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Natural Awakenings Fairfield County/Housatonic Valley, CT

Thrive Rather Than Survive:: Embracing The Four Agreements at Work and School

Aug 03, 2014 03:57AM ● By Carrie Picardi

As an organizational psychologist and an educator, Dr. Carrie Picardi works with individuals in both work and school settings to enable them to work towards their fullest potential professionally and academically. Discovering their unique blend of interests, skills and abilities can make a difference in their current or future careers. Together, they delve into understanding how to use tools and techniques to collaborate more effectively with others for shared success.

As Picardi has listened and assisted students, clients and co-workers over the years, something became apparent: everyone has similar needs, concerns, struggles and hopes, regardless of age, gender, personal background or goals. She found herself referring to the classic book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz time and time again for its beautiful and practical pearls of wisdom. Picardi imagined how peaceful and positive the world would be if more people tried to remember and follow these principles each day. Ruiz’s simple yet profound agreements can aid us each day as we strive for peace, joy, and realizing our full potential at work, at school and at home.

Agreement #1: Be Impeccable With Your Word

This holds true for all forms of communication, including verbal conversations in-person and by phone, email exchanges and text messages. Remember that everything that comes from us by mouth and in writing is contributing to the overall energy and well-being of our environment and our world. Our word also creates or supports a chain reaction. The notion of “one bad apple spoils the bunch” is a real phenomenon in psychology; it is called “emotional contagion”. In our society, we have become desensitized to the impact of negative, damaging written and spoken words on each other, our surroundings and ourselves. Try this exercise: Say the word “hate” aloud ten times. Notice how your face feels as you say the word, how your body feels and your state of mind during and afterward. Next, say the word “love” or “happy” and notice those same feelings. Have they changed from one word to the other? You may experience feeling sad or heavy while saying “hate”, and that shifted to light, hopeful, and peaceful with the second word you chose to say aloud. This is the importance of being impeccable with your word.

Agreement #2: Don’t Take Anything Personally

This is the agreement that most people find quite challenging. To not take anything personally, we must release the ego from our thoughts and behaviors, and remember it’s not all about us. For the most part, when someone’s words or actions hurt us, that person is not acting out to harm us. They are typically looking out for themselves, and we are usually an unintended side effect.

Sometimes another person will tell us something that actually is directed towards us, perhaps feedback or constructive criticism on a decision we made, a behavior we exhibited, or some work we performed. Even in this type of situation, this agreement still applies. In our workplaces and schools, the idea of “looking out for number one” is rampant. When we operate in a mode of reactivity in response to others’ words or actions, we put ourselves in an unnecessary position of feeling the need to be territorial and defensive. Instead, we should focus more objectively on the message and how it can be valid, useful information for our goals and aspirations. If you find yourself becoming offended more often than not, perhaps look inside for possible reasons for your reaction. Are you not ready to hear a particular truth? Are you subconsciously fearful of improving and succeeding? Most of the things that we think people are “doing to us”, really have nothing to do with us, or are really just meant to help us to realize our fullest potential and highest good.

Agreement #3: Don’t Make Assumptions

Miscommunications can occur with even the simplest of exchange between two people; a tone of voice that is misinterpreted as an “attitude problem” or disinterest, a wording in an email that comes across as combative or aggressive, or even a perceived delay in response to a voicemail message or email that is interpreted as uncaring or selfish. We can practice becoming more attentive to situations in which an assumption can spiral into a hasty exchange, an argument, or a retaliatory behavior that can yield damaging results. Just remember the previous agreement – Don’t Take Anything Personally – and you may find it easier to stop making assumptions about others’ intentions and behaviors.

Agreement #4: Always Do Your Best

No matter what is going on around you, always strive to do your best in your job, at school, and in your personal lives. You will be viewed by others as conscientious, grounded and stable, ethical, and full of integrity. You will feel empowered and strong while remaining true to yourself and your beliefs. This is the balance we all should continue to strive for every day. We live in a reality in which many of the environments we live, work, study and socialize in are filled with passivity, negativity, low motivation, complaints, and others reducing their efforts. By remembering this final, straightforward agreement, you will stand out from the group in the most positive way, while also focusing on personal achievement and realizing your highest potential.

This shift in thinking and behavior may seem challenging at first. Integrating the four agreements into your daily life will come more naturally with practice and awareness. Remember, this is all about reclaiming your personal power, instilling peace within your body, mind and soul. It is about moving closer to your life fulfillment and highest good.


Living the Four Agreements: 

Four Things You Can Do Today

Agreement #1: Be Impeccable With Your Word

Imagine every word that comes out of your mouth has energy. Positive words emerge as a pure white light and fill your environment with beauty. Negative words emerge as a murky, dark cloud that contaminates everything and everyone it touches. Positive words will attract positive people, situations and opportunities; negative words will attract negative people and circumstances. If you are surrounded by complainers, gossipers or offensive talk among others, imagine that your words are clearing and purifying the air where negative words hang heavily.

Agreement #2: Don’t Take Anything Personally

When someone does something that you immediately perceive as a personal attack, pause, take a deep breath, and remember it has nothing to do with you. It can be “cutting” in front you at the grocery store checkout to putting you down to look good or feel better about themselves. Repeat a mantra in your mind such as, “This is not about me.” Send them healing energy, and remind yourself that you do this because these are the souls who need it the most.

Agreement #3: Don’t Make Assumptions

Many assumptions are the result of our own personal fears. Are you afraid of appearing foolish, or stupid or uninformed if you ask a clarifying question or one that will set a mutually agreeable expectation of behavior with a friend or co-worker? Most of the time, any assumption can be easily remediated by speaking up and asking a question or seeking clarification. What is the worst thing that could happen by asking? What is the worst thing that could happen by assuming?

Agreement #4: Always Do Your Best

Every task that you do has a unique purpose and importance, no matter how large and prestigious or small and mundane. Try to imagine the “small stuff” as the supporting cast of your life, enabling the “big picture” goals to be realized. In this way, every single task that is undertaken should be done with respect for its role in moving towards your life purpose. If this notion sounds odd, make a game out of it; try to create mental stepping stones from that “insignificant” task to the dream you are striving towards.

Dr. Carrie A. Picardi has more than 17 years of experience in the areas of human resource management, training and development, career coaching and higher education. She is currently an assistant professor for the University of Bridgeport and has expanded her personal exploration as a Reiki practitioner and yoga teacher-in-training.

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