The second agreement, ‘Don’t Take Anything Personally’.
First published in 1997, Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements has since sold millions of copies. The book consists of four principles to guide you to living a life of love and happiness. The first we explore here. This is the second in a series of Reflections on the Agreements, which are as follows:
The Four Agreements
- Be impeccable with your word
- Don’t take anything personally
- Don’t make assumptions
- Always do your best
This second agreement can be a difficult one to come to terms with.
As a child with a developing ego, we go through a stage where everything is about us. We are the centre of attention and we feel that we are the only ones who matter. As we grow up and our ego normalises, and we learn to socialise and get on with others, we recognise that we are no longer the only ones in the room, and that screaming and shouting is not the best way to get attention.. 🙂
But taking a step from that recognition to the Second Agreement: recognising that it is actually never about us, can sometimes be quite a leap. Because some part of our ego might still be holding on to the notion of our own importance, and might be still wanting to make it about us. The thing is though, that when we can make this jump to not taking anything personally, we are empowered in our lives to be more of who we are.
The way that people react or respond to you is 99% about them. Each person is their own universe, complete with their own set of beliefs based on their own set of values. These may be conscious values and beliefs, or, if unexamined, unconscious ones. Regardless, people will generally respond to you based on how they are and how they see the world, rather from an empty non-judgemental space of openness and curiosity (that’s only the rare, enlightened beings!).
So, if by nature you are a very sensitive person, your default setting may be to react strongly to negativity directed at you by others, and to assume that it is actually about you. And if you are deep thinking person and a reflective person, this may work against you in that you start to analyse the situation to discover where you went wrong.
So if this is your tendency, you may want to try this week to interrupt those thoughts, and remember to not take things personally.
Just be the best version of you that you can, showing up in the world in the best way you can on any given day, and let go of worrying about other people’s actions and reactions.
Practising ‘Don’t take anything personally’
1. HAVE A MANTRA: A good way to start practising this agreement is to have a mantra that you repeat to yourself: ‘It is not about me’. Whenever you find yourself in a reactive mode with someone because they have sparked some drama in you (anger, frustration etc.) repeat your mantra, and see what happens.
2. INVESTIGATE YOUR REACTIONS: When you find yourself take a negative reaction or situation personally, see if you are able to be curious and investigate that reaction. What belief of yours is it based upon? It may be a belief along the lines of: ‘This type of thing always happens to me’ ‘People always take advantage of me’ ‘I always give more that I receive’ ‘People are exploitative and just out for what they can get’.
Try and be non-judgemental and kind with yourself if you do discover any strong negative beliefs like these, and then question their truth.
3. CONGRATULATE YOURSELF EACH TIME YOU DON’T TAKE SOMETHING PERSONALLY: If you have been in the habit of taking things personally, and you are able to see the wisdom of this Second Agreement, and you start to practice it and see the results: more inner freedom and emotional expression, then give yourself a hi-five.
Congratulate yourself each time you are able to take something less personally. Maybe make a Second Agreement progress chart on your wall and add a star each time this happens.
Be Kind to Yourself and Know That This is Not Easy
Studying and living the Four Agreements is not necessarily easy. It means we need to do the work of investigating what our old un-spoken, un-acknowledged agreements and assumptions about life are and questioning them, before we are able to fully commit to living according to the Four Agreements.
But if we are able to do this, guaranteed our relationships and our experience of life will transform for the better.
Has this Second Agreement, ‘Don’t take anything personally’ resonated with you? Has practicing this agreement changed anything for you this week? What are the challenges and how do they arise with practicing this agreement?
Michelle is a writer, musician, meditation and yoga teacher based in Melbourne. She teaches mindfulness courses and leads yoga retreats. She runs her own business called Inner Alchemy and is available as a coach and mentor.