019: The Four Agreements – It’s Not About You

By: | Posted in: Podcast Episodes | Thursday, Jan 29, 2015 - 10:00pm

On the last episode, I focused on the the first agreement from the book:

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.

I spoke about “Be impeccable with your word” and reflected on the Power of Words.

I even shared some insights from recent psychological research that can help us take this concept to next level, and avoid “The Inverse Power of Praise

Today, I want to focus on the Second Agreement – Don’t take anything personally.

Ruiz summarizes this agreement as:

1. Nothing others do is because of you

2. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality

3. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering

Let’s think about these three points, one at a time:

1. Nothing others do is because of you

Think about a common situation that can happen today with the use of Social Media. You post something really meaningful for you in Facebook. Then, you see a negative comment to that post. Do you take this comment personally? Do you think that person that you never met in your life, is doing that to hurt you, or because of you.

2. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality

Let’s go back to the Facebook example. That person’s interpretation of your post, triggered an emotional reaction that led to writing a negative comment. So, other people’s reactions are a projection of their own issues, and nothing to do with you.

3. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering

When we don’t take things personally, that can be liberating, and prevent us from feeding our own insecurities.

So, “Don’t take anything personally” it’s a powerful maximum to live with.

Yet, I have the tendency to react to absolute words such as “anything”.

It’s easy for me to live by “Don’t take this personally”, yet “Don’t take ANYTHING personally” is going too far.

I’m quite good in applying this principle to critiques and other people’s negative opinions. I’m good at developing a thick skin, yet the price I pay, is I become numb and this prevents me to enjoying and savoring the praise and positive feelings.

So, I decided to apply a twist to this principle inspired by Social Psychology’s Attribution Theory.

Attribution Theory tries to explain how individuals interpret their success and failures via 3 dimensions:

1- Locus of causality: internal to external

The cause of success or failure can be internal – due to factors that we believe have their origin within the person – or external – due to factors that we believe originate in the environment.

2- Stability: Stable to Unstable

The cause of the success or failure falls within a stable (constant) to unstable (fluctuating) continuum. We believe a cause is stable – when the outcome is likely to be the same on another occasion. We believe a cause is unstable – when the outcome is likely to be different on another occasion.

3- Controllability: Controllable or Uncontrollable

The cause of the success or failure falls within a controllable to uncontrollable continuum. We believe a cause is controllable – when we perceive it as under our volitional or optional control. We believe a cause is uncontrollable – when the circumstances cannot be willed to change.

Let’s go back to the Facebook scenario above as an example of a Negative Situation.

Negative Situation

We post something really meaningful for us in Facebook.

Then, we see a negative comment to that post.

We take this very personally

We see the situation as a big crisis.

“How can that person dare to write that? How can that person be so insensitive? I shouldn’t have posted that.”

“I should know better by now. What was I thinking?”

“It’s my fault. I shouldn’t have posted that in Facebook.”

We interpret the crisis as our responsibility and as something that will happen again (internal locus of causality and stable).

We don’t take it personally

If we feel any negativity arise, we remind ourselves of the second agreement:

“Don’t take anything personally.”

We tell ourselves:

“Remember: nothing others do is because of you.”

“What’s going on in this person’s life for her to write this?”

“Let me read the other comments on my post are.”

We interpret the comment as something odd, due to factors outside ourselves (external), that probably will not happen again (unstable). So, we easily move on with our day.

Let’s now think about a Positive Situation.

Positive Situation

It’s my birthday.

I look at my Facebook profile and see congratulation after congratulation.

People that I don’t connected with for a long time, are saying Happy Birthday.

I don’t take it personally

I feel a positive emotion, but I know that isn’t because of me – I’m applying the agreement: Don’t take ANYTHING personally.

“Facebook make it easy for people to remember birthdays.” (external)

“Maybe next year I will have less people congratulating.” (unstable)

“This is not about me.”

And, if I decide to take this personally

“Wow. So nice for people to take their time to congratulate me.”

“I see Mary here. So nice of her. Love this.” (internal)

“Love to know how my friends are so nice and considerate.” (stable)

“So happy that I left as public my birthday info in Facebook.” (control)

“I’m so grateful for that Mary, Peter, …. thought of me.”

WHY NOT?

But remember: It’s a choice.

As I spoke on the previous episode, between a stimulus – the comment in Facebook – and a response – our response – their is a space.

A brief space where we can choose our response – maybe even take the situation personally 🙂

We always can create our responses – even to the books that we love.

 

 

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