As a homework assignment for my recent girl’s weekend, I was asked to read The Four Agreements. I was fully willing, but somewhat skeptical, since as the only child of a counselor, I was raised on a steady diet of self-help. I think I overdosed.
After the first few pages, my skepticism was replaced with excitement and understanding. This was one book that made sense to me.
The premise is simple: four agreements that, if followed, will change your life. The book is short and the agreements are extremely simple but nowhere near easy. They are applicable to every area of life and manage to be general and still useful all at once. They are interconnected; one always leads to another.
As part of my own work with The Four Agreements, I am drilling down and applying them to various areas of life. Here is my take on The Four Agreements in wellness:
Be Impeccable With Your Word
This agreement, as it relates to wellness, is perhaps more often related to our internal dialog than our external discourse. We have a tendency to belittle ourselves, subjecting our inner selves to a constant barrage of “You’re not good enoughs.” That is not being impeccable with your word; the message does not match the underlying intent (“I am afraid that I am not good enough”) and the nature of the repeating message will cause it to be internalized and believed. An example of this is the person who thinks, “I’m too weak to stick to a diet” whenever he or she is interested in making a change. The truth is not that the person is too weak but that they are afraid of trying to change and failing.
Additionally, you are not being impeccable if your interpret a behavior as a critical flaw in your character. This message takes a simple action and turns it into something inherent and insurmountable. Just because you neglected to meditate today does not mean that you can never commit to anything. It only means that you did not do it today.
Another way that we often fail to be impeccable with our word to ourselves is that we make promises that we cannot keep. Do not commit to running every day if you have only been running once a week. It is not a realistic goal and will only cause you to have to break your promise. A promise to yourself is an important bind; only make it if you can keep it.
Do you blame others for your situation? Are you overweight because of your genes or out of shape because you are too busy to work out? Do you claim that you cannot possibly eat healthy because it is too time consuming or expensive? You guessed it, that’s not being impeccable.
Finally, be impeccable with your words towards others. Do not put them down only to elevate yourself.
I have failed to be impeccable with my word towards myself when it comes to yoga I have told myself for years that I am inflexible. The message was repeated until it was believed. Once I recognized that I was reinforcing my tight hamstrings and hips with my words, I chose to alter my internal dialog from “I am not flexible” to “I am working on becoming more flexible.” Apparently, my hips believed me, because they now can do things I never thought possible.
Be careful of what you say. You are listening.
Don’t Take it Personally
I don’t know about you, but my ego likes to tag along in the gym or in every class I take. It wants to lift more, go faster or bend further than anyone else just to prove it can.
But it’s not about ego.
It’s about making me the best I can be at that moment.
It doesn’t matter what others can do. It doesn’t matter what the readout on the treadmill says. It doesn’t matter what number is engraved on the side of the dumbbell.
None of those things say anything about you.
If someone criticizes the choices on your plate or the number imprinted on the tag on your pants, that is their ego talking. They are expressing their own struggles. It’s not about you.
Don’t Make Assumptions
We are our own worst enemies and assumptions are our biggest weapons.
I was that sickly kid who never managed to run the mile. I would end up wheezing and limping to the office to retrieve my inhaler after only a few short yards. I assumed that I couldn’t run. Even as I outgrew the asthma and became more and more fitness oriented, I assumed I couldn’t run.
Until I pretended that I could. Less than five years later, I completed a marathon.
We have tendency to assume that how we are now is how we will be. We prefer to relax with these beliefs rather than challenge them, for doing so means that we have the responsibility for our own well being.
Your own assumptions are your biggest barrier.
Turn it around. Try assuming that you can. And see what happens.
Always Do Your Best
This agreement is the reminder that we are human. We will falter and we will fail. Be gentle with yourself when you make a mistake and then recommit to doing your best.
Don’t let a small mistake become a pattern of missteps. One cookie (or even a box of cookies!) does not mean that your healthy diet is out the window. Acknowledge it, forgive it and move on.
Yoga is a wonderful teacher of this premise. It calls for you to be fully aware and accepting of who you are on the mat on that day. In that moment. It doesn’t matter what you could do yesterday or what you may be able to achieve tomorrow. Just do your best today.
These four agreements can help you achieve a more balanced and healthy life, regardless of your own wellness challenges. Be honest with yourself, don’t allow your assumptions to limit your potential, let your ego take a back seat and give yourself a pat on the back for your efforts. You deserve the best that you can offer:)
The Four Agreements in Marriage
The Four Agreements in Divorce