Question everything, even yourself.


donmiguel

Be Skeptical, but learn to listen.  The last and final Agreement makes you slow down and hear what is really being said, not just by other people , but in your own mind too.

We have our heads screwed on backwards.  As you begin minding the first four agreements, you start wondering exactly how this happened.  We’re cornered in these little boxes, trying to make everyone happy but ourselves, not saying what we mean, wondering what others mean, assuming intent, and half heartedly committing to life because we never want to put ourselves out there and experience failure.  It’s ok to want more and different in life.  But we’ve been guilted and coerced into conformity by well meaning friends and family who don’t intend to harm us, yet don’t know any better.  We get into bad habits of tearing others down, speaking ill against them, and an even worse habit of speaking ill against ourselves.  Our negative self talk is out of control.  We impose limits on our dreams and abilities without ever testing our full natures because we can’t get our bassackwards selves out of the mucky muck.

As I sit here, I think of some of my mentors and what they have shown me that has truly saved my life.  I don’t mean like I was standing in front of an oncoming car, get pushed aside to safety saving.  I mean I was standing in a dark room, tongue tied and blindfolded with obstacles all over the floor, getting in the way of me finding the exit door.  And little by little, someone clears a path, another removes the blindfold, and finally someone cracks open the door so I can see the outline of light in the dark and find my way out. These heroes all live by the five agreements.  Their word has value, they say what they mean. They aren’t victims, they take nothing personally and they assume nothing. More often, they make me clarify to avoid confusion.  They always do their best, and they LISTEN.

There are some moments that were turning points for me, that emphasize the agreements. If you’re not sure what these agreements are – if you are new to this blog, this post is the last of 5 that reviewed the lessons from The Fifth Agreement.

Slow down – stop rushing.  I was trying (ack there’s that word, but it’s past tense) to do so much, and I couldn’t do it all.  So what I did was piss poor jobs on lots of things, instead of stellar jobs on a few things. I couldn’t effectively communicate because I was rushing to conclusions and assuming things without stopping to understand.

Don’t respond immediately and sometimes for the heck of it, say no.  I was so used to being a customer service all-star.  Immediate, positive, complying responses.  Always the helpful one, always working, always adding to my plate. This was a tough one!  I almost fell out of my seat considering it.  Make people WAIT? But I wasn’t taking the time to listen to myself, to my needs, to my time restrictions, and I was overtaxed and getting (ok already was) resentful.  Pausing, and waiting to respond lets communication flow better, and lets both parties in the transaction walk away happier.  It took a while to retrain the people around me.  They would say, hey do you have some time?  I’d say no. They’d keep talking.  And I would just have to giggle.  It was out of the realm of possibility that I would say no!  The first time I actually said, “no, I can’t help with that”…I felt like the earth was going to open up and swallow me whole, but afterwards, I felt so free!  And I’ve begun asking more questions.  Do me a favor used to get a “Sure!” from me.  Now it’s a “what do you want?”  I don’t mean be rude.  I just mean, protect your valuable time and energy so that you can Always Do Your Best, Be Impeccable with your Word and Not Make Assumptions.

Stop using noncommittal words like sure, okay and try.  They are not truly affirmative, they are noncommittal and they make a liar out of you when you don’t intend to follow through.  They break the first rule, Be Impeccable With Your Word. They are also words that would tempt others to assume your intent – we don’t just want to avoid assuming ourselves – we want to make our intentions clear to others to help clear chaos and confusion from all of our transactions with other humans.

Ask more questions. Become a master at asking questions. It’s as if we are in a battle, a war against chaos and confusion.  Once someone removes your blindfold and opens the door and you can see clearly and communicate and think with purpose, then it’s natural that you should pay it forward. Help people out of their miasma.  Clarify, be specific.  It will keep you both from Making Assumptions, and it will keep anyone from Taking things Personally.  Do yourself and them the favor of slowing down, asking more questions and having clear, direct conversations that leave no room for misunderstanding.

WHY?  Why do I think I have to blah blah blah, why do I feel responsible for everything, why do I think like this? Why do I stress about the outcome of everything?  Why not be happy with the right here and right now in life, and DO MY BEST at the task at hand.  WHY live in the future and the past and be a shadow of myself in the moment instead of being fully present and meaning everything I say?

Think bigger. Some of the lies we must question are the lies that we tell ourselves, or have been told to us.  For centuries women were told we weren’t good at math or science, so we weren’t.  Until one man broke the 5 minutes mile, no one could run it faster, but as soon as he did, so did many others.  Our own lies imprison us and keep us from doing more and becoming more. Sometimes these are just lies we have heard over and over.  I had a friend in high school whose parents always told her she was too slow and not book smart enough to go to college.  The minute we’d start on homework she would mumble that she wasn’t book smart.  It was a recording she was repeating over and over.  It was such bullshit.  And I was mad about that, but until someone asked me to question my own lies and my own limitations, I didn’t even realize I did the same thing to myself!  So be skeptical – not just of other people, but even of yourself!  Is it YOU, or your ego running your internal dialogue?

It’s almost impossible to separate the five agreements.  They all bleed together.  Each one builds upon and reinforces the other.  I am not a perfect person.  I don’t live by them 100% of the time,  but I know that when I do honor the agreements, life is better.  The lessons learned from the book, which simply give a name and context to the lessons my mentors teach, truly enlighten your life.  Enlighten: to make lighter.  When the agreements aren’t honored, confusion, misunderstanding and resentment are a heavy burden. When they are honored, there is less baggage.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series.  If you’ve received value, please comment and share.  I’d love your feedback and I can’t stress enough that you should BUY THE BOOK. That links you right to the author’s storefront. Don Miguel first wrote “The Four Agreements,” then wrote “The Fifth Agreement” with his son.  The value is so much more than the price of the book.  Happy reading!

The 5 agreements

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I can and I will – secrets to happiness


IcanandIwill

A few days ago I earned a trip to Paris for two with my company.  I had already earned it for one, but going without my husband was not an option.  Believe me, I am ecstatic that I get to go back to that amazing city, one of my favorite places in the world, but I am not surprised.  I’ve made goal setting and achievement my business and a habit.  And honestly, it’s not so much a forced habit as an addiction.  I read something a friend posted about trying to earn the same trip, and it made me really sad – she said something along the lines of almost being close to the goal, but she’d never really intended on earning it, but now that she was close, she would try.  Excuse me, but WTF?

I try to learn as much as possible about being happy, about achieving, about growing as I can, and I can tell you even from my novice perspective, not really intending on achieving something is a sure fire way NOT TO.  And if you want to be happy in life, you should start setting some goals NOW.  And I don’t mean little goals. I mean big scary goals that make your guts ache a little.

In our brains, there is a section called the substantia nigra/ventral segmental area or SN/VTA.  It’s the “novelty center” of our brain and releases dopamine when we encounter new things.  Dopamine makes us happy.  Doing new things makes us happy. Here’s a real life situation:  My husband is a creature of habit, and while generally a nice and happy guy, he’s not on fire about things – usually.  Fortunately, his old company shut down, and he lost his job.  While he was training for his new job, he would come home every day and he would not shut up about all the things he was learning.  He brought home books to do extra study, he looked at websites, he talked to me nonstop, and he was so friggin happy! He was like a kid on Christmas morning going over all his new presents.  He was truly happy and blossoming.  I’d read about this chemical happiness from new challenges, but never noticed it happening before.  It was so fun to watch! That release is what triggers us to want more new things, because then we get another release.  Silly visual – I like to think of it like a hamster that has figured out the release trigger for his treats.

Or maybe look at it as a video game of life.  Remember playing Nintendo when you were a kid?  And you’d beat one level and mom or dad would come in and say turn it off….NOOOOOO one more level.  New thing=dopamine release.  Want to know what’s next?  Winning new thing=more dopamine, plus endorphins, plus oxytocin plus seratonin.  One more level.  Gotta get the next fix…  Scientists actually think the reason children learn to speak languages so quickly is tied to these neural chemical cocktails of happiness.

It’s a beautiful addiction.  New things are great! but achievement is BETTER.  The act of setting a goal and truly working on it, in and of itself creates happiness.  And we could keep talking science, we could even just say that your soul thrives on it, because it does.  The Japanese call it ikigai: that which I wake up for.  It’s these goals and causes that fuel our hearts and souls and set us on fire.  We anticipate not just the reward, but we enjoy the journey.

Why can’t it be a simple goal?  Because with a simple, easily achieved goal, there is no effort.  The mind feeds on that effort and the feeling of achieving those scary big goals is like none other.  I remember the first time I earned a trip with my company, I yelled in my office, but to me it felt like a lion’s roar.  When you set hard goals that are outside your comfort zone, it gives you authentic self esteem:  the true belief that you can and will.  The true belief in your abilities and powers and talents.  If you don’t test them, how do you know the limits?  I have not found mine yet…and I bet you won’t either when you really try.

I learned from Dr. Adam Fraser that in Goal Orientation Theory there are three drivers in people. 1 – the desire to WIN.  A very powerful one. You can see this anywhere from a game of Life around your kitchen table to a high school football game.  Even the audience wants to win!  2. Mastery – the desire to improve all the time, to master a new task, to complete a hard goal.  This is the driver that will let you wake up every day to put in a little more effort towards your dreams and desires.  This is what major athletes and CEOs and leaders live by.  Don’t let yourself be content with driver 3 – the desire simply not to lose.  If that is where your goal setting comes from, you will set tiny goals that don’t push you outside your comfort zone, because that third driver is fear based.  And there are only two things that you should really fear: loud noises and falling.  Everything else is just your ego talking.

So when you set a goal try to do these three things:

FOCUS – make sure that your goal is specific, and that you have reminders of your specific intentions everywhere – (notes on your mirror, goals on paper near your desk, write them down on the top of your daily calendar, or even make your commonly used passwords whatever your goal is).

STAY POSITIVE – if you’ve been reading along, you know that what you think about comes about.  Right now I could say, “my goal is to climb Mt. Everest.  But if my hearts’ not in it, and I don’t really think I can – I’ll keep saying “yah but that’s never gonna happen” in the back of my head, and then it won’t.  You have to keep those positive thoughts in your mind all the time. And if you aren’t feeling it – find a tool that helps you get there. Talk to a good friend, listen to a motivational cd, or go onto YouTube and just search motivation.

TAKE MASSIVE ACTION – meaning LOTS OF IT!  You can’t learn to run a marathon by going out on day one and trying to run 20+ miles.  Start with one mile, or half a mile, and keep running every day and add little bits onto your total.  What’s your goal? What’s the way to achieve it?  What’s one thing you can do NOW to travel in that direction?  Got an answer yet?  Then go do it!

success and belief

True Friendship


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They say that you are the average of the five people that you spend the most time with.

I say: So choose wisely.

A long (not so long?) time ago, I was a medieval lit major at LSU.  I had this noble group of teachers who did a group taught class.  One was a history professor, one was world religions, one was English and the other philosophy.  They so fervently believed in what they were teaching, that often I felt more enlightened and more love than I did attending church.  One particular lesson was about Bonaventure’s “Journey of the Mind to God.”  If you’re a medieval lit buff like I was, you’ll understand the symbolism of God’s perfect love, the Rose and the travels of our spirits to a higher and higher circle of being…..ok I’m probably boring most of you.  Here’s the big takeaway I got from the whole process:

A true friendship is one where you both help each other grow and achieve and become MORE than what you are, and in the process become more loving and God-like.

You can call this Christian/peaceful/enlightened/whatever floats your boat, but they called it divinization back in the day.  (Funny, that word is so old my spell check won’t accept it.  What’s my computer got against divine love?)

In the process of true friendship, you become more and return to a more spiritual state of being than you were in the beginning.  When I was 20 this sounded wonderful, but impractical; and how were we to find God at the bottom of a beer can and pack of cigarettes?  I’m sure we thought we were doing the best we could.  Now that I’m in my 30s I see this happening in my life all the time.  But it wasn’t until I opened my mind to improvement and wanted to be more than what I was that many of those friends appeared.  It’s as if opening your soul to the possibility and telling God, praying to Him that you want to be a better human allows your path to cross with other like minded people.  And once those friendships start, you lose that fear of “what if they don’t like me anymore,” or maybe they will judge me for this, and any number of silly things that stress a normal relationship.  There’s never anger, only patience.  There’s never judgment, only understanding.  There’s an honesty and support like none other in these friends.  I count about a handful of them – some mentors, some partners, some friends – in my life right now….but I know there will be others.  We will be drawn to each other by a higher power and as one can help me step up higher into my possibilities, then I can help others.  It’s teamwork.  When I think about it, I imagine little pockets of teams all over the world trying to better themselves and the world around them.  Maybe they’re surrounded by chaos and other people who are immersed in the stress and worry and pain of their own tiny battles, but with each person they can connect with, they can make a change and make a difference.

I listened to a recording by Jeffery Coombs, who is a trainer and coach for business owners and network marketers.  He talked about how some people have clear minds and can make decisions, while others are simply caught in the chaos of their own lives and can never make decisions or give a direct answer.  I have a friend like that – she’s just caught in the chaos, and she can’t and won’t even answer a simple question like “Can you come over for dinner?” with a yes or no.  She has to hem and haw.  Because she’s worried about how her answer will make someone else feel, she can’t answer.  My circle of friends I spoke of before – one of the greatest gifts they shared with me is direct communication.  Say what you mean, mean what you say, and give simple direct answers.  Cut through the chaos.  With a true friendship where you can be so completely honest, there is no delay, there is no hesitation.  Where before I let her hesitation irk me, now I’ve learned to tell the friend – it’s ok – just tell me yes or no.  Either way, I still love you.

So if you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, don’t you want those five to be people that are helping each other, not keeping each other down?  Think about this, please, and give yourself the chance to experience more joy and love in life, and then to help someone do the same.

As always, if you like this post, please comment and share!  Thanks for reading!

Your friend,

Bethany

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