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4 Agreements That Will Change Your Life

4 Agreements That Will Change Your Life

Are you interested in changing your life? Are you craving more love and happiness? Well, there’s a ton of advice out there on how to make that happen. There is one book, though, that really hit home for me, and I want to share what I’ve learned with the hopes of spreading the love and happiness to more people around the world. The following agreements are based on the brilliant and inspiring book The Four Agreements, written by Don Miguel Ruiz. The idea is that if you commit to these four specific agreements, you will change your life and be a happier, more loving human being.

I have been doing my best to follow these agreements, and I can definitely say it’s working.The message in this book helped me reach a higher consciousness and bring more love and happiness into my life — I think it can do the same for you.

So without further ado, if you are ready to change your life and bring more love and happiness your way, repeat after me:

1. I am impeccable with my word.

impeccableword

    Gossip. Trash-talk. Slander. Chitchat. Rumors. Scuttlebutt. (Yes, that’s a real word!) You know what I’m talking about. If you’ve been through middle school, chances are you’ve been both a participant in and a victim of gossip. I’m willing to bet that almost everyone has spoken poorly about someone else at some point in their lives. If you work in an office setting, you can be sure it’s filled with whispers about co-workers. Here’s the thing: Even if you think you’ve never said a negative thing about someone else, it’s likely true that you’ve said a nasty thing about yourself. And that’s just as bad.

    Occasionally, thoughts pop into our minds that we don’t control. (We can work on that, but that’s for another article.) Thinking something, though, is truly different from saying it aloud. Committing a thought to word brings the thought to life. It makes it alive and real. When you use your words to speak poorly about someone else, including yourself, you are bringing negativity into the world. That’s not cool. You don’t want to be responsible for that, do you?

    Eliminate this kind of behavior immediately, and you will be on your way to transforming yourself into a happier, healthier, and more loving person. No more talking poorly about others or yourself! From now on, only speak about people as if they are standing right next to you. If you wouldn’t say it in front of them, then don’t say it at all.

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    Repeat after me.

    I am impeccable with my word.

    2. I do not take things personally.

    Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 1.29.11 PM

      The things people say and do are direct projections of who they are, what they have experienced, what they believe, who they associate with, where they grew up, and so forth. Everyone has a unique way of looking at the world, and no two people see things the same exact way. Nope. That’s simply impossible.

      When people say and do things, they are doing so directly through their view of the world. This is the one and only way people can! This means that nothing anyone ever does or says is personal to anyone but themselves. It simply can’t be. You may be married to your best friend of 40 years and think you know every single thing about this person, but he/she still sees the world in his/her own unique way. There’s just no way around it. But this is a great thing! No matter what is going on in other people’s lives, what they say, what they do, how they act, you can bet that is has nothing to do with you and you don’t have to be hurt by their actions or words.

      Of course, when we think about not taking things personally, we usually associate this with negativity. But the same is true for positive things. Even when people say they love you, it’s still not personal to you. I do not mean they do not love you; they probably do! But even those words, directed at you, are being used to describe a feeling that was created within their world. Maybe you really rocked their world, and now they feel love. That’s wonderful! But, alas, it’s still not personal. Reel it in and feel the positive energy bouncing off each other as you share love, but remember: If one day it changes and they take their love away, that’s not personal either.

      No more taking things personally! Go on, now, say it.

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      I do not take things personally.  

      3. I do not make assumptions.

      noassume

        We all know that silly saying that goes with the word assume. You make an as — yeah, you know, that one. Also, this is important: Never assume the worst-case scenario in an unknown situation. If you don’t know the truth about something, assuming the worst is a one-way ticket to unhappiness.

        These both hold true, yes, but it doesn’t stop there. I want to delve even further into making assumptions. I want to talk about not making assumptions at all.

        Firstly, never assume you know and understand what people are saying all the time. Communication between people can be really tricky. Words can confuse things. If you are even the slightest bit unsure about what someone means, conjure up the courage to ask questions until you are confident you have a good understanding of their words. Positive or negative. It doesn’t matter. Always ask questions until you are certain you know what’s going on.

        Secondly, never assume people just know what you mean. How often do you hear “you know” when talking with someone? I know I say it all the time. But even if the person I am talking to responds with “oh, yeah!” that doesn’t necessarily mean we are on the same page. Be sure to communicate with people as clearly as you can. Do not assume they already know what you want or need. The best way to avoid misunderstandings is to be as clear as possible about your expectations and boundaries. You can always ask questions. Don’t be afraid to be open, honest, and clear. Be proud of you who are and speak up!

        So, no more assumptions about what other people want, need, say, think, or feel, and no more assuming people know what I want, need, say, think, or feel.

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        Let’s say it together this time.

        I do not make assumptions.

        4. I always do my best.

        dobest

          One of the biggest hurdles to jump when telling people to “do their best” is that they often confuse the word “best” with “perfect.” But perfection is not the goal. Doing your best means that you are giving it your all in any circumstances at any time.

          The truth is that your best changes from day to day. It even changes from moment to moment. While you are consistently doing your best, your best is not consistently staying the same. Your best looks different when you’re sick than when you’re healthy. You can bet it looks way different on a day you’ve experienced a loss than on a day you’ve exercised, done yoga or played a game of softball. No matter what, though, you’ve got to get in there, give it your all, and be the best version of yourself.

          So, ask yourself every once in a while: “Is this my absolute best self?” Then, see if there is anything more or different you could do. Keep in mind that as long as you can answer “yes, this is my best” to your question, then there is no reason for self-judgment, abuse, or criticism. Be your best friend instead. Support and encourage yourself just like you would a friend or a son/daughter. And don’t waste time with regret either. Just do your best. No matter what.

          Say it with me now.

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          I always do my best.

          Are you ready to make these four agreements? As soon as you do, you can begin to make them a part of your daily life. Too much time is wasted on beliefs that keep people unhappy. Let’s not waste anymore time suffering.

          Change yourself, change your life, and watch the people around you look at you with amazement and start to change as well. Then watch yourself transform into a happier, healthier, and more loving person.

          Namaste, ya’ll.

          Oh, if you’re interested, here’s the book I’ve been referring to: The Four Agreements.

          Featured photo credit: Close up portrait of a smiling woman looking outside through window via shutterstock.com

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          Last Updated on October 22, 2020

          8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

          8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

          How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

          Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

          When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

          Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

          What Makes People Poor Listeners?

          Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

          1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

          Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

          Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

          It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

          2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

          This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

          Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

          3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

          It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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          I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

          If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

          4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

          While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

          To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

          My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

          Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

          Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

          How To Be a Better Listener

          For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

          1. Pay Attention

          A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

          According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

          As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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          I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

          2. Use Positive Body Language

          You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

          A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

          People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

          But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

          According to Alan Gurney,[2]

          “An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

          Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

          3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

          I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

          Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

          Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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          Be polite and wait your turn!

          4. Ask Questions

          Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

          5. Just Listen

          This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

          I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

          I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

          6. Remember and Follow Up

          Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

          For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

          According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

          It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

          7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

          If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

          Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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          Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

          Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

          NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

          1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
          2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

          8. Maintain Eye Contact

          When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

          Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

          By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

          Final Thoughts

          Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

          You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

          And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

          More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

          Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

          Reference

          [1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
          [2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
          [3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
          [4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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