Can the Four Agreements Save Your Holiday Season?
I used to think that everyone wanted a stress free Holiday Season. Unfortunately, it seems like some people thrive on the stress of the season, and if they don’t see any, they’ll create it. Today, though, we’re talking to the ones who want less stress, more peace, more joy, and more fun and how to deal with those who are causing the chaos.
Nothing sounds better to me than a holiday season that circumvents the drama and promotes a peaceful and stress free season no matter what anyone else does.
Sounds like a fairytale, right?
While the holidays can bring out the worst in some people, there are simple and effective ways to deal with and overcome other people and their behavior. So let’s get into it, because I love this stuff. In fact, beyond what we’re talking about today, I may turn this into a series of ways to promote peace and reduce stress through the holiday season, if not this year, definitely next.
For those who are new to the Moving Toward Better podcast, my name is Karen Bemmes, and I am a personality expert and lover of all things “woo”. Today I am combining those two talents to talk about how we can use the principles in the book, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, to create a better holiday season for ourselves and everyone around us.
I’m going to talk about things that include reducing stress and looking at life from a different perspective. I want to state that I am not a mental health professional, and if you find any of this triggering, please consult the mental health practitioner of your choice to resolve issues that are more complex and require professional help to heal. The information in this episode is not a substitute for professional help for those who need it.
With this in mind I can truly say that The Four Agreements are amazingly simple, and can change your life for the better almost instantly.
That’s the good news.
Simple isn’t always easy.
That’s the bad news, but merely being aware of these principles can help you create the best holiday season you’ve had in a long time, especially if your holidays are usually filled with stress and chaos.
I know this sounds too good to be true, but I promise you it’s amazingly powerful, and anyone can apply them starting immediately.
So what are these simple agreements?
Agreement #1 is Be impeccable with your word
Have the holidays ever completely failed to live up to your expectations?
Have you ever failed to live up to your expectations?
We’ve all had those challenging holiday seasons when we wonder if all the effort is worth it.
Unfortunately, this is often because of one simple misstep.
We didn’t communicate or worse, we didn’t communicate the truth.
That’s going to tick some people off, but I’m going to call this one out because it does no one any good.
If you are a woman who has gotten overwhelmed with the planning and execution of the holiday season, I would bet money that you’ve told someone that you or everything is fine when it wasn’t or you weren’t.
I’m not calling this out to judge you, friend, because I’ve been there and done that. I’m merely stating that when we do this, we are not being impeccable with our word.
Think about the last time you were disappointed about the holidays.
Did you ask for what you wanted or did you expect people to know?
Did you say nothing because you other people “should” know what you want and what you’re thinking?
What a burden to put on your loved ones and yourself because if they should be able to know, so should you, and none of us knows what people are thinking all the time. That’s exhausting and impossible.
What if this year you put your silent expectations aside and focus on being impeccable with your word?
If you want something, ask for it. If you have expectations, talk to your loved ones about it ahead of time. That way you can have the conversation before the heightened stress of the holiday season when everyone is more likely to say things that they might wish they hadn’t.
You may not get it by having these conversations, but without asking, people will do what they want without regard to your feelings, not because they don’t love you, but because they’re thinking about their needs first.
That isn’t a criticism.
It’s just human nature, which makes these conversations so much more important.
In The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz says words are magic.
You use words to spread love and truth, which is white magic, or you use them to spread gossip and talk badly about others or yourself, which is black magic.
According to The Four Agreements, how you use your words creates Heaven or Hell.
For the holidays, that means a stress free Christmas or a miserable one, which means you have more control over this than you might think.
When you refuse to tear people down and instead, build them up with your words, life gets better. When you speak what you want instead of everything you don’t want, life gets better.
So do the holidays.
One word of caution, there are some people who say incredibly unkind things and call it truth.
That bluntness often goes straight into cruelty.
That is not being impeccable. That is black magic.
Impeccable means in accordance with the highest standards of propriety, and that’s a tall order, I know.
I remember once having a conversation with a group of women about whether you would rather tell a polite lie or the impolite truth.
I was shocked at how many people chose the polite lie. In fact, in that room, I was the only person who chose the impolite truth.
So I asked them if their mother was wearing a hideous outfit and asked how she looked, would they say she looked good when she looked ridiculous?
The answers included yes, I would ask her if she likes it, and if she said yes, I would tell her that she should wear it, and absolutely.
I was flabbergasted. Then they asked me what I would say, and I said I would tell my mom that I thought she had better outfits to wear that are more complementary.
I remember once that someone said that if you always told the truth, you never had to worry in the future about remembering what you said, and I’ve honestly found that to be true. But, there’s a way to speak the truth and not be a jerk in the process.
It’s not always easy to be impeccable with your word, to speak with integrity and still be kind and hold yourself to high standards with your language, and you may slip, but start practicing this amazing agreement today, and see where it takes you.
Next we move on to the second agreement, and I have thoughts about this one.
Agreement #2 is Don’t take anything personally
That’s a biggie, isn’t it?
Nearly everyone has someone in their life who gets under their skin and enjoys seeing them fail.
They never have anything nice to say, but they have plenty of critical comments and snide remarks, and it feels so personal when they do that.
Has it ever occurred to you that nothing those people say or do has anything to do with you?
The first time I read that in The Four Agreements, I nearly threw the book across the room.
There were a couple of people in particular who were extremely personal in their criticism and actions toward me and made my life miserable.
I could not imagine not taking their criticism personally, but I decided to try looking at things from that perspective, and friends, I have to tell you, it was life changing.
When you start looking at what people do and say as a reflection of them instead of a reflection of you, it completely changes your view of “reality”.
I began to see how what others say and do directly relates to their thoughts and beliefs.
If they’re filled with love, they speak lovingly.
If they’re filled with anger, hurt or fear, they speak very differently.
There’s that black magic The Four Agreements talks about again.
If you accept their black magic words, you get off balance.
Again, I’m not saying it’s easy, because I’ve struggled mightily with taking things personally in my life, but the more I practice it, the more I see it, and honestly, the better I feel about myself.
So that means that nothing your cranky in-laws or very own parents say matters because what they say and do is completely about them, not you. Does that change your perspective on things you may have heard in the past?
It sure did for me.
So how in the world do you get to the point where you can keep from taking things personally?
Some of you are not going to like what I’m about to say because it’s the last thing you want to do.
You practice forgiveness.
Now, let’s start by saying that forgiveness is not saying that what people do or say is ok. That’s a manipulative tactic used by people to excuse bad behavior. This forgiveness comes from realizing that most of the hurtful things that people say come from ignorance, and we get to choose whether we want to engage.
Forgiveness in this sense is releasing your attachment to the idea that the past could have been any different. It’s turning away from focusing on what could or should have been and moving beyond what did.
Look, I’m not suggesting that if there’s abuse that you just say it’s ok and move on. In fact, I’m a huge believer that if you have those things in your life, it’s best to talk to a professional in the mental health field to help you deal with that because I am not a mental health professional as I said earlier.
What I am suggesting is that in situations that don’t require professional help, you have choices.
I love the quote that you don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to. I will say yet again, that it’s a process to get to the point that you can sit in peace when others are speaking their black magic, but it can be done.
Instead of challenging peoples’ beliefs, you see their anger and defensiveness, and refuse to defend or attack.
You stay impeccable with your words and keep your dignity intact.
Easier said than done?
Try it and see.The things you figure out while seeing people for who they are is astounding, and it can be such a rush when you do too.
However, that comes with a caution because of the third agreement which is:
Agreement #3 – Make no assumptions
This beautiful agreement combined with the first agreement is as pure as white magic gets.
It requires courage to ask for what you want and to ask questions to avoid misunderstandings and drama.
It also takes strength and courage to ask for clarification when you aren’t sure what someone else means.
Especially in these days of social media, texting and emails, it’s incredibly easy to misunderstand someone’s tone, especially when you only know them through the screen.
Honestly, I have struggled with this even with people I gave birth to and raised to adulthood.
When you make assumptions, you act as if you know another’s point of view, what they’re thinking and how they’re feeling.
You judge others based on those assumptions, so you can reject them before they reject you.
By being impeccable with your word and refusing to make assumptions, you respect yourself and others and might transform the holidays into a joy filled rather than joyless endeavor.
There is one very important thing that I want to share about this agreement.
I was watching a video about neurodivergent people, and I learned something fascinating.
Being someone with ADHD and a lover of people, I am truly interested in why people do things the way they do them. I was watching a video recently that was talking about the question, “Why did you do it that way?”
In the video, the speaker explained that when people asked that question it had completely different meanings for neurodivergent versus neurotypical people.
When neurodivergent people ask this question, they truly want to know why you did something. The information you give them tells them more about you and how to relate to you.
It is literally a question that is designed to help them understand you and relate to you better.
When neurotypical people ask this question, it tends to be a way of saying you did something wrong and you better explain why you did it that way so I won’t be angry with you.
As a neurodivergent person, I had this out of body type experience where I thought about how many times I said that to someone and they got upset with me, and I never knew why. I honestly wanted to know why they did what they did. There was no judgment in it, and if I understood this sooner, it might have avoided a lot of sticky situations, so if you’re someone a neurodivergent person has ever said this to, and you thought they were being critical, please understand that odds are, they weren’t, and in the future if someone does that, ask them if they want to know why or understand why. A neurotypical person wants to know why you did it a certain way. A neurodivergent person wants to understand why you did it a certain way. They want to understand your thought process because they know that theirs is often different from others, and they can learn so much from learning from you.
The cool part of this agreement is that even if someone is being critical or judgmental when they ask you this question regardless of whether you want to take the time to explain or not, you can think that maybe that person is neurodivergent and they actually want to learn from you. Don’t assume anything, but consider the option.
And this leads beautifully into the next agreement.
Agreement #4 is Always do your best
This agreement is a tricky one because people mistake doing their best for doing everything perfectly and without mistakes.
This agreement is that you do your best, not be the best.
My favorite story about this during the holidays was when my youngest was in preschool and wanted to decorate the Christmas tree by himself. We made a deal that I would put the fragile ornaments on the top, and he could do what he wanted with the bottom with our sturdier ornaments.
Y’all, he put about 20 ornaments on one side of the tree and about 2 on the other and said he was done. I asked him if he was tired and wanted me to put the rest of the ornaments on the tree for him. He said no and that he was finished, and he liked the way the tree looked, and from the look on his face, I could see how proud he was of what he had done.
I cannot tell you how many people asked me why I didn’t “fix” it later, and here’s why. Every time that little one walked into that room, he absolutely beamed. He was so proud of what he had done, and just because he didn’t do it the way I would have done it, it wasn’t for me to fix. To “fix” it would mean sucking the joy out of season for him, and I was not going to do that, and truthfully, it’s one of my absolute favorite holiday memories.
I know not every personality type could do what I did. I’m looking at you C personality fans, but you’re also not the type to make that kind of a deal in the first place, so to that I say you do you boo.
The point is to do your best, and both my youngest and I did that.
So, what if every day during this holiday season, you did your best and then let go of the day so you could have your best day again tomorrow?
What if you refuse to judge, abuse and berate yourself no matter how the day turns out?
Maybe you talk to yourself like you’re someone’s child because you are.
Maybe you pretend you are your best friend and you treat yourself with humor. Better yet, ask your best friend what they would say to you in any given situation when you fail at being perfect.
Whatever it takes, forgive yourself and do your best again the next day.
If you’re like me, you have your lists, knowing if everything doesn’t happen the way you hope, you have still done your best.
And every year, you get a little bit better at knowing your limits, putting realistic expectations on yourself and creating a holiday season and a life that you adore.
Can you imagine having a holiday season that makes you happy to get out of bed in the morning?
There was a time I couldn’t, but these Four Agreements have helped me develop into a person who lives a life of kindness, integrity and so much more.
Is life perfect? Nope! And if you don’t believe me, check out the Moving Toward Better Facebook Page and the live I did on November 13, 2023.
You’ll see that my life is far from perfect, and that is perfectly ok.
So What’s Next?
If you haven’t read The Four Agreements, do it.
It’s 138 pages packed with wisdom and you can read it in a day or two.
I first read it in 2002.
I wish I kept track of how many times I re-read it since then because each time I learn something new or understand one of the principles in a different way.
They sound simple, and they are, but simple is not necessarily easy, although it gets easier with practice, I promise.
Anyone can be impeccable with their word, stop taking things personally, stop making assumptions and always do their best.
The key is to do it consistently, especially during the holidays.
That’s how you create your own stress free Christmas.
If you’re listening to this before November 16th 2023 there’s a way you can get personalized help with the holidays and make them your best ever as you put these agreements in place.
Simply grab the Happiest Holidays Bundle, and upgrade to the Happiest Holidays community with the link in the show notes or go to the Moving Toward Better home page and click the red button on the right. It’s a great way to have your best holiday season working with some amazing experts dedicated to helping you get through these holidays with less stress and more peace and joy.
If you missed it, hopefully you’ll join us next year.
Until next time, keep up the great work and keep moving toward better. Love you all!
Do you love the holidays or dread them? These four simple agreements can change everything for the better during the holidays and beyond. I’m so excited to share this with you, so listen up and share with everyone who needs support to get through the holiday season.
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Intro and Outro music licensed from Melody Loops.
Applying this to the holidays, this can be tricky because some of you are introverts and all the socializing of the holiday season is exhausting for you. I get it. I’m married to an introvert who couldn’t care less if he never went to another holiday party.
The thing is that I like holiday parties, but I’m much more social than my husband, so we have a deal.
I go to whatever parties I want to, and I have a great time, but I don’t like walking to and from my car, so my husband often drives me to and from the party and drops me at the door.
He doesn't have to attend the party, and I don’t have to walk to the car in the dark by myself, and we’re both happy. I love a win-win.