Monday, December 24, 2012

The Four Agreements at Work - Second in a Series

This post is the second in a series of posts pertaining to the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and how it relates in a career context. Click to read the first post.

A disparaging comment from a co-worker. A terse email from your supervisor. A lack of acknowledgement from a higher-up, or a tone of voice that you don't appreciate. What do all of these things have in common? They are all opportunities for you to violate the second agreement: taking things personally.

The second agreement: don't take anything personally
According to Ruiz, when we take things personally we do so out of an innate selfishness: we think that it's all about us. Me, me, me...all of the time.

But as crazed with ourselves as we are, we are also fragile. We are very susceptible to fear and jealousy. So when someone in the workplace does something that we feel is insulting or hurtful, we choose to take in "the poison" of their actions.

Here's the thing, though: we don't have to do this.

Ruiz advocates a different path, one where it is not all about us. The two-month long gap before we hear from (or don't hear from) a recruiter about a position is not about us. Getting chewed out for submitting a less-than-satisfactory project proposal is not about us. Any situation where we perceive ourselves to be put-off, let down, hurt, or anything of the like isn't about us. It is about that person who is living in his own world with his own beliefs and his own programming.

You don't have to let what he says in. It's entirely a choice you make.

The first agreement is designed to keep us from injecting poison; the second agreement is designed to keep poison from infecting us. And we can see what happens when let that poison in, from certain incidents of workplace violence to the more creative ways workers react to stress and leave their positions. These people have accepted the poison of others, and the results were extreme.

But this isn't to say that the poison let in comes from negative reactions to us. Ruiz is clear to say that anytime we let something to to our heads - good or bad -  we are infecting ourselves with poison. Internalizing the praise of others can have the same damaging effect on us and our way of being. You only need look as far as out-of-control celebrities or egocentric professional athletes to see the effect of accepting this poison.

As with the first agreement, the second agreement is best countered by becoming conscious of the ways it manifests itself in your life. How do you react when you are insulted or treated unfairly by coworkers? What do you do when coworkers heap praise upon you? Because both are poison that can affect your well-being. If you had nothing to fear and were full of love for yourself, either one would gently float by you like a breeze.

What people think about you is none of your business: this is a bold and powerful concept. Focus your energy on being true to your ethics, values, and sense of love for those you work with. The rest will come together.

Challenge: spend the next week being mindful of how you react to others. Post in the comments what you learned.

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