Recorded Intro/Welcome - Does your life look exactly how you want it to? Whether you feel like you’re too much or too little, you’re in the right place because, I think everyone has the potential to lean into what makes them authentically them and live better than they ever thought possible. Why? Because I’m doing it. I’ve taught people how to do it, and I can hardly wait to help you do the same, so come along and let’s unlock your “people puzzle” and make your life better than ever.
Live intro -Can four little agreements end all the strife in your life? You might be surprised at the answer. If you are sick and tired of the conflict and polarization in the world, come with me and explore these four simple agreements so you can stay true to yourself and handle even the toughest situations with grace and integrity. What are the 4 Agreements? They are Be Impeccable with your word Don’t take anything personally Don’t make assumptions Always do your best Practicing any one of these agreements can improve your life. Embracing them is a total game changer, so let’s talk about them. Hello my lovelies and welcome to the Moving Toward Better podcast. I'm your host, Karen Bemmes, from Moving Toward Better dot com, and I'm here to help you lean into what makes you authentically you, so you can live better each and every day, so let’s get into it.
The First Agreement in The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz is to Be impeccable with your word to speak with integrity, say only what you mean, and stop speaking against yourself or others. Whoo buddy! Can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone did just this one agreement? What would certain newscasters, pundits, social media personalities talk about? Imagine never speaking against yourself or others ever again. Instead, you talk about what you want to see in this world, things like peace, kindness, harmony, integrity, people taking responsibility for their own actions. You refrain from saying bad things about yourself or anyone else because according to the Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz says that with our words, we can create Heaven or Hell, and if you look around the world, it’s amazing how much we see that in action.This kind of talk is called black magic in the Toltec tradition, which is the tradition this book is based on. In Christianity, Jesus called this type of talk evil. From Islam, these types of words are called backbiting, and Buddhism has four parts of right speech that all support being impeccable with your word and refraining from talking badly about others. For me, this was one of the easier of the four agreements when it comes to other people. It took much longer to apply it to myself, and honestly, I had to start with not criticizing myself out loud, and every time I revisit this agreement, I find more ways to eliminate this kind of talk from my internal and external language. One of the most powerful exercises I found to change your normal patterns, especially if you’re prone to self-criticism, is to make it a practice to speak nicely to yourself every time you see your own reflection. How does that sit with you? If you immediately thought “Ew!” or “Ugh” I feel you, my friend. I was somehow conditioned to find every flaw when I looked in a mirror, and it took a long time to be able to use my words to lift myself up rather than run myself down. So, start small if you have to. Smile at yourself if you can’t bring yourself to say something nice. Compliment your outfit, how clean you got your teeth when you brushed. Find something and build on it, and before you know it, you might even be saying, as Louise Hay suggested, I love you. I really do. Trust me. When you get there, you will not only treat yourself better, you’ll treat everyone you meet better because you’ll have this understanding about how we’re all conditioned to use that black magic and ugly words against ourselves, but it’s part of my mission to help people look for better and this is a great place to start.
Agreement number 2 is a barn burner my friend. That agreement is - Don't take anything personally. Oof! I have to tell you, this was a tough one for me, but more of that in a minute. This agreement asks us to realize that what others say and do is a projection of their own reality and has nothing to do with us. Taking things personally allows them to affect your inner peace, which is actually your natural state. Now, as I said, this one was incredibly difficult for me. My first thought was, but what if it is personal? There are some really mean people out there, and here is where I learned from my friends of color, other ethnicities and sexual orientations. Every single one of them has learned that their value has nothing to do with anyone else’s opinion of them, and that is freaking powerful. Their communities have been attacked physically, mentally and emotionally for their entire existence, and to paraphrase Maya Angelou, yet they rise.
In the US especially, we have turned being offended and taking things personally into an art form. Let’s be honest, it’s why my given first name is a literal insult. Ugh! (Fun fact - there used to be this video, but I can’t find it anymore, it was about how to be a Karen. There are several more now, but the thing about this video was that I watched it and started laughing out loud because I knew someone just like that and to my chagrin, her name was Karen, but I digress.) Every news outlet out there looks for the subjects that will get the greatest reaction, and some of them have become incredibly adept at dividing us by race, political party, socioeconomic status, gender and more. Do you see how that works?
But what if we stopped taking things personally and started looking at them more dispassionately? I’ll give you an example. I saw a “study” recently that asserted that liberals are diagnosed with mental illness more than conservatives, especially in the 18-24 category. As you can probably guess, the spin of the article was that young liberals are mentally ill as a group. So, let’s look at that story. My first question would be whether liberal parents would be more likely to encourage their child or teen to see a counselor or therapist if they are having mental health issues. On the flip side, I would question whether conservative parents might encourage their children to seek guidance from a religious leader rather than seeing a mental health provider. Either or those, both of them or neither could be correct. In this case, we don’t have the data in the story. Nowhere does this “study” say how many people were polled, where they were polled or who conducted the study. Without that data, someone’s great uncle Geezer could have made up a story, tweeted it as a study, and people get in a tizzy over it, when it has zero merit as a story, but presented well, it gets conservatives all amped up about liberal youth being mentally unstable and it gets liberals amped up about their youth being attacked for something that has zero merit as a study.
Now, the book even goes so far as to say that even if someone ends your life, it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. Truthfully, I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it and I’m thinking it will take a while to get to that level, at least for me.
What’s really cool is how this agreement flows right into the next agreement which is…
Don't make assumptions: Now we’ve probably all heard the saying that you never assume because you make an ass of you and me. Why? Because by not making assumptions, you avoid misunderstandings and drama by asking questions and clarifying things instead of assuming you know what others are thinking or feeling. My friends, this is such an important thing to learn if you want good relationships in this world, but it also requires you to adhere to the first agreement, which is being impeccable with your word. How many of us have said we’re fine, when we’re not, leaving the other person to guess and assume what’s bothering us? I know I’ve done it because we assume, there’s that word again, that they “should” know, and “should" is probably one of the most toxic words in our language, seriously. No one should be expected know what you’re thinking or feeling unless you’ve just told them.
Now before you come at me, I get it. You’ve told your family to put their dishes in the sink 1,000 times, and yet you find dishes in your sink all the time. You’ve asked your coworkers to present their information a certain way, and it’s never quite the way you want, and it’s frustrating, but think about this. When you tell your family to put the dishes in the dishwasher, what do you tell them? It’s their job. It’s part of being a family or something like that. What you haven’t told them is that every time you see that bowl in the sink, you feel disrespected and ignored and like your family is treating you like a house elf (Harry Potter reference for those who are not well versed) because the thought of being that vulnerable is scary, but again, I refer you to the first agreement, which is being impeccable with your word. Notice that I didn’t say your family is being disrespectful or unkind, because maybe they’re not. Maybe they don’t think that having a clean sink is as important as you, so it’s your job to let them know that. By the way, when I finally told my family how I feel about dishes in the sink, it changed nearly 90% of the behavior, and when they do leave something in the sink, it’s usually because something needs to soak. Does it still happen occasionally? Yes, and I may have to remind them, especially my youngest, who still lives at home, but not much anymore. Honestly, humans are often awesome when we give them the chance to be, and speaking of awesome, that brings us to the 4th agreement.
Always do your best. There’s a very different energy to that than striving to be the best at everything. When you always do your best, you give your best effort, regardless of the outcome, and you let that be enough. By doing your best, you can avoid self-judgment and regret (and here we are, back at the 1st agreement again), and enjoy a sense of accomplishment and self-respect. What’s even better is that when you do your best, you encourage others to do their best as well, and you foster a spirit of collaboration rather than competition, especially toxic competition where people will sabotage each other rather than making whatever they’re working on better.
We’ve all been there, haven’t we? In the US education system, starting in junior high or middle school, which in the US starts at age 12 or 13, everything becomes a competition and comparison. We reward people who are naturally talented, which leaves those who either bloom later or those who work hard to overcome a lack of natural talent for certain things behind. This goes on for anywhere from 6 to possibly 14 years if the person gets a doctorate, and while some schools have eliminated the valedictorian and salutatorian at the high school age in the US, like my kids’ school did, many have not. Why did my kids’ school do that? Because they literally had over a dozen students with perfect grades even when weighted for advanced classes, plus, because music and arts classes are not weighted, they didn’t want students neglecting a well-rounded education for the sake of being a valedictorian or salutatorian. Interesting, no? After all of that competition, you step into the work world where you’re expected to collaborate without ever learning how, and we wonder why we have workplace culture issues. Duh!
It’s why asking a potential hire what their weakness is ridiculous too. They’re either going to lie, yep, we’re back to the first agreement, or they’re going to be honest leaving the person doing the hiring to make assumptions about how that deficiency will affect the job. No matter what the response, the interview violates one of the agreements. A much better question would be, “What skill would you like to improve in this position?” or “What is the thing you’d like to learn most in this position?” That would speak volumes about the person and encourage them to do their best if hired. How cool is that?
In our family when our boys were younger, we had this really cool daily ritual in the summer where we set a timer for 15 minutes every day, and we would all clean. Everyone did something that was age appropriate, and I assure you, a 3-year-old loves to dust with a feather duster or wipe down a door with a wet paper towel or rag. We had a deal. If the boys did their best, and we made good progress, when we finished, we did something fun. Some days we went swimming or to a local park. Sometimes we had a movie day. Some days we went to the zoo or a local amusement park where we had annual passes. It was never about perfection. It was about doing our best, and the truth is that my home was never cleaner or more organized than when my boys helped me out. They were 3, 6 and 9 when we started and didn’t stop until they were busy teenagers. To this day, I’m incredibly proud of how my boys do their best, and I have The Four Agreements to thank for helping me raise them to be that way.
I’ve had The Four Agreements book since 2002, and I’ve read at least parts of it every year since. Every few years, I read it front to back, and each time I find more and more wisdom in it. As you start to put the agreements into practice, you will see the most amazing changes in your life, and if you don’t, revisit this podcast or the ones that talk about the specific agreements as often as you need for a quick refresher, and finally, I want to issue you a challenge. Share this podcast with at least one person and ask them to join you in this challenge. Pick one of the agreements and commit to living it fully for the next month. Yes, you’ll make mistakes, but that’s part of the process. Just keep coming back to the agreement and recommit to living it every day. Then, the next month, commit to adding another agreement until you live by all of them most of the time because, let’s be honest, none of us is perfect. But, if everyone who sees this podcast shares it with someone who is willing to do this challenge with them, what kind of world would we create? In my opinion, a pretty freaking good one. Remember to hit subscribe and share, share, share this with someone who you can do the challenge with.
If you really want to see how amazing these agreements can be, stay tuned for what’s going to happen over the holidays. I’m working with one of my online besties to create a holiday support program to bring you the peace and joy you crave for the season, and I promise you, it’s life changing. We’ll be talking about that later this month, so make sure you subscribe to the podcast and join the email community by going to moving toward better dot com and clicking the button near the top of the page. All pertinent links are in the show notes, including a link to grab The Four Agreements book for yourself. Until next time, be impeccable with your word, don' take anything personally, don’t make assumptions, and always do your best, and let me know how that works out. Thanks for being you and have a great day!
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