February 21, 2005

Help Yourself

I’m in self-improvement mode right now. I am trying to “get my life together,” whatever that means. I don’t even really know what it means, and I’m the one doing it. What I do know is that I’ve felt a little out of control the past several weeks, what with my grandmother dying, flooding in southern California messing with my schedule and ruining people’s lives, confusion about what I’m doing at work, family pressures... and I just want to get myself together, calm down, stop worrying, make some decisions, and get things in order. Your basic control freak/perfectionist issues, I guess.

I also want to get more involved in my community, and make some friends here, meet some new people. I think I’ll enjoy my life a little more if I get involved in things. I need to laugh more often.

Exercising on a regular basis will help settle me, I think. I’ve started an ambitious new “fitness program” (aka the Excel spreadsheet taped to my refrigerator) which I’m hoping will give me some order, and calm me down, and maybe, as a bonus, reduce a little of this excess body fat I’m carrying around, you know what I’m saying? That’s always good for the morale.

So since I’m in self-improvement mode, this weekend I read The Four Agreements, by don Miguel Ruiz (book #8). One of my self-helpy friends was into this book at Christmas time, so I picked it up on her recommendation. I can't help it! I’m vulnerable right now, and susceptible to self-improvement mind games! Pump me up, don Miguel!

The idea is that if you subscribe to these four beliefs, you will stop limiting and belittling yourself, and will therefore be able to live a fuller life. Generally, the Four Agreements are these:

  1. Be impeccable with your word. "Say only what you mean."

    Good idea. I'm not good at it, though. I try too hard not to hurt people's feelings, and to avoid conflict, so I often hide my real feelings or don't say anything at all. Not that I'm a liar (lie!), but I should try to be a more honest communicator.

  2. Don't take anything personally. "When you are immune to the opinions of others, you won't be the victim of needless suffering.

    To this I say: HA! That'll be the day. I kind of skimmed through this chapter, because there's no way I will ever not take things personally. Which is probably why I should have read this chapter three times, but I didn't.

  3. Don't make assumptions. "Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings."

    Don Miguel is apparently big on communication. Not my strong point. And I assume things constantly. But the thing is, I'm usually right. I think I'm pretty intuitive, and my instincts don't often steer me wrong. I don't always assume negative things, but I do need to give people the benefit of the doubt more often, give them a second chance once in a while. I can work on this. (I think this is don Miguel's favorite, by the way. "With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.")

  4. Always do your best. "Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret."

    I can get behind this one. I hate when people (including myself) make excuses. Just do it and get it over with and be proud of yourself, man.

Despite my willingness to be won over, and despite the fact that a few sections hit home for me, the book did not pack the punch or give me the focus I was hoping for. It was a little spiritual, and abstract, for my taste. I would prefer a DIY, how-to guide to attaining personal bliss. Is that so wrong? But for now, I guess I'll go for a run and try to think things out for myself.

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