Hey guys, I’m starting off the Finding Clarity Series with a post about Agreements. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, I got this term from the popular self-help book The Four Agreements. I 100% recommend that all people read this book. I listened to it on Audible and it was only 2.5 hours long yet has managed to be one of the most important books I’ve read.
Anyway, the book basically says that our “agreements” are the belief systems and rules that we have accepted throughout our lives so far. From young children, we are taught about the world, other people, ourselves, and life, and as we go, we are making “agreements” about these things by accepting them to be true.
I won’t go too much into the book itself (again, please go read it!), instead what is important to take away here is that there’s a lot of things that we have accepted in life that aren’t serving us. A lot of rules and beliefs and behaviours and emotional energy that we carry around every day. They inform our decisions, our actions, our reactions, our relationships, our hopes and dreams, and who we are. So, some pretty important stuff!
And yet, most of us are running around with wonky or downright awful agreements that are holding us back in life…
Why? Firstly, it’s not our fault. Don Miguel Ruiz points out that as children, of course, we are told things by our elders; it’s only natural for us to accept and believe them. However, what we didn’t do when we grew up was start to question these things and make a change.
Let me walk you through the steps to fixing our agreements, and perhaps I’ll share a few old ones and new ones of my own.
Your first job is the most important: you need to become aware of your agreements. Perhaps calling them agreements is confusing, so let’s just say beliefs from now on. How do we become aware of our beliefs when a lot of them are so deeply embedded in us that we don’t even consider them at all? Well, you live with more intention, slowness, and attention.
This means being more mindful. Being aware of what you’re doing, thinking and feeling and then, asking why. The why is important, but first you can take it slow and just start to document these things. Of course, I’m going to suggest you keep a journal! This is a perfect way to have a document of all your actions, thoughts, feelings etc. throughout a day, week, or month. You can look back and find patterns. Those patterns are important.
When you’re ready, question where those patterns may have come from. What they might mean. Examples…
I have a tendency to call myself stupid all the time, why do I think that? Who told me that? When did I adopt this belief? What really triggered me?
I have noticed I let my partner have his way, what might that mean? What does it mean about him, myself, or my beliefs about the dynamics of our relationship?
When I’m sad, I reach for snacks above anything else, why do I do that? What hole do the snacks fill? What emotion am I numbing here?
This is your inner dialogue, inner critic, monkey mind, lizard brain, inner roommate and all the other things authors and creators have called it over the years. We all have a constant reel going on in our minds, but this is our well of important information for things we believe.
What we deeply believe informs our thoughts, feelings and actions.
Write them out
As you start doing this, you should get an idea of some potential agreements/beliefs. Don’t worry if they don’t sound fancy; they don’t need to. This is a personal venture towards clarity in your life. Write them down, whatever they sound like, whatever comes through – it’s all useful information.
Some ideas of my own bad agreements:
- I’m not good with people.
- I’m not fun or interesting.
- I’m less than my siblings.
- Intelligence is measured by how much you know, especially compared to others and in academic settings.
- My family don’t like me and disapprove of my life choices.
- There are winners and losers in life. There is a limited amount of resources or success or happiness, therefore if someone else has it, I can’t too.
- Unless my actions or ideas are validated (approved, praised, accepted) by others, they’re not worthy or enough and I’m doing something wrong.
- I must fit in, but I don’t.
- I am morally superior to others. I am the good one.
- It is my duty to be the Hero and Therapist for others because I’m a good person and that’s what good people do.
See the danger
It’s all well and good to find these agreements/beliefs, but you now have to how to question them. Hold them under the microscope and ask where they came from, what they really mean in your life, and if they’re true. Even if they are partially true, or have felt true at times, do they serve you? Are they good things for you to accept and believe and use in your life?
From here, you need to decide to set fire (literally, if you so wish) to these old ways. The old belief systems that have only hurt and held you back. Our agreements, when wonky like this, imprison us in our own minds and our lives. We decide not to meet new people because we believe we won’t belong. We hate ourselves whenever we get something wrong and believe that we must be idiots or intellectual inferiors to those around us.
We cut ourselves again and again, then continue to poke at that wound, when we have the power to put down the blade and let the wounds heal…
Firstly, let me say again, take this slow. Knowing the bad things you believe and even thinking up new things to believe takes time. You are doing the work to undo years of conditioning. You’re unlearning things that have become interwoven with your very being. That takes time. It might bring up a lot of emotions and pain and frustration, that’s healing for you. You will fall back but it’s all about going back to the first step again and again: awareness. As long as you can spot what you’re doing, it’s okay.
This journey needs a lot of self-compassion to work.
Take the specifics of your agreements and write new ones out that use similar dialogue and switch it around.
E.g. I’m not good with people -> becomes… I am very good with people because I’m a good listener, empathetic, kind, genuine, funny, and authentic.
Yes, evidence and specifics really help us to believe these things, rather than arbitrary or basic blanket statements.
I’ve explored each one in my journal for a good while, diving into what it means and where it came from and evidence that it’s not true or needed. I’ve then come up with new ways of thinking.
We’ll speak a bit further about this in the coming weeks/posts, so keep an eye out for them. Your homework for this post is just to start to become aware of your inner dialogue, your repetitive emotional reactions and how you behave after these thoughts and feelings occur. Another great indicator of beliefs in how you make decisions or behave in your relationships (of all kinds).
Until next time, folks…
Download and check out my workbooks and journal prompts to help you dive deeper and analyse your beliefs and emotions.