As Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling book: Eat, Pray, Love opens in theatres this week, I realize that I, too, am on a journey of self-discovery. One of my favorite books on philosophy is don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements: A practical guide to personal freedom.
The Four Agreements can be summarized as: (my own comments are in italics)
1. Be impeccable with your word (Always treat yourself with at least the same respect as you treat others. Never say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to a friend!)
2. Don’t take anything personally (What people say to you is a reflection of themselves not of you. As such, both positive and negative feedback reflects on the other person not you. Therefore, don’t take anything people say to you personally.)
3. Don’t make assumptions (Everyone has their own background on which they base how they treat and interact with you. Always ask questions to find out what people are thinking instead of assuming you know.)
4. Always do your best (Then you’ll have no regrets!)
As much as possible, I live by these four agreements, yet there are weeks that are challenging beyond most. Last week was one of those weeks and I’ve labeled it a “Bungee week” because of the utter collision of low points (maybe “Perfect Storm” would be a better name?)
Here’s where I found the challenges:
- Point #1: One client ignored several voice mail messages and email messages (asking about a course I was teaching for them last week) – and they are still unanswered a week later. I did receive a short email in response to the first voicemail to let me know that they were busy at the time but they didn’t answer my questions. This is a regular client – I’ve taught many workshops for them (with outstanding evaluations) and brought them work in the past, but this lapse has been frustrating. (It challenges both the “Take nothing personally” and the “Don’t make assumptions” because questions remain…)
- Point #2: Another client scolded me for not achieving high scores for their workshop content (my teaching scores were high) and intimated that it is up to me to convince attendees that the course is stellar despite the content. (Again challenged the “Take nothing personally” agreement.)
- Point #3: Another potential client who asked me to commit hours for the coming months (up to 1/2 time) asked me to take part in a corporate conference call only (the 8th to date which they say is “the last step”). On the call, client reps disclosed that the work in question was not yet in place. (This also challenged the “Take nothing personally” agreement. I’d asked repeatedly about the work to reduce my assumptions.)
- Point #4: Attendees in my PM classes responded positively to my instruction. (I had to remind myself that positive comments are not personal either!)
- Point #5: At the end of the week, client #2 asks me to audit another course offering in the hopes that I will teach it in the future. (Seems to contradict the challenging point #2 – but I have to remind myself that it also isn’t personal.)
- Point #6: A “friend” who is lately way too busy for make time for me asks me for a big favor that will take up 8 hours of my time. (I remind myself that her lack of time and the request are both not personal.)
- Point #7: Calls placed to several potential clients (who left voice mails on my office phone) remain unanswered despite multiple attempts to contact them. (These are easier to realize that they are not personal because the original callers called the company and not me personally.)
- Point #8: Had dinner one evening with friends who live in the city where I was teaching and enjoyed the evening of good company and good food. (A positive outcome, but to be fair to the agreement, it was equally “not personal”.)
I know that I deserve respectful treatment from clients and friends (agreement #1) and that I did put 150% passion and effort into my client work and these particular friendship (agreement #4).
Yet it is hard at times not to take things personally — especially when they are expressed as negatives. Positive feedback from people elicits a “feel good” response and negative feedback elicits a “what did I do wrong?” (especially when I know I’ve done my best work.) Agreement #2 can pose the biggest challenge when everything seems to pile up on the negative side…
What do YOU do when you have a Bungee week like I did?
I hope that you have a great week!