The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

After reading online reviews of this book, I decided to join the bandwagon and buy it. This book is literally, as it states, practical. It’s a great read about how and why we may relate to the world as we do.

As you know, I am forever curious about human behaviour, emotion and interaction. I find it fascinating that we can change our habits, perspectives and mindset once we are exposed to a new way of living!

The Four Agreements are as follows:

  1. Be impeccable with your word.
  2. Don’t take anything personally.
  3. Don’t make assumptions.
  4. Always do your best.

I read this book in chronological order. Surprisingly, it helped to read each practical guide in this way. To digest the information and apply it accordingly takes time and patience.

If you’re anything like me, curious about human behaviour and finding ways to improve the way we treat others, I’d definitely recommend this book. Below, we can look at each Agreement and how I personally used them to improve my life. I’ve also included a link to the book so you can try these out for yourself!

1. Be impeccable with your word.

This was an interesting agreement. Ruiz defines this simply as not gossiping about others.

When we’re so engrossed in other people’s lives, it doesn’t give us much space to practice self-awareness or empathy for others. We can get caught in a cycle of rumours about people we probably don’t know too well. What’s the point? Not only is this harmful for others, it sets a negative tone in our own minds.

Say what you mean and mean what you say.

As we are emotional beings, there are many moments that we can lose our cool or spit out the wrong thing at the wrong time. That’s normal. Paying attention to the way we think and speak can help alleviate awkward foot-mouth situations.

2. Don’t take anything personally.

This agreement really hit home for me. Ruiz explains this rule simply: what other people say and do are a projection of their own reality.

When someone would correct my mistakes, it felt like a personal attack. The story re-played in my head: “I don’t know anything, of course I made a mistake. I can’t do anything right.” I struggled with self-confidence and self-doubt. I was told often that I didn’t know anything, so I believed it.

If I could remove the attachment to another’s words, I wouldn’t find myself in this toxic cycle of pain and belittling.

I fought so hard, for so long to begin changing my mindset. Changing a story we’ve told ourselves for years is difficult to say the least. It’s confronting. It will always be a work in progress. But progress is still progress! That’s a win!

3. Don’t make assumptions

Yet another agreement that resonated deeply for me. I was beginning to think that this book could address universal social/personal problems with unbelievable ease.

The way my brain has been wired, unfortunately jumps straight to conclusions.

Although expecting the worst may prepare us for certain challenges, it doesn’t help in daily life.

Assuming the worst about others or ourselves is sabotaging. It can affect how we trust others and maintain relationships.

Instead of making assumptions, ask. Having difficult conversations have been a struggle for me. I will say after years of working through my fears and building up my confidence, asking to clarify something has improved my life exponentially.

It can be difficult to know the line between clarifying a topic/opinion and starting a fire. So tread lightly while putting this agreement in practice. Our laundry doesn’t need to be aired to the general public.

Change first starts with you. So instead of replaying an assumption in your head, remind yourself that there is no evidence for it. If that person/group of people have not expressed their dislike toward you, don’t assume they do. Of course, we can tell through behaviour and social settings how someone may feel toward us. If it is hurtful or toxic, then leave.

4. Always do your best

This agreement was the easiest to digest for me. Growing up, I knew that my best was the only option.

I learned that nobody is perfect. We make mistakes and we may hurt others in the process. I learned that our best may not ever be good enough to some people. That’s okay. Take the lesson and move forward.

Of course, being hard on ourselves isn’t the way to go about accomplishing all our goals. There must be balance between work and play.

Doing your best can look different when comparing to another person, so just focus on living life according to your best ability. Our best effort changes from moment to moment. For example, we cannot expect the same quality of work or productiveness when we’re sick. Be mindful of yourself and others.

At the end of the day, if you know you tried your best, you’re saving yourself from your own and even others’ judgement. No one can take that away from you. Stand tall in your accomplishments!

Have you read this book yet? If so, which agreement did you resonate with most? What did you find challenging?

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4 Ways To Become A Better Listener

4 Ways To Become A Better Listener

It all started in primary school: a friend shared a harrowing experience with me and since kids love to share differences and find commonality, I thought this was part of normal conversation. However, over the next decade, I’d come to realise one of my strengths would be listening to another’s stories, achievements and struggles that others may not hear in “normal” conversation.

Fast-forward to high school: throughout my senior years, people would pull me aside to let me know about something they’re struggling with. Sometimes I would be shocked, confused, heartbroken or overwhelmed for them. But I was also thankful that they felt comfortable enough to share these things with me. Most of the time, my friends just needed a listening ear. By the end of a short conversation, they’d say they felt much better.

Listening to another’s story takes empathy, patience and an open mind.

So how can we honour someone when they share their story with us?

1

Show kindness to the people around you. Perhaps make some new friends. You might be surprised what another has been through. You might even learn a thing or two!

I do my best to show my friends that I value them by making time to support them in their time of need.

2If someone is telling you about a personal experience, struggle or achievement, constantly checking your phone/laptop/computer/electronic device can be really hurtful. If you make the decision to hear someone out, be there for the whole story.

Another way of being present, is asking inquisitive questions: what happened after you said _____? How did you feel when you achieved _______? Were you able to follow up with ________ about _________?

When we are present, we can have engaging and enriching conversations with each other.

3Yes, we’ve all got a story, but that is not an automatic invitation for you to tell them how much more you’re hurting.

Unless sharing common experiences benefits the person you’re listening to, allow them to speak without minimising their pain. Saying things like “I’ve been through that before, you’ll be fine!” or “Been there, done that!” are not helpful for some to hear.

When someone confides in you, brushing off their pain can come off as insensitive and in some instances, rude.

However, keep in mind that some people appreciate lightheartedness – just gauge what’s needed from previous conversations with that person.

4.pngLike any skill, it takes practice! For some of us, listening comes naturally and for others, listening can be difficult — either way, that’s okay.

We all have different personalities and personal experiences that may influence how we relate to others. By practicing our conversational skills and exercising empathy, we can greatly improve our listening skills.

These days, I straight up ask if what I say is hurtful or helpful. I like to be crystal clear that my words were received the way I intended them. If that wasn’t the case, I either:

  • Apologise.
  • Ask for clarification on what they said.
  • Admit I’m unsure on what to say.
  • All the above!

Just keep practicing the last three tips, and you’re bound to have better conversations with those you care about!

Showing kindness, being present, practicing new skills and avoiding phrases that minimise pain can help improve how we listen to one another. I hope you found these tips useful!

When have you felt ‘heard’ by another person? What did they say or do that made you feel listened to or understood?

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