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What Agreements Are YOU Making

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What Agreements are YOU Making?

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What Agreements are YOU Making?

If you were reading „Turning Point‟ in 2009, you might remember the time we spent on „Th e Five Agreements‟ by Don Miguel Ruiz. Perhaps you remember, be impeccable with your word, don‟t make assumptions, don‟t take things personally and alwa ys do your best? Then I had the opportunity to read „The Fifth Agreement‟ written by Don Miguel Ruiz and his son Don Jose Ruiz. Now we have even more great advice to help us as we decide who and how we want to be. And so to support you as you grow forward I have compiled each „Turning Point‟article on each of these powerful agreements into one place. Looking forward to growing forward with you! Peace,

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About Margaret Meloni

In her more than 18 years in Corporate America which included roles in Fortune 500 management, Margaret Meloni observed how individuals who learned to cope with conflict succeeded and recognized their full potential, while others became road blocked. Margaret developed a passionate belief that it takes courage and skill to be human at work and that all individuals have a responsibility to treat each other with dignity, respect and compassion.

Motivated by her beliefs and the desire to make a difference in the lives of others, Margaret acted on her vision by founding Meloni Coaching Solutions, Inc.

Her vision is to create a group of successful individuals who are at peace with their authentic selves; a group of people who help and support others; a group who bring humanity to the office and thrive because of it. Margaret sees a world where achieving peace and achieving success go hand-in-hand.

Margaret‟s students and clients often find that what she really brings them is freedom to bring their authentic selves to the office. As a former Information Technology Executive, Margaret always knew her preference was for the people behind the technology. Now Margaret brings those beliefs to individuals from many professional backgrounds. The common thread across her client base is the desire to experience peace at work and the recognition that peace is not absence of conflict, peace is the ability to cope with conflict. For these people, Margaret Meloni is truly „A Path to Peace‟. ™

You can learn more about Margaret and her courses, programs, and products at MargaretMeloni.Com

5318 East Second Street #413 | Long Beach CA 90803 | Phone (866) 639-0487 | Fax (562) 439-0854 | [email protected] | Page 3 of 16

What Agreements are YOU Making? What is an Agreement? .............................................. ..................................................................... 5 Be Impeccable with Your Word ........................................................... .......................................... 7 It's Not Personal ................................................ .............................................................................. 9 Don't Assume a Thing................................................ ................................................................... 10 You are Doing Your Best ..................................................................... ........................................ 12 Be Skeptical .......................................................................................... ........................................ 14 Be Skeptical but Learn to Listen .................................................. ................................................. 16

5318 East Second Street #413 | Long Beach CA 90803 | Phone (866) 639-0487 | Fax (562) 439-0854 | [email protected] | Page 4 of 16

What is an Agreement? According to www.merriam-webster.com an agreement is: 1 a: the act or fact of agreeing b: harmony of opinion, action, or character : CONCORD2 a: an arrangement as to a course of action b: COMPACT, TREATY3 a: a contract duly executed and legally binding b: the language or instrument embodying such a contract. For our purposes, let's pick out some words from the above definitions and focus on those words: Character Compact or Treaty Legally binding You have agreements that you have made with yourself. These agreements come from the beliefs that you have adopted throughout the course of your life.

As children, a few of you rebelled against what you were taught, but most of you accepted the information you received from parents, teachers and other adults. This is not all bad. Accepting the belief that you should not play in traffic and making an agreement with yourself not to play in traffic is part of why you are alive and reading this article right now! But accepting the belief  that you will never be as smart as your older sister or that you are the family trouble maker does not serve you well at all. The beliefs that you accept become part of your character. If you agree or accept the belief that you are the family trouble maker, then you will make causing trouble part of who you are. In a sense you have made a treaty with yourself to be that family trouble maker. Now maybe this is not legally binding, but it is emotionally binding and to your mind this is almost the same thing. You accept or agree that this is who you are and this is how you must behave. Guess what? It does not have to be like this. You do not have to walk through life upholding all of the agreements that you adopted. And isn't that a relief, because you might have a lot of old agreements that no longer make sense. They are rattling around in your head using your energy and taking up your brain space. What Don Miguel Ruiz suggests to all of us in his book 'The Four Agreements' is that we let go

5318 East Second Street #413 | Long Beach CA 90803 | Phone (866) 639-0487 | Fax (562) 439-0854 | [email protected] | Page 5 of 16

of those old useless agreements and adopt four new agreements. Yes it takes a strong will to do this, but these are agreements that if kept will make your life easier. The four agreements are: Be impeccable with your word Don't take anything personally Don't make assumptions Always do your best If you accept these new agreements and make them your own, you will find it so much easier to be true to yourself and to treat yourself and others with compassion. There is an expression that is popular among dog lovers, it captures the essence of what I am trying to say; 'Help me to be the person my dog thinks I am.' Of course the assumption is that your dog sees only the best in you.

5318 East Second Street #413 | Long Beach CA 90803 | Phone (866) 639-0487 | Fax (562) 439-0854 | [email protected] | Page 6 of 16

Be Impeccable with Your Word "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me." Do any of you remember that charming little childhood chant? It was meant to ward off the cruel verbal taunts we received from other children. Sometimes kids can be very harsh with their teasing. Sometimes adults can be very harsh with their words too. And the above childhood chant, well sometimes it may have helped you but most of the time it probably really did not take the sting out of the verbal bullying you might have endured. You see words are a very powerful tool. Expressing our thoughts as words is one of the strongest powers we possess as human beings. And when you think about what you really own and what you really control in life, it all comes back to you. You own your thoughts; you own your behaviors and your words express your thoughts. In fact what you say compared to what you actually do is one of the ways in which people form an opinion about the real you. Your words versus your actions indicate your character. Think about that person you know, the one who always says, "Oh sure I will see you at the barbecue this weekend." But right away you discount what they say because you know they always say they will show up and they never actually do show up. In his book 'The Four Agreements', Don Miguel Ruiz suggests to us that the first of the four agreements he shares with us is also the most important agreement. That agreement is be impeccable with your word. Your word has force, it has strength it has power. And it is your responsibility to use your words carefully and to consider the words you choose to accept and believe from others. The words of other people can have power over you as well. The agreement to be impeccable with your word can be approached from three separate yet equally important parameters: Say what you are going to do and do what you say. Your word defines you. When someone says, "Oh yes, Victor his word is good, if he tells you he will take care of that issue, you can consider it resolved." That means that you all know that Victor is good as (or better than) his word. For some of you this is easy and straightforward. For some of you it is not. You see this also means when you mean no, you say no. You don't say maybe or sure or I will see what I can do. It means when you do not know, you say I don't know. And for many reasons many of you feel compelled to say what you perceive are the right things to say or what you think someone else wants to hear as opposed to saying what you really mean. Saying what you mean or say what you are going to do and do what you say is NOT an excuse to say deliberately hurtful

5318 East Second Street #413 | Long Beach CA 90803 | Phone (866) 639-0487 | Fax (562) 439-0854 | [email protected] | Page 7 of 16

things to others. Read on to see the second aspect of being impeccable with your word to see why this is true. Do not use your words to hurt others, to lash out in anger or to seek revenge. Because your words do carry power, you need to be mindful of what you say to others and about others. In 'The Four Agreements', Don Miguel Ruiz discusses gossip. Gossip is a powerful and truly unjust use of words. When you spread rumors and gossip about others for the sake of  entertainment or because you think it makes you look important you are NOT being impeccable with your word. When you say something nasty to someone because you are in a bad mood or because you decided that they needed to be taken down a peg, you are NOT being impeccable with your word. When you lash out in anger and say something to deliberately hurt someone else you are NOT being impeccable with your word. Do not make agreements based on the false or negative words of others. When others use the power of their words to tell you that you are not smart enough or not good enough or that you can't sing or you are not good looking they are not being impeccable with their words. Guess what? If you decide to accept their negative words, then you are making an agreement with yourself that you are not smart enough or good looking or fill in the blank and YOU are NOT being impeccable with your word. The power of your word includes the power of how you use your words either for yourself or against yourself. To be impeccable with your word means that you do not accept the poison that comes from others when they use their words improperly. You have a responsibility to accept yourself and honor yourself and use your own internal words for good. You cannot control what others are going to say; you can control how you receive their words and what you do with those words once they reach your ears. Do you see the power of your word? Your word possesses the ability to support yourself and others or to tear each other down. When you agree to speak (or write) the words that really represent you and to avoid using words to harm others and to reject the harmful words of others, you are being impeccable with your word.

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It's Not Personal Sally looked at Mary Carol and said, "Wow how did you do that? How did you just brush it off, I mean Jim just got in your face and told you that he hates working with you. And you are just as calm and collected as ever." Mary Carol looked at Sally and said, "Well I am really not taking it personally." Sally was flabbergasted. "How can you NOT take that personally?" she asked.

Mary Carol shared her beliefs about taking things personally: "What other people say and do, is really a reflection of them. The decisions people make about their own behavior is really about themselves. If I make it about me, it is only because I am being human and focusing on me. We all tend to take things personally because we think that everything is about us. We like to be the star of our own movies for lack of a better expression. But really it is only about me if I decide to take it on and take ownership for Jim's decisions. I am not doing that." "So if someone says or does something to you that can be construed as negative, you simply let it be about THEM and not about YOU?" Sally asked. "Well technically, everything someone says or does is not about me. So if someone tells me I am fabulous, it is because there is something about me that coincides with something that they see as good. Of course this is a huge compliment, but it is still not really about me," stated Mary Carol. "How did you come up with this?" asked Sally. "I read it in 'The Four Agreements' By Don Miguel Ruiz," replied Mary Carol. What Mary Carol was sharing with Sally is the second agreement, don't take anything personally. This agreement builds on the first agreement which is be impeccable with your word. Part of being impeccable with your word is to avoid making agreements based upon the words of  others. When you agree not to take anything personally, you agree that you don't need to accept the emotional garbage that other people may try to fling your way. When you don't accept the garbage that others toss your way, you also don't use your time and energy going on the defensive or making a big deal out of nothing. You can simply be at peace knowing that others must deal with their own beliefs or agreements. It also means that you don't need to wait for their words of encouragement to build yourself up. Of course it is nice to hear that someone has a high opinion of you. But your self worth and your self definition need to come from within you, not from others. You decide who and what you are. To keep this agreement is to bring yourself tremendous freedom. Freedom from anger and  jealousy and fear. The freedom to trust yourself and to stop taking responsibility for the words and actions of others. Doesn't that sound wonderful?

5318 East Second Street #413 | Long Beach CA 90803 | Phone (866) 639-0487 | Fax (562) 439-0854 | [email protected] | Page 9 of 16

Don't Assume a Thing In one of the first classes I taught, I had a student who was always scowling at me. It would have been really hard to miss that scowl. He sat in the front row and it was a small class in a small room. He was friendly enough when he entered the class room and when he left for the evening. But invariably at some point during our class discussions he would scrunch up his face and start scowling at me. I had no idea what I was doing to upset him. I spent a great deal of time thinking about it. I can't say that I changed the content of the course I was teaching because of his scowls. I can't say that I radically changed how I delivered the course. But I can tell you that I frequently worried about what it was I was doing to upset this man. It definitely chipped away at my confidence. Silly me, I just ASSUMED because this man was sitting in front of me scowling that it was my problem. Because it was my problem, it must have been something I was doing wrong as a teacher. Because I was a new teacher it must have been that I was not good enough yet and I did not know what I was doing. If this was true, well maybe I did not have any business teaching at all. Then one day he told me why he was scowling during class. He shared with me that every time we discussed a new project management best practice, he became annoyed because none of the project managers he worked with were following the best practices. Sure he was scowling and he was annoyed, but NOT AT ME. Look at all the needless trauma I caused myself by making this assumption. This must be why the third agreement in 'The Four Agreements' by Don Miguel Ruiz is don't make assumptions. I made these assumptions about why this student was scowling and then I made those assumptions into the truth. My truth was not the truth at all! I made it worse by thinking it was personal, violating another agreement - don't take things personally. Boy the crazy squirrels in my head were really having a field day.

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Don't make assumptions. It sounds simple, but it is not. Most of us make assumptions every day. We make assumptions about the driver of the car in front of us, about the people we live with and about the people we work with. By doing this we cause ourselves all kinds of unnecessary trauma and drama. We can work on this by finding our voice. I could have found my voice and asked my student if he was in fact upset and what about class was upsetting him. Instead of  assuming what your co-workers are thinking, you could ask them. Instead of assuming that your partner is in a bad mood so you better just leave them alone, you could ask them. Instead of  assuming your partner knows what you want, you could just tell them. Assumptions are an illness and communication is the cure.

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You are Doing Your Best If you follow sports you have noticed that top athletes do not always perform consistently. A world class runner may break a world record in one competition and then not even place in the same event one week later. A champion weight lifter might break a record and then be unable to lift that same weight for several workouts. These are professionals, champions, stars - why can't they demonstrate peak performance every time? Aren't they giving it their all each time? Well, they are doing their best. There is nothing wrong. Their best might be different each time they work out or compete. The same is true for you. You go into work and you give it your all. Sometimes your all produces different results. You are doing your best. Your best is different every day. At any given time you can only do your best. Your best varies and is dependent on many criteria including: Your physical condition Your mental condition Your environment (Hint: This is why in past articles we have discussed the importance of your physical condition, your mental condition and your environment.) To be able to do your best you must support yourself in the best possible way, good sleep, good nourishment, good surroundings and a positive mental outlook. On any given day you can only do your best and your best is different from day to day. At the end of the day, if you know you really did your best, you shouldn't worry. But saying, "Well hey, I did my best" is not meant to be used as an excuse. YOU know when you did your best; you know when you did not. Your best looks like this: You jumped into a task enthusiastically with every intention of doing a great job. You lost yourself in whatever you were doing. You truly cared about the outcome. Your best does not look like this: You worked on something with a feeling of dread.

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You spend your work week wishing for the weekend - every week! You did something for someone out of a sense of obligation and not out of a sense of giving. Truly doing your best allows you to make the other agreements part of your life. What other agreements? The agreements from 'The Four Agreements', by Don Miguel Ruiz. Not many of us can just wake up one morning and do a perfect job being impeccable with our words, not taking things personally and not making assumptions. Luckily you have the agreement, always do your best to help you. When you know you really did your best you can just skip the part of your day when you beat yourself up because you are not perfect. You are going to have an off day. What if your boss is crabby during a meeting and for some reason today you decide that crabbiness is all about you? Well, if today you are doing your best and you still take it personally, guess what? Let it go. Today you did your best. So relax and move on. Put all thoughts of failure and judgment aside. You did your best. Tomorrow you will do your best again. That's all anyone can ask of you and that's all you should ask of yourself.

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Be Skeptical Be skeptical but learn to listen. This seems like an interesting agreement to use in navigating today‟s world. By agreement I mean a treaty or con tract that you have made with yourself. I can‟t take credit for this idea; it comes from „The Fifth Agreement’ by Don Miguel Ruiz and his son Don Jose Ruiz. Whether you acknowledge it or not you use agreements in each aspect of  your life – personal and professional. You believe that you cannot write or that you cannot handle stress. These are agreements and based on them you make decisions. Right now let‟s focus on how being skeptical can help you. If you have ever been involved in any kind of testing or auditing you know the value of healthy skepticism. You know what the product or process you are reviewing is supposed to do and a good test will reveal the truth. That is what you are looking for, the truth. And in using be skeptical but learn to listen, you are looking for the truth. The truth about yourself. At work and at home you have been told many stories. Some of these stories are the truth and some of these stories are not. Some you have accepted and some you have rejected. There is nothing wrong with that; if you have tested those stories. Let‟s take a look at one possible story. You believe that you are inflexible. You have been told that because you like to make plans in advance and you like to be prepared that you are inflexible. Maybe you even buy into this because you are a project manager and many associate project management with rigid methodology. And sure, you expect your team to meet the agreed upon schedule. So there it is you have agreed that you are inflexible. Now when you work with a team member to meet a deadline you might even find yourself saying something like, “I hate to be inflexible, but we committed to having this to our customer by Friday and I need you to honor tha t commitment.” Have you tested this agreement? Have you applied healthy skepticism to it? This means you need to doubt the words of others. Guess what? You need to doubt your own words and thoughts too. Why is that you have allowed yourself to believe you are inflexible? Have you really thought about whom you are and how you behave? Is it true that when things change you absolutely refuse to change too? Is it true that you make everyone do things your way? Maybe. Maybe not. In the course of your work, did you ever have to update the schedule because of resource constraints or to meet a customer‟s required due date? In the course of your work did you ever  have to negotiate with a team member as to when they would work on your project vs. the other work piled up on their desks? Have you had to change the budget because funding requirements changed? Have you ever had your assignment change mid project? You had another project added to your portfolio to manage or you and another project manager changed places?

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You are inflexible – really? The actions you took in the paragraph above do not seem to describe someone who is inflexible. Why did you accept b eing told “You are inflexible”? Why didn‟t you test that with some healthy skepticism? Sometimes accepting is easier than testing. If the person or persons who labeled you inflexible where authoritative or in some way credible, you just accepted. Be honest, is being perceived as inflexible making your job easier? If the people around you are afraid to suggest changes then in theory you have at least one less thing to deal with. But if you are not inflexible you are not telling the truth to yourself or others and you are not allowing yourself to live truthfully. Because you have listened to and accepted a lie without applying skepticism you are blocking yourself from your real potential. This is why the entire description of the agreement is be skeptical but learn to listen. And in part two of this discussion we will cover learning to listen.

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Be Skeptical but Learn to Listen At work and at home you have been told many stories. Some of these stories are the truth and some of these stories are not. Some you have accepted and some you have rejected. There is nothing wrong with that; if you have tested those stories. That is why be skeptical but learn to listen is the fifth agreement shared with us by Don Miguel Ruiz and Don Jose Ruiz in their book  aptly named, ‘The Fifth Agreement’ . Just because somebody says something to you or about you does not make it true. Just because someone assigns you a label, „good girl‟, „troublemaker‟, „the successful one‟; does not make that label the truth. Even the labels you assign to yourself are not necessarily true. Great, then how are you supposed to know the truth behind all of the words? Well part of the how is using doubt, being skeptical. The other part is using doubt and listening together. It works like this; first listen to what people are saying to you. Then use doubt to go beyond the words. That means, don‟t take the words at face value, it does not mean tell your friends, family and co-workers that you think they are liars. Listen carefully to what is being said and how it is being said. What story is really being told? Everyone has a story, that story is real to them. It may not be real to you and it may not describe the real you. Let‟s look at an example. You have a team member who tells you that you are inflexible. You could believe them and assume the label of inflexible. You could use skepticism and doubt them and decide that they are wrong and that you are not inflexible. Or you could pay attention, listen to them without judging and then decide, are you inflexible? What is their story? Is it the story of a team member who wants you to change a deadline because they are running late? Is it the story of someone who has been told that they are inflexible and for some reason they think you are alike? Maybe it is the story of someone who truly cares about you and thinks they see inflexibility in you and they are concerned. Only you can listen carefully to every message you receive and use skepticism to decide if what you hear is really the truth. Listen without judgment, just listen and work to objectively understand that each person is simply telling you their part of a story. You decide what to do with the story; truthfully you don‟t have to do an ything at all. Sometimes all you need to do is listen and let it go. You don‟t have to build a story based on something that seems false; you don‟t have to build a story at all.

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