Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Four Agreements: Lessons for Coaches

Tom Brady mentioned in an Esquire magazine interview I saw recently that he'd read the book by Don Miguel Ruiz titled "The Four Agreements." Curious, I picked up a copy. It's a relatively short book, only 140 pages, so I was able to get through it quickly. There are some good lessons for not only coaches and their players, but for all of us.

Ruiz outlines the four most important beliefs or "agreements," which I've recapped here using excerpts from the book:

1. Be Impeccable with Your Word: "The word is a force; it is the power you have to express and communicate, to think, and thereby create the events in your life. When you are impeccable, you take responsibility for your actions, but you do not judge or blame yourself. Being impeccable with your word is the correct use of your energy.

But making this agreement is difficult because we have learned to do precisely the opposite. We have learned to lie as a habit of our communication with others and more importantly ourselves. We use the word to curse, to blame, to find guilt, to destroy. Of course, we also use it in the right way, but not too often. Mostly we use the word to spread our personal poison -- to express anger, jealousy, envy, and hate.

We must begin to understand what the word is and what the word does."

2. Don't Take Anything Personally: "Personal importance, or taking things personally, is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about "me." We think we are responsible for everything. Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.

When you take things personally, then you feel offended [when someone insults you], and your reaction is to defend your beliefs. You have the need to be right and make everybody else wrong.
Others are going to have their own opinion according to their belief system, so nothing they think about me is really about me, but it is about them. Don't take anything personally because by taking things personally you set yourself up to suffer for nothing.

When you make it a strong habit not to take anything personally, you avoid many upsets in your life. Your anger, jealousy, and envy will disappear. Write this agreement on paper, and put it on your refrigerator to remind you all the time: Don't take anything personally."

3. Don't Make Assumptions: "We have a tendency to make assumptions about everything. The problem with making assumptions is that we believe they are the truth. We make assumptions about what others are doing or thinking -- we take it personally -- then we blame them. We also make assumptions about ourselves, and this creates a lot of inner conflict.

Even if we hear something and we don't understand, we make assumptions about what it means and then believe the assumptions. When we believe something, we assume we are right about it to the point that we will destroy relationships in order to defend our position.

The way to keep yourself from making assumptions is to ask questions. Make sure the communication is clear. If you don't understand, ask. Have the courage to ask questions until you are clear as you can be, and even then do not assume you know all there is to know about a given situation. Without making assumptions your word becomes impeccable.

Don't make assumptions. Just saying this sounds easy, but I understand it is difficult to do because we so often do exactly the opposite."

4. Always Do Your Best: "The fourth agreement is about the action of the first three. Under any circumstance, always do your best, no more and no less. But keep in mind that your best is never going to be the same from one moment to the next. Everything is alive and changing all the time, so your best will sometimes be high quality, and other times it will not be as good.

Doing your best, you are going to live your life intensely. You are going to be productive, you are going to be good to yourself, because you will be giving yourself to your family, to your community, to everything. It is the action that is going to make you feel intensely happy.

When you always do your best, you take action. Doing your best is taking the action because you love it, not because you're expecting a reward. Most people do exactly the opposite: They only take action when they expect a reward, and they don't enjoy the action. And that's the reason they won't do their best.

When you do your best, you learn to accept yourself. But you have to be aware and learn from your mistakes. Learning from your mistakes means you practice, look honestly at the results, and keep practicing. This increases your awareness.

By doing your best, the habits of misusing your word, taking things personally, and making assumptions will become weaker and less frequent with time."