Someone once said “I can’t change the world, but I can change mine.” I think that person got it half right. I say… I CAN change the world, by changing mine.
I spent the first 6 of the last 8 months extremely upset about what was happening in the world. I was angry, frustrated, and anxious. I was not the husband, father, or friend I was capable of being. I was looking for answers. I blamed Covid, broken US politics, and was even dumb enough to look down on my neighbors who didn’t think like me. I was looking for answers. Last month I stopped looking outward and started focusing on myself. I was looking for answers.
As my introspection carried me into this month, I found them. I found the answers I had been searching for. I rediscovered and read again, a truly wonderful book by Don Miguel Ruiz called The Four Agreements. As I read through the book, I was moved to tears as I imagine a young child would be upon reuniting with family after being hopelessly lost and feeling responsible for straying so far in the first place.
There are some key lessons articulated by Mr. Ruiz that I’ve now re-learned, and which are helping me change my world:
Be impeccable with your word. Boy was I ever blowing this one… the things I found myself saying… I was starting to embody what I really hated seeing out in the world. But what does it really mean to do this correctly? Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using your words to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love. Be impeccable with your word. How many of us can say we live this every day?
Don’t make assumptions. Sounds easy enough, right? Well for me, every day was full of assumptions. To change, I tried to focus on two things: Finding the courage to ask questions and express what I truly want, and communicating with others as clearly as I possibly can. This put me on a path to avoiding more misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. Don’t make assumptions. How many of us can say we live this every day?
Always do your best. The current circumstances are not an excuse to phone it in. Now more than ever, your best is what everyone needs from you. What YOU need from you. Your best is going to change from moment to moment. It will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. But under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse and regret. Always do your best. How many of us can say we live this every day?
Don’t take anything personally. This was everything for me. Because I was taking EVERYTHING personally.
A few weeks ago I was jogging on a trail behind my house with my dog, as I’ve done a thousand times over the years. But this morning was different. As I passed a man, he made a comment under his breath. I stopped and asked him to clarify what he said. He did, and I was shocked by how incredibly rude and emotional he was with me out of nowhere. But even more surprising was how much thought I gave it the rest of the day. Of all the things I have to think about, worry about, be grateful for every day… and somehow this random and quite trivial moment managed to occupy such valuable headspace. I took it personally, and that’s on me. So what have I reminded myself of recently?
Nothing others do is because of you. What other people say and do is a projection of their own reality. Their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering. Don’t take anything personally. How many of us can say we live this every day?
The last several months have been extremely difficult for many. There is real suffering in the world. And because there’s pain everywhere we look, it is easy to get lost in focusing outward. When always looking outward, it is easy to… Lose the integrity of our word. Make assumptions. Not do our best. And take everything personally.
But when we fix our sights inward, we begin to see room for growth, peace, and joy. We begin to find the answers. Don’t like what you see out there? Really want to change the world? Change your own, and you will have succeeded.