A few posts ago, I once again found myself writing about Don Miguel Ruiz and the Four Agreements.
If you haven’t yet read the Four Agreements book, I am not sure how to say in strong enough words how much I recommend it.
In other words, out of all the zillions of supposedly life-changing books in the world, to me it is the real deal.
I also follow Don Miguel Ruiz on Instagram so I can get Insta-reminders about the Agreements during my day.
When someone irritates me, I am now training myself to automatically think to myself, “Don’t take anything personally” before I just launch.
And when things don’t go my way (such as when I want silence but get noise instead), I am training myself to remember, “Don’t make assumptions” instead of assuming the noise-maker is making noise just to annoy me.
Recently I was chatting with a dear friend about the Agreements (one of my favorite kinds of conversations to have) and she shared that she was also having great success with using the Agreement “don’t make assumptions” on herself!
This was such a revelation to me – I loved the idea, so I decided to try it out immediately.
My friend had shared some examples – such as when her mind would kick out a not-very-nice thought about her relative degree (or assumed lack thereof) of productivity on a given day.
And she said that a big part of her practice was just to recognize it for what it was – an opinion likely spoken in the voice of a critical other that may or may not be relevant to her current journey.
And then she could decide not to make any assumptions about herself or whether that day’s level of productivity was “good,” “not good” or otherwise.
What this is teaching me is that my mind often makes unasked-for and mostly untrue assumptions about how I end up spending my day.
Here is a great example…..
The other day my boyfriend and I drove out to visit a new property of his. It was somewhat far from town, and on the way back his car overheated and stopped working.
I had made all these plans for how I was going to spend my time on that day. I was going to go and help him do some work on the new casa in the morning. In the afternoon I was going to run to the grocery store and then spend the late afternoon and evening writing to earn rent money.
You can probably guess how many of those plans I was able to keep. None of them, actually. For starters, when we got to the new house, we discovered we didn’t have the right tools to do the work we had planned to do.
Then on the way back, the car did its thing, of course. His friend said he would come to pick us up and drive us back to town, but then the friend got lost – WAY lost. It took him nearly 3 hours to find us, and by that time we had missed lunch and dinner and the repair shop owner was as eager for our ride to show up as we were.
When we finally got back to town it was around 8pm. And we still had to check on my pets, eat dinner and drive to his house to get his other car.
Talk about a day when one’s plans have made plans of their own.
I had a pretty hard time that day with inner assumptions. For example, my inner “rent calculator” was busy subtracting dollars and cents from my bank account all day long, keeping a running negative tally for me as the hours passed.
Meanwhile, my inner “productivity assessor” was giving me the what-for for not just – well, having eyes in the back of my head, doing everything differently, taking my car instead of his, blada blada blada…..
It wasn’t until very late that night when I remembered what my friend had said about choosing not to make assumptions about myself.
After a very full day of worrying, judging and assuming the worst, I could almost hear the inner 9-car pileup as I attempted to change course mid-thought. But as my mentor often reminds me, the first step is to become aware – to notice.
So I chose to congratulate myself for at least noticing my own assumptions about myself and how they were affecting me before I tumbled over the edge into sleep.
The next day, I remembered in the morning how I miserable I had been the previous day because of making all those unkind, unhelpful and (frankly) unprovable assumptions about myself.
I vowed to do better.
Then I promptly forgot again, and didn’t re-remember not to make assumptions about myself until late that same day when I suddenly became aware that a new set of assumptions was brewing about how I should have gotten much more done than I actually had gotten done.
And this is how it has gone thus far. I remember, and I forget. And then I remember again, and then I forget again….
But in the few rare and wonderful moments when I do remember in time to defuse the assumption time-bomb before it goes off yet again, there is relief. A distance opens up between me and the assumptions themselves, giving me objectivity and space to consider them with relative impartiality.
I often also find myself marveling at how keen some aspect of me is to make unflattering assumptions about myself at every opportunity. Like – that is pretty messed up. What is that all about?
What it is really about, I am finding out, is about a lifetime of not noticing. I could have noticed years ago, and questioned what I was saying and assuming about myself, and traced it back to how and where it logically may have started, and resolved the conflict there and then.
But I didn’t notice, because during earlier decades of my life, the company I kept was mostly doing the same thing – being very hard on themselves, often publicly, sometimes even as if it was a badge of honor to never give yourself a break – and so I just assumed that was what you do, at least if you want other people to accept you.
At work, for instance, we were all in this unspoken contest to be the biggest workaholic with the most insane hours. At home, I was all alone with a critical refrigerator and even more critical mirror. When I saw friends, no one liked how they looked or ever seemed to think they should be eating what they were eating, so who was I to feel any differently?
This was just the way it was at that time in my life, and I didn’t think to question it.
Today I am way older and actually a little bit wiser and I have learned – as the new Fifth Agreement encourages – to “be skeptical, but learn to listen.”
So I listen, and I am skeptical, and I question, and I keep questioning until some kind of response or answer arises that doesn’t sound like it is coming from the least kind and most critical parts of myself that are more eager to fit in than they are to be happy.
Today, I mostly remember at least as often as I forget. And that is some pretty awesome progress.
Today’s Takeaway: Have you ever found yourself making the worst (or perhaps the best) assumptions about yourself? I sure do – I often make assumptions, for instance, that I was in the right during an argument and the other person was wrong, and this feels pretty good for awhile but the good-feeling doesn’t last. The same holds true if i assume the reverse. What I am learning now is that the truth – the real truth – is usually coming from a different place and a much higher and broader perspective than any amount of assuming can illuminate. When you catch yourself making assumptions about yourself (good/not so good) or others (same), how do you handle it?