The Four Agreements – Words Are Powerful
On the last episode I spoke about the book:
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.
I explored what Ruiz calls Self-Limiting Beliefs.
I call them Mindset Blind-Spots because we are not aware that we hold them, and yet we filter our experiences through them.
I even started a 7-day Awareness Challenge for myself. Just to become aware of some of my self-limiting beliefs, and to try to articulate them. The reality is that we all have many of these Mindset Blind-Spots.
Don Miguel Ruiz suggests to replace these Self-Limiting Beliefs by The Four Agreements:
1. Be impeccable with your word
2. Don't take anything personally
3. Don't make assumptions
4. Always do your best
Today, I want to focus on the first agreement “Be impeccable with your word,” and reflect on the power of words.
Ruiz defines this First Agreement – Be impeccable with your word – as:
- 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
We often use expressions such as:
“Those are just words.”
“Too much talking and no action.”
“Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me.”
And so forth.
All these expressions view words as powerless.
Yet, if that was true, why do we get so hurt by words, why do we keep remembering words that someone said to us.
Having the capacity of using words is something distinctly human, and we should recognize that words are powerful.
Don Miguel Ruiz emphasies the power of words.
“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. You can speak. What other animal on the planet can speak? The word is the most powerful tool you have as a human; it is the tool of magic. But like a sword with two edges, your word can create the most beautiful dream, or your word can destroy everything around you. … Depending upon how it is used, the word can set you free, or it can enslave you even more than you know.”
Let me give another example from another book.
Dr. Carol Dweck, in her book Mindset, writes about the power of negative labels. She even refers to research studies that show that to check a box to indicate your race or gender can evoke a stereotype and lower test scores. It seems that this happens at a subconscious level.
Words, their meaning and associations are very powerful.
Yet, it’s not enough to replace negative words by positive words.
It’s not enough to replace negative labels by positive labels.
For instance, do you know that praising kids for their intelligence can be counterproductive?
See the video below that summarizes some of this research.
We can learn a lot from these type of studies. We can learn to avoid “The Inverse Power of Praise”, and focus our positive words to praise other peoples effort in a specific and concrete way.
And, very importantly to apply these principles in our self-talk too.
For instance, if you are frequently praised for being a good speaker, a natural on stage, that can create a self-image “I’m a great speaker.”
And, who want to challenge such a great self-image?
It’s tempting to do everything in our power to preserve it.
So we can stop taking risks, because potentially we could fail and ruin our self-image.
It’s safer to play small.
Think about the implications of all this.
Did you ever fall into this type of vicious cycle?
This dynamic can stop us from developing our full potential.
Love to learn about your experiences.