Monday, December 31, 2012

The Four Agreements at Work - Third in a Series

This post is the third 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 and second post.

"I have applied for over a hundred jobs, but I have yet to hear back from any of them. What is wrong with them? They must be bad companies, or else I would have heard something. Or maybe my application materials are terrible; I knew I should have rewritten my resume again before I applied!"

Perhaps you have a friend who has made a comment similar to the above. Or perhaps you have made it yourself. No matter the circumstance, one thing is clear: an assumption has been made, one that sends the assumer into a downward spiral of negative feelings and internal poison.

The third agreement: Don't make assumptions
Making assumptions works hand-in-hand with the second agreement, don't take anything personally. In fact, Ruiz points out that all of life's drama centers around these two agreements. If you don't make assumptions there is nothing to take personally, and if you take nothing personally you are - by and large - not making assumptions.

But when we make assumptions and we take things personally, Ruiz writes, we feel compelled to defend ourselves, to stick up for what we believe. We make people wrong by trying to make ourselves right. This creates poison in the workplace and within ourselves.

Think back to things that have caused you offense in your professional life: the job application that you never heard back from, being left out of a meeting that you felt you should be a part of, not receiving an invitation to a post-work gathering, or not receiving the praise you felt was deserved after completing a big project. The assumptions we make about these things negatively paint our reality, impairing our objectivity and ability to act rationally. It's not uncommon that we then gossip about these assumptions - this "dream reality" we have created - in order to make ourselves feel better about ourselves. Thus, we then violate the first agreement.

When we are able to free ourselves from making assumptions, we remove the baggage of the negativity we create. It encourages us, too, to confront situations compassionately and directly. We can contact a company and ask them about our application materials, or have a heart-to-heart with our supervisor about the meeting we were not invited to. By asking more questions to find out the reason why certain situations played out, we can counter our assumptions and work more peacefully.

Challenge: reflect on the assumptions that you make in your professional life and how those assumptions have negatively affected your work performance or career. What is a new agreement that you want to make with yourself? Post what you have learned in the comments below.

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