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Four steps to a happier work life

Updated: Dec 8, 2022

The Four Agreements in the workplace

Recently I shared the Four Agreements as a tool to handle quarantine and lead a generally happier life. As we return to a new normal, I wanted to share why the Four Agreements also applies to the workplace, especially after social isolation.

Our work environment matters now more than ever

Not all workplaces are created equal and while some are supportive, productive and motivating, others…are not.

Not all workplaces are created equal and while some are supportive, productive and motivating, others…are not.

While some people have formed deeper connectedness and have felt psychological safety within their virtual work environments, others have seen their roles become more task-oriented and increasingly demotivating. Whilst leadership reams are focusing on how to engage teams and to deliver on employee experience — and they will have to do this — the employees need to manage the new normal and the expectations associated with it.

The core point here though is that WE get to create the new normal as we return to the workplace. We have more power than we can imagine and this is the time to set the parameters within the new normal. As protests have raged on, the intolerance for fear, dishonesty, and misunderstanding is clear, as well as the idea that we need to take action if we want to change the world. This starts within our own worlds, our work worlds. We can determine what kind of colleague or worker we want to be moving forward.

Ask a few core questions:

  • Do you feel accepted?

  • Do you seek to accept others?

  • Do you seek first to understand, before you react?

  • Do you treat your colleagues with respect and trust, even when they are not around?

  • Do you clarify uncertainties or make assumptions?

  • Do you openly communicate issues within your own work relationships?

The Four Agreements can help create those boundaries and give us the tools we need to reduce stress in the workplace and to stay positive even as things are uncertain and there is so much turmoil in the world.

Why The Four Agreements start with you

Gifted to me by a close friend, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz is a tool that helps to prioritise what really matters in a work day and stops us from limiting our own growth and happiness. If we are the source of our self-limiting beliefs and that creates our suffering, and we know that, then why is it so difficult to keep that perspective in a work environment?

Again, please buy the book for deeper understanding, this is my short hand for how they apply I the workplace.

1. Be Impeccable With Your Word

It is so easy to get caught up in the water cooler gossip but this is so dangerous. Imagine how we would feel if we overheard our colleagues speaking poorly about us or making fun of something we felt vulnerable about. It would be devastating, and rightly so. The very colleagues we count on, would now feel like our enemies rather than our comrades in arms.

It seems difficult to speak up against gossip or to back away from it, but if anything, the protests have taught us that we must voice our concerns, the injustices, we must try to be fair to everyone and the only way to do that is to communicate openly and transparently. For example, if we think that our work colleague is taking credit for our ideas, then face it head on. Letting it stew under the surface will cause resentment, passive aggressive behaviour and manifest as physical illness. This just isn’t worth our time or energy.

2. Don’t Take Anything Personally

People will always judge each other, we will always have opinions, we will always take out our fear on others. We don’t have to do that. Remember that old adage:

“You’d worry less what other people thought of you, if knew how little they do.” — David Foster Wallace

The fact is that everyone else is just as worried about what everyone else is thinking. Imagine that, everyone is worried about what others are thinking and yet we judge each other and hurt each other. Remember what people think is based on their own knowledge and their own experience. We can’t take their perspective personally. It’s rarely even about us. Take the ego out of it.

3. Don’t Make Assumptions

Reduce the drama in your life — just ask. That’s as simple as it sounds. Uncertain of the task? Ask for clarification. Obscurity of the role responsibilities? Ask for defined goals. Suspicious of a colleagues intent? Ask. Worried about how to approach a problem? Ask.

Just by clarifying the meaning and intention without making assumptions can eliminate a lot of suffering. By asking we are encouraging more open and honest communication, and creating the opportunity for deeper learning and more connected relationships.

4. Always Do Your Best

A lot has been revealed during quarantine, and it is not all positive. A lot of people are finding they do not enjoy their work or their managers. If we feel we are not in control of our lives then we execute our jobs bitterly and poorly, so make it a conscious choice to show up each day, to choose our role and our job — choose it and do it to the best of our ability.

It is shocking how much it changes our perspective and our own self perception. We are kinder to ourselves and to those around us, and we will not feel regret or that we wasted our time or day at the desk!

. . .

Remember the four agreements in the work place, be honest, transparent and kind, don’t worry about what others think, ask questions if we don’t know the answer, — and don’t assume we already know the answer! — and always choose to do our best.

Smile every morning, and go in positive. It’s the best we can do.

. . .

I will come back to this tool time and time again as it is a great structure and framework to encourage a healthy mindset and increase happiness.

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