Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Agree to Agree or Disagree--Agreed?

Yesterday I came across a book titled "The Four Agreements," by Toltec shamen Don Miguel Ruiz. In it, he lays a plan for anyone interested in making a change in their life in 4 easy steps--with a money back guarantee* (*there is no actual guarantee to your life changing if you buy his book, or even read it, only a guarantee that Senor Don Miguel will earn money.)

With all the self-help books flooding the market, Senor Don has managed to discuss four steps in 138 pages, an average of 34 and a half pages per "agreement." Having not read the actual book, I have still been able to whittle down the non-essential commentary to a brief explanation of what each one means, with my OWN non-essential commentary.

agreement 1

Be impeccable with your word - Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

This means "don't BS!" This is very hard for some, impossible for others. At the Korpi house, we say "Say what you mean and mean what you say"--Honest! Seeing as how man developed spoken language out of a fundamental desire to talk about other people, we are pre-wired for gossip. We NEED to trash-talk and put down other so we can feel better about ourselves. Exploiting the truthful foibles of others prevents us from actually facing the truth about ourselves. In fact, when we speak judgmentally of others, we are subconsciously judging something about ourselves that we are afraid to face.

I think Mr. Ruiz's agreement IS something we should all strive for. Personally, before I open my own mouth, I ask myself one question: What would Abe Lincoln say? Will my words improve the silence? Did I leave the iron on at home? (OK, so I ask myself three questions.) If available, I also like to don a top-hat and black high-water pants--but that's another blog. There's a good deal of pressure in creating powerful, deliberate, thoughtful speech. As ol' Abe once powerfully and deliberately quipped, "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."

agreement 2

Don’t take anything personally - Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

This is another one of those things that's much easier said than done. This agreement sounds more like a coping mechanism, a devise for self-preservation, rather than a truism. "Don't take this personally . . . . . but you SUCK!" How many times have I heard that?! Is that just constructive criticism projected onto me for no good reason? Is it really the OTHER guy who really sucks? Do they just DREAM of how bad I am?

I'm not sure I wholeheartedly agree with Ruiz on this one. Anyone of real personal conviction is going to take EVERYTHING personally. Our actions, efforts, and words are so carefully thought out (agreement 1), that we cannot believe anyone could or would find fault with them. It is the conscientiousness of any individual that helps them improve their character. Self-doubt for some is a well-spring of rebirth and renewal, the chance to begin again more effectively. Granted, we do not want to be too thin-skinned, but there are certain things we cannot shirk. Am I not to take it personally when I am fired from a job for poor performance or fail a test for which I did not study? Or should I just say, "they don't appreciate my style," or "my answers were correct, it just that the questions on the test were wrong."

agreement 3

Don’t make assumptions - Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

This is a good one, lest you make ass of you and me. It is really part two of agreement 1, however. Effectively communicating our desires is an important part of living a gratifying life. When I tell my wife EXACTLY where my back itches, she knows EXACTLY where to scratch. When I find the courage to tell her that I honestly FORGOT to put the lasagna dinner in the oven, I relinquish all her power to hold it against me (not that I'd take her ire personally to begin with--see agreement 2.) As a teacher, if I assume that every student is doing their homework like they are supposed to, reading their chapters prior to the lesson, and getting help at the first signs of struggle, I'm assuming that they haven't read agreement 2. I'm also assuming that every student is a "mini me!"

agreement 4

Always do your best - Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

Agreement number 2 NOW has meaning. Without agreement 4, agreement 2 is a cop-out. Presupposing that you do your best, your absolute best, then what else could you have possibly done? I mean, "best" is the superlative case. There is no better. So if your best is not good enough (be honest with yourself, was it REALLY your best? see agreement 1), you can't take the results personally. All you can do is to move the "best bar" higher for the future (not that making my "best" piece of toast for the entire family is any consolation to the frozen lasagna sweating on counter.)

So there you have it, 4 simple agreements that, when taken together will transform your life . . . if you agree with them.


Anonymous said...

You need to read better books. You're comments are entertaining, but the book doesn't sound too enlightening.

kwkorpi said...

The book sounded too boring, so I just read the "cliff notes" edition of the book. Some books are published to help people know something. Others are published to show that the author knows something. This book falls into the latter category.