed.
I hadn’t heard of them, though I do have a mindfulness book that needs dusting …and reading. I took a look down at the agreements and quickly read them. “Hmm, I thought. This could make a lot of sense.” These Four agreements are meant to be four agreements with your self that are unencumbered and disjointed from the actions or expectations of any other.
Agreement 1: I will be Impeccable with my word
As kids we learned to respond to sandbox bullies with the following rhyme: Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. Unfortunately that is not true. Not by a long stretch. Words dig into our unconscious minds and can act as a poison in the most unexpected of places. They take root, and like GA kudzu take over everything.
With my kids we talk about this often. Not calling each other stupid, don’t talk negatively or talk about people (a.k.a gossip). But we have also talked about not doing these things to yourself. Words truly have the power to heal or destroy and we use them more often than we are aware. Try and speak only what you mean. If your anger or hurt takes you to a place where that is hard to do, try understand what you are truly upset about rather than defaulting to more hurtful words. Try to rebuild that moment for yourself or with the other instead of continuing to break down.
Agreement 2: I will not take things personally
I wrote on a sticky note several years back; ‘this was not the Sarah show’. I wrote that because I can be emotionally needy. A lot of this comes from my past. Some of it is human nature. It’s natural to internalize what happens to us in the moment. But nothing that anyone does or says has anything to do with us. Every person is master of their own ship and choices are made independent of others. What others say and do is a projection of their desires, their hurts, their focus, their defense mechanism and even their ability to address a situation in that timeframe or not. Unchaining ourselves from interpreting someone else’s very complicated and ulterior motives frees us from needless suffering. Don’t take it personally and move on.
Agreement 3: I will not make assumptions
Recently I had a little argument with the hubby. After work he and the kids were out. I assumed they were our having fun without the drama of a continued argument. I hadn’t planned on a continuing argument but after coming home to an empty house, I was upset again. When I called my husband he mentioned that they were ‘just out’ and they’d be home ‘whenever’. Didn’t make me happy to hear that. I assumed he was still angry. I didn’t think the argument was that serious. But my assumption that he was angry, made me angry. Ten minutes later hubby and kids show up with some beautiful Cacti. (My favorite house plants)
What we imagine is far too often more terrifying than reality. Don’t make assumptions. Be brave enough to ask the right questions if something is on your mind or bothering you. When we are free to ask questions we not only allow another person the freedom to honesty, we allow ourselves to discover the reality of things from which to start from.
Agreement 4: I will always do my best
This one is more fluid than the others. Our best is going to change from moment to moment and situation to situation. Sometimes we have all the support, time, skill, health and resources available to knock the ball out of the park. Sometimes we are lacking in any one or all of those needs and instead knock the ball straight into an outfielder’s mitt. But if we always do our best under any circumstance, we will avoid self judgement, regret and self persecution.
Stuff happens in life and in work alike… adopting these four agreements can help us navigate them with integrity, boldness and wisdom.