Awareness is always the first step because if you are not aware, there is nothing you can change.
I just returned from the holidays having re-read The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. Arguably one of the best books of the 20th century. The book advocates personal freedom from beliefs and agreements that we have made with others and ourselves that are creating limitations and unhappiness in our lives. Undoubtedly, the story has sparked change and growth for the millions of readers around the world (including myself) regardless of age, sex, rage or religion.
This got me thinking…
A book about a set of principles so powerful and closely linked to personal transformation surely can be felt within the realm of leadership development. Below is my take on the Four Agreements and how it can ignite the leader within.
Please note, that when it comes to applying these agreements within your professional (or personal) life, you must be patient. There is no simple way or shortcut to take. This is not about a quick fix or a substitution for broadening any developmental gaps you may have. This is however, a unique look on how your belief system could indeed spark your inner leader.
Let’s start with those Four Agreements:
#1. Be Impeccable with your Word
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.
- Leadership Learning: Without question, the first agreement is the most important one. Be impeccable with your word and speak with integrity. I am always baffled when people aren’t sure what integrity means. As a leader, people are watching and listening to everything you do and say and being under this intense type of scrutiny calls for ensuring you have a healthy dose of integrity. In short, “Do what you say you are going to do, when you said you would do it and when don’t, how quick can you clean it up and make a new promise.” Modeling this behavior can dramatically shift both your ability to lead others and the engagement of your audience.
#2. Don’t Take Anything Personally.
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
- Leadership Learning: I think this one may take a bit convincing for some of you so here I go. It’s human nature to take in what’s happening around us and that obviously includes the opinions of others. However, when someone states something about you and your believe it, you have now adopted their belief to be true (regardless whether you took the time to refute it). Yes, as a leader you will make decisions that impact others but how they react to them is their responsibility first and foremost. You should note their reactions and act accordingly but be careful not to harbor their emotions as yours. There is a fine line between setting the stage and acting on it. If you still aren’t convinced, take it from Deepak whose famous mantra The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire touts the following line: I’m totally independent of the good or bad opinion of others.
#3. Don’t Make Assumptions.
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
- Leadership Learning: Mr. Ruiz summed it up nicely when he said: “We have the tendency to make assumptions about everything. The problem with making assumptions is that we believe they are the truth. We could swear they are real. We make assumptions about what others are doing or thinking—we take it personally—then we blame them and react by sending emotional poison with our word. That is why when we make assumptions, we’re asking for problems. We make an assumption, we misunderstand, we take it personally, and we end up creating a whole big drama for nothing.” I would add and stress that communication is the key to everything. Be brave and ask questions to avoid making assumptions. Questions can provide clarity when asked appropriately. Learn this skill, it will save you time and energy down the road.
#4. Always Do Your Best.
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.
- Leadership Learning: This final agreement unlocks the first three and allows them to fully come to life within your level of leadership. Ruiz states: “under any circumstance, always do your best, no more and no less. But keep in mind that your best is never going to be the same from one moment to the next. Everything is alive and changing all the time, so your best will sometimes be high quality, and other times it will not be as good.” I would add that learning where the bar is set and accepting that it will fluctuate is not only a necessity but also a reality. Take any sport for example, rarely if ever do you play under the same exact conditions as the last time (or the time before that). Keeping an open mind and heart to the varied terrain in which you lead will help you better navigate both what’s in front of you as well as what lies ahead.
I believe that everyone is a leader, plain and simple. You don’t have to be the CEO of a large company to lead others. Leadership starts with you, and begins within. As the new year is among us, I invite you to consider reading this book and browse through the agreements and consider how they might support your life. Whether you “agree” with these principles or not, finding a set of principles or beliefs that will inspire, propel, support, motivate and drive you forward is essential in life.
I think it’s worth repeating that both the book and what I shared takes time, patience and practice. These agreements are a set of principles and beliefs that not everyone will like or share and that’s okay. Everyone is different and no one is perfect, that’s what makes us all unique. If you are interested in learning more about what these agreements mean and how to apply them, I suggest reading this short article from Oprah’s interview with the author himself.
The floor is yours: What’s one agreement you will make in 2017?
Please leave your comment below as your insights are greatly appreciated and a learning opportunity for everyone reading this article.
Joshua / www.JoshHMiller.com
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