Do you ever feel split around home and work life? As if you have to be two different people? Happily, we are living in exciting times with more and more awareness around mission, vision, and values being woven through our work culture and our home life. The line of who we are at home and who we are at work is blurring. There’s a graceful honesty and inclusivity that is emerging when employer and employee values match and are upheld. We used to talk about our ‘work-life’ and our ‘personal life’. The operative word here is ‘life’. As long as you are alive it will not matter what category you put your activities into; work, play, family, sleep, all of them are in the bigger holding category called, Your Life.
If you, like me, work full-time you are spending on average 44 years of your life working 38 hours per week, 48 weeks per year. That’s 80,256 hours of your life not spent at home or in leisure time. If you get caught in endless petty conflicts, it’s a very long time to be in disharmony with yourself and the world.
If there is peace in your mind, you will find peace with everybody. ― H.W.L. Poonja (affectionately known as Papaji)
It would be simpler and far more effective to bring yourself into a holistic alignment and integrity for your entire life. Meditation and quieting the mind and also respite in nature really work for me as a way to ground myself and to recuperate from a busy week. It’s a catch-22 situation. I can hear the absurdity in my logic, ‘I just need to get all this work done or calm the family chaos down before I can meditate and destress!’ And round and round I go.
A few years ago, I discovered a book called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. It felt solid and matched my desire to keep myself both accountable and in integrity in a simple way for all aspects of my life.
To adhere to the four agreements took vigilance and mindfulness. I welcomed the challenge. I felt there was something truly remarkable about this practice; as if it was recalibrating my habitual thought processes. The more I practised, the more I felt my brain rewiring and the more I felt a calmness in my central nervous system as if I had been meditating.
The brain is a far more open system than we ever imagined, and nature has gone very far to help us perceive and take in the world around us. It has given us a brain that survives in a changing world by changing itself … We see with our brains, not with our eyes, — Norman Doidge
The Four Agreements
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.
This initially was very tricky at work. I noticed how my colleagues and I had certain habitual ways of interacting. Often repetitive and banal. When I followed this agreement something remarkable happened. I found myself being curious about my colleagues. I was remembering the art of conversation that I instinctively knew as a young teenager. I noticed that the energy in the whole team picked up, people shared more. This made my interactions rich and rewarding. My partner at home assumed I had moved to a new team as he had never heard me speak about my colleagues in this fresh and engaging way.
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.
Wow, this one right here changed everything for me. It was like I had a new perspective, a new lens. One morning, my boss was ranting and raving about deadlines and budgets and forecasts. Usually, I would have reddened with a sense of guilt and assumed culpability. Not this time, I just looked at him and thought, ‘Wow, you’re really feeling the pressure today.’ I went out and bought him a fruit smoothie packed with energy to help him tackle his day. That one gesture shifted our whole dynamic. He apologised to me and the team, for the first time ever, and quietly retreated to his desk.
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.
I got a text from my boss before 8am. He wanted to see me in his office. At first, I got a little anxious as to why he wanted to see me. By the time I got into work I was convinced I was being fired. I even took in a box to take my desk debris home with me. Turns out, I was getting a minor promotion and a slight pay increase. I hid the box under my desk until I could dispose of it without suspicion.
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.
I once started a job as a telesales marketer for a big newspaper to make a bit of extra cash in the evening. Armed with this agreement, hand on my heart, I did my very best. When the supervisor called me in for a chat, and we both mutually agreed I was not suited for this work, I was able to walk out with my head held high. I learned I am not a cold-calling kind of guy. There was no inner conflict or negative mind talk. I gave it my very best and it didn’t work out. I felt really good about the whole experience. And relieved I was clearer about what it was I wanted career-wise.
My Commitment to Self-Responsibility
During this time, my brain was being trained with fresh codes of integrity awareness, instilling compassion for myself and others. I felt a powerful sense of taking my true life back, in particular, my natural resonance with the world around me. I felt I had made a pact with myself, for myself and invariably for the benefit of everyone in my sphere of connection.
I loved the promise that I could pattern-interrupt self-limiting beliefs to start experiencing more freedom, happiness, and love. It opened my heart and mind in ways I never thought possible.
For my experiment with the agreements in the workplace, I printed them out and carried them around with me. I still have them in my wallet today. A friend who also uses them as a tool for self-responsibility gave me some great advice. He advised that I would break one of them if not all of them every day until I had enough positive experiences of the benefits they delivered. He suggested it takes around twenty-one days to form a habit and twenty-eight plus days to break a habit. If I were to break the pattern of my old negative thoughts and instill new, more constructive ways of thinking, I was going to have to commit to at least twenty-eight days. Bring it on! Each day got easier and easier. And when I broke an agreement, I simply said, ‘I forgive you, you got this!’
Life really is so much simpler when I don’t interpret and just stay with the facts. I notice my engagement and participation in life, work and home, is richer and sweeter, even when it’s challenging. I notice I laugh a whole lot more.
We’d love to invite you to experiment with The Four Agreements and share your experience with us in the comments below. Remember it takes practise, and practise makes ‘worth-it.’
‘You got this!’