01 Aug Living The Four Agreements: Beyond Perfectionism
Do you habitually live at 120 percent, or at 60 percent?
Doing our best means living in the present moment, taking into account our current emotional, energetic, and physical state. Doing our best doesn’t mean being perfect all the time. The fourth agreement encourages us to be flexible and honest with doing our best using the resources available to us, within and without.
Imagine someone who always does more than their best. What are some long-term results of living life at more than 100 percent?
Someone who lives from more than their best often feels frazzled, exhausted, doesn’t take care of their physical body, and frequently gets sick.
As a recovering doing-more-than-my-best addict, I have to constant monitor myself to stick to my best and not try and do more. Before I was always overbooking myself, rushing around, squeezing extra things into my schedule, staying up late at night to finish that last project, and skipping meals because I didn’t have the time. I felt stressed and overwhelmed.
I still have the tendency to do more than my best. But now I pay more attention to my mental, emotional, and physical state when I make decisions. I constantly ask myself is this more than my best? What would my best look like in this moment? I’ve found that when I actually do 100 percent rather than striving to be superwoman I am much more efficient, get more done, and I am happier.
When we are learning to do our best we have to release our ideal of what our best is in favor for the reality of what our best is.
Beneath a tendency to do more or less than our best are agreements that do not serve us. Anytime we struggle with any of the four agreements it is because we have underlying contradictory agreements. Sometimes we are unconscious of these subterranean beliefs. When we let go of judgment and get curious why we are repeatedly not able to do our best or not take things personally, we can discover what is beneath our actions. We learn to take the flashlight of our awareness and go deep, exploring old hidden agreements and beliefs that are not serving us.
Sometimes the light of our awareness illuminates a silly belief that we can release immediately: Our mind is yelling “I have to get this done NOW!” When in fact what we are working on is not due for another week and it really is time to stop and have dinner. In this case it is easy to see that the mind is lying and that we are not even being productive. It is simple to stop and not follow that particular piper down the road of doing more than our best.
At other times what we discover when we go beneath our old habits of action are much more tenacious, sticky agreements, such as “I have to be perfect,” or “If I don’t get everything done no one will like me and I won’t be safe.” Remember that these type of agreements do not need to make logical sense. Some of them we agreed to as very young children, without even understanding what the agreement meant.
I call these deeply engrained ways of thinking “root agreements” because they have been around for a long, long time. They take longer to unravel. But once we are aware of them we can begin doing our best to act from a new, more peaceful place.
When you discover a root agreement, bring it from the shadow into the light of your awareness. Start to say and act from the opposite of the agreement, while reminding yourself to do your best in this moment.
For example, if you notice that you are feeling overwhelmed or burnt out, stop and ask yourself, “Am I trying to doing more than my best?” Check in with your physical, emotional, and mental state. If you are doing more than your best, take a time out and say (out loud is best!) the opposite of what the root agreement that is driving your behavior is telling you. So you might say: “I don’t have to be perfect. I can do my best” or “I am safe, even if I don’t get this project done right now. I am doing my best.”
You’ll probably have to repeat this statement a million or so times. Keep moving your attention away from the fear that is driving your current (re)action to being present with how you want to choose to be and act. Then repeat, again and again, until the new agreement takes hold.
Doing more than our best can become like an addiction. While I might be in recovery from doing more than my best, I still have to be lovingly vigilant with myself so not to relapse. Be gentle but firm with yourself, and you will soon discover the power of living right in the center of your personal best.
This week’s practice: Explore where you do more than your best and what the root agreement behind it might be. Create a new statement of your intent for this week to do your best. Mine for this week is: “I get more done with more ease when I do 100 percent of my best.”
Enjoy learning what your best is!
In my next blog post we will explore what happens when we do less than our best.
Heather Ash’s apprenticeship with don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements, began in 1994, and she now teaches with the Ruiz family. She is the author of The Toltec Path of Transformation and founder of Toci, The Toltec Center of Creative Intent. www.toci.org