Everyone can use a little “pruning”…

13 Jan

By the title above and the fact that I live in Florida, you might be led to think this post is about regularity… thankfully (at least from my viewpoint) it’s not!  It’s about making room in your life for new growth, new experiences, new insights – no matter how old you are!  In fact, today is the youngest you’ll ever be again in your life, and if you’re reading this post, it is so much better than the alternative…

It’s probably obvious to you that we’re all born into the world completely pure, unadulterated, fresh, … we are like an oak seedling just sprouted. We are ready for nourishment, sunlight and warmth (love), and ready to take on the world. For most of us at this point, life is good.

By mid-life, we’ve weathered seasons and storms and our branches bear witness to years of events.  Our heads are filled to the brim with memories of experiences, hurts, biases, judgments, opinions of right and wrong, conditions, critiques and rules — so much so that there is barely room for anything or anyone new.

oakWe find that we are now solid oak trees, each of us bearing a customized pattern of branches forged through a unique set of events, circumstances and relationships. These branches bear witness to our life experience and often form a mismatch of uneven projections shooting out in myriad directions. During warm summers (the good times in our life), these imperfections stay hidden, obscured by bountiful leaves and we can fully bask in our beauty.  When winter sets in (the less than perfect times of our life), as it invariably does, our branches and scars are exposed bare leaving us feeling vulnerable and bare.  Over the years, our “branches” build up layers of  moss and hide skeletons of dead wood – emotional baggage – that can impede our natural growth. Sometimes this buildup happens overnight (such as a lightning strike or other stressful event), but more typically it accrues over time, seemingly unnoticeable as we go about our daily routines.  That is, until something jolts us to observe that dead wood and moss impedes our  future growth.

A colleague once told me (after a tumultuous time in my life):  “You really need to prune your life – get rid of the dead branches (the toxic relationships and ways of thinking that no longer serve you) to make room for new growth.”

The analogy was “bang on” (as we say in Canada) and her advice came flooding back to me today as I read the following:

1003924_560500844040225_309166825_nIt hit me – to accomplish ANY of these things means getting rid of dead wood in our heads… taking out the rote programmed reactions and ways of thinking.  Replacing the emotional baggage and dead end thinking with considerate, thoughtful, intentional responses to life.  One at a time…

“Learn to love without condition.”  Wow, this means I need to be conscious of and lower the biases (and judgments) that lead me to love others with conditions.  (The conditions are like a wall intended to protect me from future hurt – but ultimately it limits potentially great relationships!)  I need to consciously CHOOSE to accept and simply love people as they are, without conditions, (just as I would like to have happen to me.)  This sounds like a good habit to adopt.

“Talk without bad intention.”  Sometimes I reassure myself that I already do this, but if I am brutally honest, sometimes the good intentions are skewed when I am talking to someone with whom I have an imperfect past.  If there has been some mal-intention on the part of the other (even perceived) some mal-intention back could occur.  To talk without bad intention requires me to clear my head of judgment, before I speak, so that the words come out pure and the tone is positive.  This gives the other party the chance to simply be and respond without their defenses being up.  Sounds like another good habit to practice.

“Give without any reason.”  If you’ve grown up with a scarcity mentality like I did (there’s never enough money, food, jobs, time, energy to go around), giving can end up being biased and giving ends up with some sort of expectation.  Giving without reason means letting go of the need to get anything back in return (today or any day!)  Giving without any reason, just because I can – this is another habit that will enrich my life!

And “Care for people without any expectation.”  For me, this one hinges on my childhood learning of the “Golden Rule (do unto others as you’d like them <expect them> to do unto you.)”  This learning always set me up for failure because it implied that there would be reciprocity – that kindness begets kindness, generosity begets generosity, and so on.  The reality is that when I expect (not hope) something of others, I am imposing on them MY rules/code of behavior, my background, my need to  control – and that is simply not fair.  Letting go of the dead wood that expectations bring allows me to care for others as I can, while first taking care of my own needs (first.)

Pruning the dead wood in my  life takes concentration and work to properly trim (not chop) so that I remain whole and healthy.  Too much pruning at once or in the wrong season can be worse than not.  Figuring out new habits, such as those above, is a journey to remove the old (negative) habits of judgment, bias, reaction, and reliving old hurts, and replace them with new (positive) habits of acceptance, love, response and openness.

While old habits die-hard – I realize that this old dog can learn new tricks and the added bonus is that my new life is enriched, full, and thriving!

Wishing you a great week!

Carol

 

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Finding motivation amidst the Doldrums… Just Imagine

20 Aug

Has your life turned out exactly as you had hoped and dreamed when you were a kid?

Becoming your own cheerleaderIf you are like most people over 25 today, your life is likely a mixture of ups, downs, work you like and work you have to do, chores, children, demands and taxes.

How did life become so mundane?  What happened to the motivation and drive you once held so passionately?

The not-so-good news is that in the pursuit of happiness through working and earning an income, your dreams likely moved to the back burner and lower on the priority list.  One day at a time, work and family and obligations took over until you find yourself in the middle of an everyday, ordinary, rat race life.

The good news is that this doesn’t have to be your future and you can change the course of your life beginning now.  No matter what your current life situation involves (and too often it might mean foreclosures, unemployment, isolation, lack of finances, dead-end thinking), you already have one of the most powerful inertia-overcoming tools at your disposal – your imagination!

As adults…

The imagination process often ended in college or earlier when teachers, colleagues, parents, partners and even children encouraged us to “be responsible, be serious about life, get a job and a career” and we did.

We wake up as rote rodents, spending day after day working towards someone else’s goals or marching to an internal drummer that is without a lot of creativity.  If we are in a crisis and fighting to pay for food, shelter and clothing – or if we are struggling for stability and safety in life (so many are!) – it can seem impossible to rekindle our dreams or imagine a different future.

create

But just imagine

what life might be like if you had a clean slate and could do it all over – what would your perfect day be like if you could be doing anything you want in 5 years?  Would you be doing the same thing as you are today?  What would your “ideal dream” life be like?  What would you spend your waking hours doing? What are the things you love to do that you would do if you didn’t need to worry about money?  What would you envision your life to be like that would make you bound out of bed with enthusiasm in the morning?

Most likely it’s been a long time (or forever) since you allowed yourself to dream your dreams.  Take time today to envision how you want to live life in 5 years, commit your imagination and your passion to the universe (or God or whatever you may believe in) and watch the universe deliver in its own time.

For me, this has worked wonders – and especially when I feel demotivated by detractors, an unfriendly work environment, or am challenged with financial strife.  Every single time I’ve envisioned a positive, productive future (with how I will feel when the future delivers!) – it has come true.  Not every detail has manifested with the timing or financial profits I requested, but often the results exceed my dreams.

For me, (and maybe for you), the key is to stay motivated in times of crisis and stress by visioning and self-encouragement.

Do I know what tomorrow will bring?

Today I have an uncertain future (nothing new!) with no solid idea of how I’m going to find my next contracts or break through into a new career path (or stay on this one but earning a better income), but I continue to envision and dream.  The past brought me speaking engagements and work in over 30 countries, friendships all over the world, and a life with beaches, wonderful weather and solid, loyal friendships.  Today I enjoy the fruits of what came about through imagination and visioning and even on the days when I feel a lack of motivation, my imaginative daydreams pull me out of the doldrums.

Just imagine where they might take you! Perhaps beyond YOUR wildest, rekindled dreams.

sPEND TIME CREATING Be well, dream big, and allow the universe with abundance to create the life you WANT!

– Carol

p.s. I LOVE these two related posts I just discovered:

Positive people are good for you

14 Aug

If you took an inventory of the people in your life, how many of them would you classify as having a positive influence?  Do you feel loved, accepted, and optimistic because of them or do you feel downtrodden, defensive, and inferior?  It is your choice about who to allow in your life as friends, loves, acquaintances – so why not choose those who bring out the best in you?

some peopleWhile it is true that no one can make you feel anything (positive or negative) without your permission – the influence of those who support and love you cannot be underestimated.  When you love yourself and understand that you truly deserve to be surrounded by like-minded positive people, life becomes wonderful.

Below is a slide show of some of the best quotes about positive people and their impact.  Sometimes it’s better to be alone that to settle for people in  your life who don’t appreciate you…

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Put out your intentions to the universe that you want positive, uplifting, optimistic and supportive people in your life – and watch (over time) as the universe delivers!  And remove relationships that are toxic to make room for these new ones.

Wishing you a positive week!

Carol

 

The Secret to Happiness? Five Minutes of (Self-Love) Zen at a Time…

13 Aug

I never thought I’d say this but I am closer to a “permanent state of happy” than I’ve ever been before.  Yet, to look at my life objectively, I’ve got less of the material trappings than I’ve ever had in the past and my type-A personality is no longer governed by titles or financial goals.  The journey to happy has been a conscious one – and along the way I’ve gleaned a few nuggets of wisdom from others that led me to where I am today.

survival

I’d like to share them with you in the hopes that no matter where life led you in the past, and whatever is planned for tomorrow, you CAN experience moments of happy zen today.  (Even if the rest of your day is stressed beyond belief!)   But first…

A little about me

Today I earn less money and have a less stable financial future than ever before, I’m middle-aged (and the youngest I will ever be again!);  I likely won’t retire until I’m 80 (given that I find sustainable income soon); I have many stressed out friends (because of their kids and unemployment); and I’m divorced without a love/”partner” relationship.  YET (this is the good part!) on 99% of my days, I’m blissfully happy. And you can be too!

It wasn’t always that way:  I started off in my early 20’s as a young go-getter – an engineering graduate, a career-minded mother of two  with a husband in school, and multiple roles: mother, wife, daughter, friend, employer, breadwinner, maid, cook, PTA member, entrepreneur, co-worker, confidante, volunteer, role-model, sister, motivator, pet owner… I was busy, needed, loved by others, in demand, and yet something was missing.

In the midst of constant crisis (goes with being a mom and everything else) and feeling out of control, I neglected “ME.”

When things got overwhelming from the demands of others on me, I tried harder to please others and became more and more unhappy.  Self-love was something I was never taught – and the self-help books that said “take care of yourself and go take a bath” just didn’t make sense.

I WAS happy in my role as mother to two wonderful kids and my career was taking off (software consulting), but I seldom felt satisfied being me.  When it felt like the world was caving in with demands, school work, dinners, clients, employees, soccer games, family engagements, I often envied those who had the time to breathe and smell the flowers.  Here I was SuperWoman – in good health and physically fit, but there were times when I had no idea how I was going to survive the stress of it all.  I was everything to everyone and every moment of my time was spoken for by others (children, husband, clients, co-workers, employees, family, friends, acquaintances, etc.)

When I laid my head on my pillow at night and my husband wanted to be amorous, my head was already trying to find solutions to tackle the mounting to-do list only a sleepy 8 hours away.  In my dreams I was alive, but realistically I was fast asleep as far as life and loving ME.

As life progressed, the real me virtually disappeared – my (now ex-) husband continually had to be right (obsessively so) and my intuition died; my son became a violent (towards me) teenager; my business declined; and my daughter moved to NYC – I had become a Stepford Wife and the real me was gone from my personal life.

By spring of 2006, I was divorced (financially and emotionally devastated); lonely (I didn’t have any personal non-mutual friends aside from business); alone (my son was in Colorado at holistic wilderness camp); challenged in business (the nature of consulting); and essentially asleep.

What I didn’t realize then was that “While I was busy in life TAKING CARE OF THE WORLD, NO ONE (not even me) WAS TAKING CARE OF ME!”  When you are taught to take care of the world one person at a time, you really have no idea how to take care of yourself!  The cost of putting everyone else first was almost my life. At that point, I WOKE UP to the fact that even I didn’t love me!

walking

What I’ve Learned that Might Help You…

  • Although self-love is instinctive, it is systematically programmed out of us from birth.  We are taught (especially as females) to put others before ourselves – and that pleasing others is more unselfish.  What I’ve learned: Self love IS the KEY!  You have to put on your own mask first!  The airlines have it right by saying: “Put on your own mask first before assisting others” – I found out the hard way that if you sacrifice yourself in the service of others, no one takes care of you!
  • Learning self-care and self-love is (for many of us) is a new skill that can be mastered over time. After a lifetime of putting others first (what’s in it FROM ME?) I’m awakening to the realization that I matter!  (I.e., what’s in it FOR ME?)
  • The key to finding happiness comes with five minutes of self-love (my definition of “zen”) at a time

Five minutes of (Self-Love) Zen at a time…

  • Give yourself the gift of the present to get reacquainted with the real you:  set aside five minutes (at a time) anywhere that you can be alone in relative silence (even if this is a restroom stall).  Once you’ve turned off distractions (your cell phone, tablet, blackberry, pager…) – tell yourself how much you love YOU (this might seem hokey, but bear with me).  Make sure you use words such as “I love you – you deserve to be loved – you are a wonderful, kind, giving, genuine person.  Pretend that you are your child, a best friend, a lover and use words that you would use for them.  (Note that you may not want to say this aloud in a restroom stall – you might get attention that you really don’t want!);
  • Be kind – think about five things that you do well (this sometimes takes practice) and remind yourself of this. These can be little things such as “you know better than anyone how to see the good in others”, “you are imaginative and creative”;
  • Be playful – consider one or two things that make you smile (or if it’s not happening in the present, something that made you smile in the past) and thank yourself for being able to smile!;
  • Be giving – imagine surrounding yourself with the warmest, most embracing, most genuine bear hug you can possibly give – filled with appreciation and love;
  • Be ruthless and protective: when your inner critic tries to interfere in YOUR five minutes – tell them this is your time and tell them to “shut up and butt out”;
  • Be conscious – take in the air around you and breathe – thanking your heart for beating and allowing you to transform the air into oxygen that your body needs;
  • Be optimistic – tell yourself that you are a survivor (you are!) who deserves the best things in life no matter what is happening around you outside of this five minutes. Make sure you tell yourself the same wondrous things you’d say to a best friend you are encouraging;
  • Close your eyes and imagine the warmth of a newborn swaddled and cuddled in the arms of the most loving parent – give yourself this gift even if you’ve never experienced it for yourself. Become the loving parent (for five minutes at a time) to your true inner self;
  • Be proud of yourself:  too often we seek acceptance and approval from others when we really need it from within – tell yourself how proud you are that you’ve made it this far in life!  That’s an accomplishment in itself and a privilege that you are alive!;
  • One foot forward at a time: all you need to do no matter where you are at in life is to put one foot forward at a time – a marathon is won by many small steps – and you CAN take one step forward no matter what’s going on in your life. Just one step – a baby step is admirable!;
  • Remind yourself of your value:  you deserve happiness, peace, tranquility, love, and time for you.

five minutes five steps

For me, the many, many five minute sessions of self-love zen are becoming second nature.  It’s really been crucial to me learning to take care of myself and overcome the tendency to put everyone else first. (Forty plus years of self-neglect takes time and energy to overcome!)

It is so much easier to face (and conquer) the challenges of everyday life (finances, lack of work, unemployment, disrespectful people, acquaintances who I thought were friends, family, disappointments, etc.) when I know that I have at least 3 main supporters in my life:  Me, Myself and I – and that I can rely on them to come to my rescue with Five Minutes of Self-Love Zen throughout the day.

Wishing you a wonderful day!

p.s., if you got ANYTHING out of this post – please let me know. Comments (good, bad, ugly, amusing) are welcome!

Carol

Clues as to Why She Might NOT be into You… (especially for men over 40!)

10 Aug

Following on the coat tails of “He’s just not that into you,” I’ve developed a list of common behaviors rampant among men (over 40) in Florida.  Every one of these has happened to me in the past 6 months (!) and my friends concur that they experience the same thing.

While we see these as absolute turn-offs, we constantly have guy friends who say “We can’t figure out why she didn’t call/text/email me back – I thought we were soooo compatible.”

So, if you are over 40, male, straight, and living in Florida (and elsewhere), here’s the top 10 list of disrespectful behaviors that should give you a hint about:

  “Why she just might not be that into YOU”:

1. If she tells you she doesn’t like texting and you insist on texting anyways; it’s likely she won’t be into you.

2. When you ask the type of food she likes and disregard her response & take her to Hooters; it’s likely she just won’t be into you.

3. No advance date planning ahead of 3 hours; this is just plain narcissistic to think that we women are waiting by the phone for your call.  If we are busy and active, (which those of us who are emotionally healthy and happy ARE), we’re not going to find this an attractive behavior.  When you know we are busy and you still do this (because you are NOT busy),  it shows a lack of planning on your part and a lack of respect for our time;

4. Male whining about how bad your ex is/was; We don’t care (just like you shouldn’t care to hear crap about our ex’s!)  You’d be turned off about us bemoaning how horrid our ex is/was -and so are we!  It doesn’t matter what you ex did to you or who she was – unless you prefer to be with her than us… Regardless, this is a turn-off and we probably will just NOT be into you!

5. Smoking without first asking if it’s offensive; this is a big no-no – a guy who pulls out a cigarette in a crowded bar or car and then expects us to share the air with their nicotine.  Would you willingly take part in cancer research we subjected you to – that was harmful to your health?  Unlikely – and so if you do this to us (without asking if it’s okay or excusing yourself and walking away) – we’re most likely NOT going to be into you!

6. No showing after we reserve time when you’ve asked us out and then saying “it wasn’t really a date anyways;”  This one is simply amazing!  A guy I know (who insisted he really, really wanted to see me) pulled out the “I’m too sweaty and tired to see you tonight” after arranging a date a few days in advance.  His response when I told him that I had set aside the time was “well I can see you tomorrow or Friday or the weekend” – NOT!  Any busy, happy female realizes that this is plain disrespectful behavior to assume that he can see you when it is CONVENIENT for him… Gosh, it is any wonder when this happens that we are just not that into you?

7. Calling us “chicks” or “girls” when we are over 25. – Hey, we are women who deserve good treatment – we’re not school girls or barnyard animals (although you might like that – NOT!)  While you may not intend to be disrespectful – you need to know that this is how it comes across.  Don’t be surprised if we are just not into you!

8. Asking if you can meet up with us when we’re out with our girlfriends, then getting ticked off and leaving in a huff when we don’t devote all our attention to you.  This happened with a “friend” who wanted to go out with me (I told him I just wanted to be friends) – he shows up at a place where he knew I’d be with friends (the priority!), ignored my friends (despite being introduced) and tried to monopolize my time.  Is it any wonder after violating multiple points above (whining, smoking, disrespect) that he’s no longer even in the friends WITHOUT benefits category?

9. Ignoring responses to texts you’ve initiated – for hours or days – then expecting immediate responses when you finally do text back; This is a routine complaint from my single friends:  guys will text them and carry on a conversation (multiple texts) then drop “off the face of the earth” when they initiated the text thread in the first place.  When our responses to your texts go unanswered, is it any wonder why we don’t respond immediately when you decide it is convenient to text back?  If we sense a lack of respect or courtesy, you can bet that we will just not be that into YOU!

10. Whining (about anything and everything) – especially when we’re out somewhere. There is nothing more pathetic (and unattractive) than a guy who whines about how great their former city is compared to where we choose to live. Recently a transplant from Scranton, PA incessantly whined about the “high price of chicken breasts” here compared to “Scranton” – it got so bad that I started to encourage him to move back!  If you whine instead of expressing gratitude for life, don’t expect us to be into you!  We have enough drama in our lives without having to take on yours!

Now, I’m not saying all single men over 40 living in Florida (and elsewhere) are bad guys.  I’m simply pointing out that if you are puzzled by female behaviors that confuse or (at times) seem to stymie you – take a look again at the checklist items #1 through #10 – and see how many infractions are part of your regular behavior.

Certainly it is your choice whether you want to/don’t want to change, but if you do want someone to become special in your life, you may want to take a second look at what you might be doing to turn off women.  (And this is just a short personal list of what irks me and my friends – it might not hold true for other women.)

Wishing you all the best – do you agree with my findings above?

p.s., The next posting will concentrate on how to discern:  “You think she’s into you, but you’re just not sure:  A Checklist for Respectful Guys.”

Carol

What’s Love Got to Do with It?

2 May

I don’t know if it’s the email spam lists I’m on or where I hang out (the beach) or what’s on TV (I seldom watch) – if you’re not coupled up, you just don’t count.  In the news, the debate about gay versus straight marriage has become tantamount as if marriage and coupledom is the only way of life.

But consider that with over 1/2 of marriages ending in divorce, and an equal split between singles and married adults in the US and one has to wonder why the 50% of singles are nonplussed.  When I survey most of my single friends, many would prefer to be in a committed loving relationship to being alone and would love to find love (wouldn’t we all!)  One friend of mine is miserable because she loves many male friends but professes that she really needs to be “in love.”

The pursuit of love (in my estimation) is a red herring – looking to “find love” should be a misnomer because love is all around us (and in us).  Romantic love (the kind in the movies and fairy tales) is fun, often fleeting, but it is only one kind of love – one that depends on another to fulfill us.  That’s where the problem lies – reliance on anyone other than ourselves to feel love!

Having been married half my life to someone who truly loved himself (and I him), I am discovering that the key to true love can only be found through “selfless self-love” – truly accepting oneself for the combination of beauty, faults, strengths and weaknesses we see in the mirror.  Many grow up without the self-esteem to know that we need to be attracted and attractive to ourself first and foremost before we can truly share love with anyone else.  Yet this is the ultimate truth – self-love is the root of happiness!

I frequently quote don Miguel Ruiz’ The Four Agreements because I truly admire and embrace the essence of his work.  The First Agreement “Always live with integrity” truly expresses the core concepts behind self-love.  I used to think that this agreement simply meant one should be honest and ethical – but that is so far off!

“Always live with integrity” means never, ever say anything to yourself that you would not say in love to a best friend.  So, the “I’m too sensitive, too xxx, whatever” needs to be banned forever from one’s vocabulary (both to yourself or to others!) and replaced with “I am who I am and I love me.”  Taking care of oneself first is like putting on your own oxygen mask first on an airplane – it allows you to function AND be able to share with others!  For me, this was an incredible concept as I was always told (and taught) and experienced that I had to give before I received.  Yet, by not giving myself the love I truly deserved, I gave away my sustenance and what I needed to truly survive.  Self-love is not selfish, it is selfless and necessary!

If you’ve read this far (and I’m almost done my rant for the day!) – you might be thinking that I am professing to become as narcissistic as the person I am no longer with, but this is wrong. Or you might be saying “how could you grow up without knowing self-love and putting yourself first?” (It happens to more than me, I guarantee it!)

I’m not saying one should become obsessed solely with oneself, but rather that finding love in the world means starting with truly accepting and loving ourselves.   We truly deserve our own true love.

So, what’s love go to do with it?  Loving yourself in all your splendor is the right thing to do – and once you’ve mastered that – love has found YOU!

Have a great week!

Carol

Why Do I Care What YOU Think?

4 Apr

Why do we care so much about what other people think (about us?)  Every day I meet people who bemoan about how someone in their life diminished their achievements, pooh-poohed their plans, or expressed a lack of support for their ideas.  Somehow we’ve gotten it into our heads that people who purport to love us (and tell us that they only want the best for us) have opinions worth more than our own!  And this is such a fallacy!  Yet we do the same thing to other people without even intending to.  (Which begs the question:  If you knew that your opinion caused someone to feel badly about themselves… even to the point of giving up – would you think a bit more before YOU spoke?)

Realistically, it is only YOUR own opinion of yourself that should matter. And yet we falter…

I grew up with the adage “How can you do/say/think that?  What would the neighbors/friends/strangers think (of you?)  It was almost as if people on the street without any regard to you or your life should have a level of control over who you are! It was as hogwash then as it is now, but so many are still caught up in the trap of “what would so-and-so think?” – the truth is that it just doesn’t matter.

The opinions of others have nothing to do with me (or you!)  I’ve spoken at hundreds of conferences over the years and I am always amazed at the diversity of evaluations that come back from attendees.  They range from the polar opposites of “Couldn’t stand the presenter, didn’t learn a thing…” to “Best presenter I’ve ever seen – make sure you invite her back. Excellent!” – all from the same presentation! The rest of the audience lies somewhere in the middle, with the majority of people offering no comments at all.  What should I believe about my presentation – the best, the worst, or somewhere in the middle?

None of them!  All of the opinions from the audience are from THEIR perspective – based on what they like and how they perceived me. No one knows me except for me!  When I speak, I give it my best and that is all I can do.  When I leave the stage and feel good about what I’ve done, that is all that should matter – I’ve done my best.  Yet, of course I do read the evaluations (and they are the basis on which I am asked back!) – and they do still affect me.  BUT I am learning to ignore the outliers (both positive and negative) because they are so much less a reflection of me than of the audience members and their own frame of mind!

The only approval we should ever strive to meet is our own.

If you’ve read anything I’ve written over the past two years on this blog, you’ll know that I’m a fan of author and motivational guru don Miguel Ruiz and his landmark book The Four Agreements. When my daughter first gifted me a copy almost 10 years ago, I read it but the concepts just didn’t sink in at first.

Now, 10 years later, I fully embrace the concepts even though I still get tripped up by life’s little circumstances that suck me in and zap my energy!

Cover of

Cover of The Four Agreements: A 48-Card Deck

The Four Agreements just for introduction purposes (see my other posts on the subject for more insights) are:

1. Always live with integrity: I used to think this meant to live honestly (with high ethics and morals), but it really means: become your own best friend!  Love yourself unconditionally and never, ever say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to your best friend!  (i.e., Banish your inner critic and rid yourself of the negative thoughts like “I’m not good enough, pretty enough, thin enough, rich enough – any of these!  Replace them with positive and realistic self-love endorsements such as “You are kind. You deserve love. You are a great person! (Which goes beyond appearances!))

When you’ve had a lifetime to build up your defenses with a damaging inner critic (mine was so strong it almost led me to suicide!) – often put in place to protect you from the (inevitable) onslaught of unsupportive but well-meaning people in your life – this can be a major life change!  But it is necessary – if you are not your own best friend who loves you for all you are – you’ll never find happiness. Happiness starts and ends within – so start today by loving yourself!

2. Don’t take anything personally: This one was also tough for me, but it makes so much sense.  Think about it – if you wear something new out to a party and three people come up to you saying variously:

  • “What a great color on you – great outfit!”
  • “Oh, from the looks of that outfit, you’ve gained a few pounds.”
  • “You look tired, maybe it’s the outfit, you really shouldn’t wear those colors.”

Who is right?  As I’ve stated above – none of them are “right” – they are all opinions.  If you feel good about yourself and how you look – that is all that matters.

When we stop taking the responses of others personally (they are not personal – they are only a viewpoint from another,) life gets so much better!

3. Never make assumptions: Agreement #3 also takes getting used to. When we realize that not everyone thinks like we do, it makes sense to stop and ask questions to clarify what others tell us.  A couple of years ago I was dating a guy who I really cared about and he told me after a few weeks that “I have no feelings for you.”  I was devastated because I took it to mean that he didn’t care at all about me, and I immediately started crying when he said this. He couldn’t figure out why I’d be upset because he meant that he wasn’t in love with me, he cared about me but wasn’t in love (he was going through a divorce at the time… I should have seen the red flags there!)  My interpretation was that no feelings = no caring.  I’ve since learned to try not to react and instead ask questions first to make sure that what I hear and interpret is the same thing as what is meant.

In life, we make so many assumptions about WHY others say, think, do, or act based on OUR opinions.  When we ask questions to find out WHY – the answers may pleasantly surprise you!

4. Always do your best: This one can be the easiest to embrace because it is tied to #1. If you are always doing your best, it is harder to tell yourself you could have, should have… anything.  When you do you best (at the time, given the information and resources at hand) – you can never could have, should have done anything differently!

All in all, it really shouldn’t matter to me what YOU think about what I write, what I say, what I post – yet it still does.  We are at the core, social creatures who are domesticated to care about others and respect the opinions and thoughts of others.

In this journey of life, I’m finally learning to put MY OPINION of myself first… and everyone else’s second to tenth.  It’s not always the easiest thing to do, but if I don’t accept and love myself – how can I expect anything of anyone else?

p.s., Comments?  I’d love to hear YOUR opinion – it doesn’t change the fact that I did my best in writing this post, but I’d still like SOME feedback.

p.p.s. Remember to register for the upcoming True You Discovery retreat May 3-5, 2013 in beautiful St Petersburg Beach, FL. Visit www.spiritualconnections1-trueyoudiscovery.com for full details.  I also wrote about this in my last blog post.

Have a good week!

Carol

 

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