Are you aware of your inner dialogue? You know, the chatter that goes on inside your head about all sorts – the judgemental, over-thinking, worrying, unkind kind of chatter?
It can be exhausting. It can also create an inner turmoil that if left unattended can become destructive and disempowering. I believe that much of what holds us back in life is down to the stories in our head that we give too much attention to.
It was many years ago, early in my learning and development career, that I came across the concept of our inner dialogue and, more importantly, that not only can we control our response to it, but we can also change the narrative. Our mind and the thoughts that go through it, are incredibly powerful and it’s so important that we use it wisely, for good, and in the context of this blog, to create inner peace, not inner turmoil.
But, whilst we might have awareness of our inner dialogue, managing and changing it is, I believe, a lifelong practise.
There are many tools and techniques that I’ve used over the years, both in my own ongoing development and in my coaching and facilitation work, and the one I’m sharing with you here is one of my faves.
They are The Four Agreements, taken from the book of the same name by Don Miguel Ruiz. One of the reasons I love them is that they are straight-forward and easy to remember, so that when you’re feeling all the feels and making up all sorts of stories in your head, you can pause and take yourself through each of them as filters to the truth (or at least the bullsh*t that we might be telling ourselves).
Below, I’ll outline the four agreements and offer some questions for you to muse on to establish whether your inner chatter is aligned with them. Alternatively, you could simply ask “are my thoughts aligned with the four agreements?”
1) Be impeccable with your word
The book tells us this is the most important and the most difficult of the four agreements and it’s easy to see why. This agreement is about the importance of our words and the impact, both destructively and creatively, they can have on both ourselves and others. How often is your inner chatter about berating yourself for something you’ve done or said? How powerful are those words, are they destructive or creative? What impact do they have on you and what are they stopping you from growing into? And, when those words are directed at others, they have the same impact.
A question for you to muse on with this agreement: “Are my thoughts kind, are they taking me in the direction of love and truth?”
2) Don’t take anything personally
Oh my goodness, don’t we tell ourselves so much rubbish about the motives of others in their actions towards us! We make it all about us when in actual fact, it’s nothing to do with us. The book goes into a lot more detail about why it’s never about us, but for now just know that when we take things personally, we lose our power to affect any kind of positive change, and it can lead us to respond in a way that’s not helpful for us or others.
A question for you to muse on with this agreement: “If I knew this wasn’t about me, how might I change my thoughts?”
3) Don’t make assumptions
In the same way we can make things all about us, we can also jump to all sorts of conclusions about things. We decide we know without even asking the question. We know why something happened or why it won’t, we know what others are going to say or think, we stop ourselves from doing or saying things because we’ve decided that it won’t work. So many assumptions, when all we need to do is ask!
A question for you to muse on with this agreement: “What assumptions am I making here and how can I check them for truth?”
4) Always do your best
This agreement is about doing your best in any given moment. It’s not about striving for perfection, or always getting things right, it’s about being, giving and doing the best you can right now. It’s also about acknowledging that the past is gone and cannot change, so any guilt or shame held around past events is not going to move you towards truth and love, but keep you stuck. Agree to always doing your best from now on.
A question for you to muse on with this agreement: “How are my thoughts helping me do my best right now, what would be the best thing right now?”
Whilst these agreements seem simple and straight-forward on the surface, in reality they’re not easy to align with and as I said earlier, doing so is a lifelong practise.
The first step is to start where you are, use what you have and do what you can. In other words, do your best, whatever your best is right now.
My suggestion would be to start noticing. Start noticing the thoughts in your mind and get curious about them. What are you telling yourself and how would it be to know that you can change that? Once you can feel that you have some power to change your thoughts, then start using the agreements as your filter and ask yourself the questions.
The key is to be completely honest with yourself in your musing. The more honest you are, the more you’ll move in the direction of love and truth. And the more you align to the agreements, the kinder your honesty will be.
Remember, as a lifelong practise, you have the whole of your life to experiment, play, ponder and muse.
Don’t rush to the destination, enjoy the journey.
If you’d like to buy a copy of The Four Agreements you can do so here (please note, if you buy from my ‘bookshop’, I will receive a small reward. More details of how I spend the rewards I received can be found here.)