April 2013


April 29, 2013

The third of The Four Agreements is “Don’t Make Assumptions.”  Author Don Miguel Ruiz states, “We make assumptions that everyone sees life the way we do.   We assume that others think the way we think, feel the way we feel, judge the way we judge and abuse the way we abuse.”

This is perhaps the hardest of the Four Agreements for us to control because we humans have such a strong unconscious tendency to “…make assumptions to fulfill our need to know and to replace the need to communicate.  Even if we hear something we don’t understand, we make assumptions about what it means and then believe the assumptions because we don’t have the courage to ask questions.”

In other words, we believe we need to know what others around us are thinking, what their motives are, what they are planning to do next. This unspoken method of sizing up others is the foundation of our Ego’s survival system for living under the old social agreements we all learn growing up (what Ruiz calls our “domestication.”)

But of course, one of the things we never want to admit publicly is that we don’t know the answer.  Our Ego is caught in a Catch-22 between its conflicting need to know and its incessant need to “look good” at all times.  So we try to figure it out ourselves (avoiding the need to communicate) and make up interpretive stories in our mind. We then quickly forget that we made up the story/assumption and it becomes “the truth” for us and we act accordingly.  This often leads to unnecessary confusion and pain in our interactions.

With the client I “assumed” would be happy to accommodate my request to change our scheduled call because I’d had a long day on the road and felt somewhat tired, I hadn’t paused long enough to try to imagine the situation through HIS eyes before I made the request. (I even conveniently forgot that I had already rescheduled him the previous week, which is something I rarely do, so you’d think I would have remembered!)

But as Ruiz says, “We assume that others think the way we think….” Since I am used to clients rescheduling with me from time to time, and it’s not usually a problem for ME, I assumed this gentleman would feel the same way.  Instead, he fired me on the spot because, from his personal perspective, asking someone who had made plans to change them on short notice WAS a problem.

The antidote to relying on our often-faulty assumptions is stunningly simple, as Ruiz states: “The way to keep yourself from making assumptions is to ask questions.  Make sure communication is clear.  If you don’t understand, ask.  Have the courage to ask questions until you are as clear as you can be, and even then do not assume you know all there is to know about a given situation.”

One of the most destructive assumptions happens when we get swept up in a romantic relationship. Have you ever had this experience? You like someone a lot, yet there is also something (or several things) about their habits or values that are NOT in alignment with yours.  Yet, you try your darnedest to fool yourself about the realities of your new love so you can have what you want. You make the assumption that “My love will change this person.” As Ruiz puts it, “You lie to yourself to make yourself right…Your love will not change anybody. If others change, it’s because they want to change, not because you can change them.”

The antidote for making relationship “assumptions” is also strikingly simple: Find someone who is already the way you want them to be instead of trying to change them!

“Real love is accepting other people the way they are without trying to change them,” says Ruiz. This, of course, requires courage on your part to believe that you DESERVE and CAN FIND the right mate for you, rather than trying to change Mr./Ms.Wrong into Mr./Ms. Right.

Most importantly, to live according to this Agreement, we must have the courage to be who WE truly are and to ask for what WE truly want.  Ruiz says, “…find your voice to ask for what you want.  Everybody has the right to tell you no or yes, but you always have the right to ask.  Likewise, everybody has the right to ask you, and you have the right to say yes or no.”

In hindsight, I would not have made my ill-considered request in the first place, if my Ego had not been running on auto-pilot, leading me to assume I knew my former client well enough that he’d be “fine” with it. I truly applaud him for standing up for his own value by asking for what he needed and having the courage to tell me NO.

Sometimes the most valuable lessons feel the most painful at the time.  I’ve come to realize that pain is really a gift, because the sharper the lesson, the more likely we will remember it and not repeat it.

Next week, we’ll discuss the final of the Four Agreements: Always Do Your Best.

P.S. To learn more about Don Miguel Ruiz and his most recent work, go to: http://newagreementsforlife.com

******** What do you want for your life? My “job description” as a coach is simply this: I help you get what YOU want. I invite you to schedule a complimentary phone consultation where together we’ll explore your big dreams and determine if coaching can assist you in reaching them. I have programs and coaching specialties for every need. Learn more at: http://practicalprosperitycoach.com or contact me at caroll@practicalprosperitycoach.com or toll free at 888-503-8145. Contact me TODAY to schedule a complimentary phone consultation! *************

April 21, 2013

“We often add to our pain and suffering by being overly sensitive, over-reacting to minor things, and sometimes taking thing too personally.” – Tenzin Gyatso, the Dalai Lama

The second agreement in Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements is “Don’t Take Anything Personally.” Don Miguel Ruiz states, “Nothing other people do is because of you.  It is because of themselves…even if others insult you directly, it has nothing to do with you.  What they say, what they do, and the opinions they give are according to the agreements they have in their own minds.  Their point of view comes from all the programming they have received during domestication.”

For me, this is the hardest of the Four Agreements to keep.  If you are like me, you do not like to be criticized.  You do not like to be misunderstood.  You do not like to be blamed for something you didn’t do.  You do not like to be the focus of someone else’s outrage or anger.

I have made a real effort to develop a thicker skin because when I was young, I would take very personally any feedback that implied I was less than “perfect.”  I remember one time my father, a professor of English, gently and privately corrected a grammatical mistake I’d made.  My reaction was to burst into tears and run from the room!  Thankfully, I now can receive most feedback in the spirit in which it is intended — as a gift, not a punishment.

Equally difficult to master is not making everything that is said and done by others about US.  The human Ego’s survival mechanism to evaluate whatever happens in the world around us in the context of:  What does this mean about ME?  The Ego’s constant, exhausting job is to figure out what behavior is “acceptable” in every social interaction we have.  In fact, that’s the genesis of the old system of repressive “agreements” that the Four Agreements are intended to replace.  Domestication is the term Don Miguel Ruiz uses for the old agreements that teach children of every culture what norms of behavior will get their needs met at home and in society.

Ironically, much as we hate to admit it, other people are simply too absorbed with figuring out what everything means about THEM to spend much time thinking about us!  Ruiz says, “Personal importance, or taking things personally, is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about me.”

You will recall the personal example I shared in an earlier blog about the client who fired me on the spot because I tried to change our coaching appointment for the second week in a row.  Before I could fully process what he had really said, my Ego’s defensive “What does this mean about ME?” filter decided instantaneously that my client was insulting me by questioning my integrity as a coach.

The next morning, when I awoke with a clearer head, I tried to recreate his actual words as accurately as I could remember them. As nearly as I can recall, he REALLY said, “You rescheduled last week when you had a cold, and I understand that.  But I made plans to be ready tonight and I am not comfortable with changing our plans again.  I believe Intention equals Results so I don’t think you are the right coach for me.  I don’t want to go forward with our coaching.”

Only then did I realize he had never used the word “integrity” nor expressed any criticism of my professionalism or dedication to my clients. All of the perceived insults I had reacted to during the conversation were completely MADE UP by my own Ego taking it personally. In truth, he simply stated (factually) that I hadn’t delivered on what I promised and so he was choosing to get his needs met elsewhere.

Thank goodness, I’ve had a LOT of Integrity training, so I called him immediately and left a voice mail expressing my sincere apology, and took care to clean up with him that the things I had accused him of saying to me were never actually said.   He then emailed me that he had found our coaching valuable and held no hard feelings toward me.

Don Miguel Ruiz promises, “If you keep this agreement, you can travel around the world with your heart completely open and no one can hurt you.  You can say, ‘I love you’ without fear of being ridiculed or rejected.  You can ask for what you need.  You can say yes, or you can say no – whatever you choose – without guilt or judgment.  You can choose to follow your heart always.  Then you can be in the middle of hell and still experience inner peace and happiness.  You can stay in your state of bliss, and hell will not affect you at all.”

I believe this promise because I felt profound feelings of joy, freedom and peace as soon as I made that call!

Next week, we’ll look at the Third Agreement: Don’t Make Assumptions.

P.S. To learn more about Don Miguel Ruiz and his latest work, check out: http://newagreementsforlife.com

******** What do you want for your life? My “job description” as a coach is simply this: I help you get what YOU want. I invite you to schedule a complimentary phone consultation where together, we’ll explore your big dreams and determine if coaching can assist you in reaching them. I have programs and coaching specialties for every need. Learn more at: http://practicalprosperitycoach.com or contact me at caroll@practicalprosperitycoach.com or toll free at 888-503-8145. Contact me TODAY to schedule a complimentary phone consultation! *************

April 14, 2013

The first agreement in Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements is “Be Impeccable with Your Word.”  He says, “The first agreement is the most important one and also the most difficult one to honor.  It is so important that with just this first agreement you will be able to transcend to the level of existence I call heaven on earth.”

Does he have your attention yet?  Well, try this: “The word is not just a sound or a written symbol.  The word is a force; it is the power you have to express and communicate, to think, and thereby to create the events in your life….The word is the most powerful tool you have as a human; it is the tool of magic.”

In the last blog, I shared my own painful example of just how easy it can be to break one’s word. As you will recall, when I was feeling somewhat tired after a long day, I asked a client to reschedule our coaching call and he fired me on the spot.  As soon as I remembered the First Agreement, I realized that he was absolutely right to do so!

We humans routinely tell “white lies” to try to get out of keeping our promises. Do any of these examples that easily came to my mind ring a bell for you?

  • Weeks ago, you accepted an invitation to a social function, but when the day comes, you realize you really don’t want to go, so you call the hostess and tell her you are sick — or your kid is sick or the dog is sick….
  • You signed on to participate in a course or volunteer with a group or help a friend move, but then a “better offer” comes along, so you create some plausible-sounding excuse to withdraw. (Or, if you are a teenager, the person you really wanted to go to the Prom with unexpectedly becomes available, so you dump the person you asked to go with you.)
  • You promise a friend, client or loved one that you will finish a project for them by a certain date. But when you see it’s not going to be possible, you stall on giving them the “bad” news until it’s too late for them to make other plans.

But being “impeccable” (which means “without sin” in Latin) with our word doesn’t simply mean taking full responsibility for keeping our promises.  Don Miguel Ruiz points out that we constantly use the immense power of the word to disempower, judge and blame ourselves and others.

Gossip is one especially insidious way we use our word to hurt ourselves and others. Ruiz says, “Gossip is black magic at its very worst because it is poison….Emotional poison was transferred along with opinions, and we learned this as the normal way to communicate….It has become the way we feel close to each other, because it makes us feel better to see someone else feel as badly as we do.”

In addition to making others feel bad, we unthinkingly turn the potential negative power of the word on ourselves too. Ruiz asserts, “We talk to ourselves constantly and most of the time we say things like, ‘Oh, I look fat, I look ugly.  I’m getting old, I’m losing my hair.  I’m stupid, I never understand anything.  I will never be good enough, and I’m never going to be perfect.’”

This little book has given me a much deeper understanding of the immense power of our word.  And, thanks to my client who (justifiably) fired me for breaking my word to him, I now know first-hand the painful cost of NOT being impeccable with my word.

In every single daily communication we engage in, we either choose to be “impeccable” OR to be lazy, careless or even purposely destructive.  With his own powerful words, Don Miguel Ruiz paints an inspiring picture of what can be possible IF we choose wisely:

“Just imagine what you can create with impeccability of the word.  With the impeccability of the word you can transcend the dream of fear and live a different life. You can live in heaven in the middle of thousands of people living in hell because you are immune to that hell.  You can attain the kingdom of heaven from this one agreement: Be impeccable with your word.”

Next time, we’ll examine the Second Agreement: Don’t Take Anything Personally.

 To learn more about Don Miguel Ruiz and his newest work, check out: http://newagreementsforlife.com

******** What do you want for your life? My “job description” as a coach is simply this: I help you get what YOU want. Contact me TODAY to schedule a complimentary phone consultation. Together, we’ll explore your big dreams and determine if coaching can assist you in reaching them. I have programs and coaching specialties for every need. Learn more at: http://practicalprosperitycoach.com or contact me at caroll@practicalprosperitycoach.com or toll free at 888-503-8145. *************