We recently opened enrollment for this year’s life coach training program, which always feels exciting to me. There’s a buzz of activity as the new participants get oriented and we’re introduced to the next group of open-hearted individuals who are devoting themselves to helping others. First everyone goes through an eight-week program called Sacred Expansion which is kind of like “cleaning house” before we get into the details of how to help others.
Of the many topics we cover in the coaching curriculum, one that people often mention as being both incredibly basic and incredibly life changing is our relationship with agreements. Agreements can be seen as a primary tool of creation. Ideally, the process begins with getting in touch with the impulse to create – what is sometimes called “divine will” – and is informed by your life purpose. This way the effort comes with its own batteries, rather than draining us. Having a clear vision and setting a clear intention of what we want to create are also important.
When we then make an agreement (or agreements) in service to this intention – with ourselves, with others, with the universe – we initiate what my teacher Matt Garrigan called “a contract for fulfillment.” We engage the power of our word. And as we follow through on our agreements, momentum builds and opportunities arise. It never fails.
Except when it does.
The problem is, we often make agreements without any of the consciousness I described above, and then we consider it no big deal to break those agreements. While we might recognize, sadly, that what we intended never materialized, we often have a blind spot around the fact that we didn’t keep the agreements we made to support the intention. One of the things our coaches learn is how to bring clarity to this process for their clients (in a non-blamey way); it’s very gratifying for both the coach and the client. Not only does the client start achieving their goals, most importantly, they learn to trust themselves and their power.
Today I’m going to share with you a basic method for rebuilding the self-trust that’s diminished by broken agreements.
When we make agreements with others, most of us understand the consequences of breaking them. If you break agreements with your boss, you might lose your job. If you break agreements with your friends, you might lose your friends. If you break agreements with family, you might hurt their feelings and lose their trust. In all cases, a relationship will be damaged.
So, what happens when you don’t keep an agreement with yourself? It’s not so different, really. A relationship is damaged, it’s just harder to see. Let’s say you decide to work out every day for a month but you quit after five days. There doesn’t seem to be anyone getting screwed by breaking this agreement. Nobody is mad at you. Of course you’ll let yourself off the hook. But your self-trust is eroded.
If you forgot to pick up your child from school, you would probably make it a priority to regain their trust because you care so much about the relationship. But, chances are, you don’t do that when you break an agreement with yourself. You may be barely aware that an agreement was broken. This matters in many big and small ways.
If you serially break agreements with yourself – you don’t get things done when you say you’ll get them done, you don’t wake up when you say you’ll wake up, you don’t treat your body as healthily as you tell yourself you will – the material consequences are unfortunate, but small. The bigger consequences are things like not being able to count on yourself or giving up your big dreams for ones that are more “realistic” given your history. If you have a habit of breaking agreements with yourself, and now you want to do something big and important, your mind will have a lot of evidence to undermine you.
Here are four important steps for reestablishing self-trust.
1: Become clear about what constitutes an agreement and be conscious of the agreements you make. If you had a passing thought about washing the car and then it didn’t get done, is this a broken agreement? Well, you need to decide that (before it happens). I recommend choosing a format for making official agreements with yourself and sticking to it. If you want to make agreement with yourself to wash the car, you might think to yourself, “I agree to wash the car today,” or you might say it out loud, or you might write it down. Just come up with the terms for what constitutes an actual agreement.
2: Be forthright and clean with yourself. You know whether you meant something to be an agreement or not, and you can’t really hide from yourself. But we pretend to hide, keeping our agreements nebulous, by maintaining a cloudy mental environment. Did I say ONE more game of Candy Crush and then I’d walk the dog? I think I meant to say SIXTY games…Or, I know I planned to work out today, but what I meant was that I would work out unless something more important came up. Be honest. As you distractedly lift your two pound dumbbells while watching The Late Show, ask yourself, Is THIS what I intended when I agreed to work out every morning? Do your best. Think about the quality of participation a boss or client would expect of you, and deliver at that level to yourself.
3: Don’t make too many agreements, especially as you begin this process. If you wanted to get an estranged friend to trust you again after you missed five consecutive lunch dates, you wouldn’t start out by offering to edit their thesis, refinish their floors, and meet them to watch the sunrise every day for a year. You’d be setting yourself up for more damaged trust. Instead, you might ask them earnestly to give you one more chance at lunch, and you’d make sure to get there a half hour early.
The process of reestablishing self-trust starts with baby steps. For the first few days, you might want your only official agreements to be things you’d probably do anyway, like, Wake up by no later than 7 o’clock, and, Have dinner ready by 6:30. Do this so you can become more conscious of your agreements with yourself and the be sure to keep them. Over time, you can add a bit more to your list. But never make an agreement you think you’re likely to break.
4: Clean up broken agreements. Treat yourself like a friend. If you broke an agreement with a friend, you would acknowledge the damage that was done (“I feel terrible about missing your show. I’m really sorry. I cherish you as a friend and I want to be there for you.”). And you might do something special the next time you saw them (like bringing them flowers or helping them with a project) to demonstrate your interest in fixing the relationship.
Likewise, if you break an agreement with yourself, rather than beating yourself up, acknowledge and repair the damage. Believe it or not, there really is a hurt part of yourself – a part of you that takes these broken agreements to mean, I don’t need to keep my agreements with you, because you don’t matter. Affirm to yourself that you do matter and that you can be trusted. Then make a new agreement that goes beyond the one you broke, and be sure to keep it. Or, if you broke the agreement because it wasn’t a realistic agreement (which means you had no business making it in the first place), make a new agreement about something that supports you in another way (some act of self care, for instance), and keep it. Be a person of integrity.
Eventually, you’ll have an impressive mental dossier on your trustworthiness. In essence, you will have demonstrated to yourself hundreds or thousands of times that what you say is going to happen … happens. Then your word will be as good as law. When you say to yourself, I’m going to change the world, there will be a mountain of evidence to indicate that big things are coming. If anything is out of whack in your life, turn back to your agreements, start keeping them, and watch how things fall into place.
If you’re intrigued by the idea of teaching this to others, guiding them through the process of coming into their power and sharing their gifts with the world – then check out our coaching program. Enrollment will be open until April, but Early Bird Pricing ends Tuesday Feb 23rd at midnight!
P.S. One more hint: when you’re in a state of trust, your heart will feel open. When you’re not trusting, your heart will feel tight, clenched, or closed. Tune in.