The following is excerpted with permission from an exchange with Julie, a subscriber from Nebraska. A while back she asked for my opinion regarding a situation she was experiencing and I encouraged her to read one of my favorite books, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.
While the entire Book is terrific, the chapters on “Assumptions” and “Not taking things personally” are – in my opinion – absolutely life-changing. I suspect that’s because I needed to work on those two things most of all.
She recently wrote back:
“Hi Bob! I keep meaning to tell you I read the book, The Four Agreements you recommended to me. Amazing! It really helped me put so much in perspective. I think about those agreements every day and try very hard to live by them. I will say it has always been difficult to not take things personally! But I now have the tools for recognizing it and am thinking about it. And I also work it in with ‘responding’ and not ‘reacting.'”
I replied: “Thank you for your note. I’m so happy that things are going well for you. Regarding it being difficult to not take things personally…I’m with you on that. 🙂 Even after we know all the logical and rational reasons not to take things personally, it’s still a struggle. I know it is for me. That’s why, when I find myself taking something personally and it continues to bother me, I go right back to that chapter in the book and re-read it. Immediately, I feel better.
“Because of our conditioning as human beings, our belief systems and other related factors, I doubt that those of us pre-disposed to taking things personally (which is practically everyone, to one degree or another) will ever defeat that trait 100 percent. However, victory is often not a matter of overcoming something entirely but just doing a little better today than yesterday and continuing to improve over time, regardless of setbacks along the way.”
Julie then wrote:
“That was great, Bob! Your anecdote – words of wisdom is more like it – is so simple but eloquently put! I just now wrote out a couple of paragraphs from the book on not taking things personally, put them on a 3×5 card and am keeping the card in my pocket from now on. That way I’ll have it handy when I’m in need!”
Great idea. Let’s discuss that more in Part Two.